Hotline Miami (2013) Review

Get ready... To die.

Get ready… To die.

Version Played: PS3

I’ve said before that I wasn’t around for the 80’s, but it must have been good as we now have yet another game influence by the time period. Not just that, but Hotline Miami is also heavily influenced by 2011, cult classic, Drive. A movie so entertaining and violent, it’s hard not to enjoy it. But do all these influences make Hotline Miami a good game? No, they make Hotline Miami a fantastic game, one you should have downloading right now. Released on PC at the end of 2012, only now do we see a port of the game on PS3/ PS Vita, with cross-buy no less!

The story of Hotline Miami is a big surprise for me, being extremely twisted and fun to play through. You’ll play as an unnamed character that fans have come to name ‘Jacket’, due to the distinctive jacket he wears. You’ll start off at Jacket’s apartment, and will listen to your phone messages that give you instructions to go somewhere and kill some people. These messages are always discreet, asking you to pick up your dry cleaning at a certain address, when really they’re asking you to go and kill someone there. They are a great read, and can lead to some laughs along the way.

Once at your destination, your then tasked with picking a mask to wear to hide your identity. These masks, all of different animals, give you a perk of sorts, some let you survive a few extra shots, others let you start with a weapon. There’s even a mask that is exclusive to the PS3/ PS Vita versions of the game, a mask that turns the game black and white but leaves in the bright red of the blood, giving a very ‘Sin City’ feel to the game. From here, you have to enter the area and kill everyone inside, one that’s done, you’ll go to somewhere like a V/H/S rental shop or a pizza place and get something for free off your friend there. Then the process repeats itself, with the story moving along with it.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

All that killing would actually become quite tiresome if it wasn’t for the amazing soundtrack too. Being upbeat, electric and 100% 80’s style, it can get you bobbing your head and tapping you feet in no time. The music makes the game pretty hypnotic too, killing to the beats of the music as it loops in the background. Whilst I’d still say that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon had the better soundtrack of the year so far, I still recommend you pick up the soundtrack as soon as you can.

Then there’s the top-down, 8-bit inspired graphics. From the face close-ups, to the violence taking place on-screen as you murder your way through the level, they are a joy to look at. My worry with this style of graphics is losing some to the detail and not being able to make something out that is relevant. Thankfully, the visuals here are extremely polished and bring back memories of playing the first couple GTA games on the PS1. For that, I couldn’t thank them enough, and the graphics help sell that 80’s feel more so than todays HD textures and detail.

Colour everywhere!

Colour everywhere!

As for gameplay, it’s essentially a twin-stick shooter. I’ve played many of these in the past on various consoles, and most of them have controlled wonderfully. However due to the precise nature needed and the high difficulty in Hotline Miami, I had my doubts. Those doubts were put to rest pretty quickly, it may take a few chapters to really nail the feel for the game as it’s so fast paced, but once you have, the game became a joy to control and with the inclusion of a lock-on button for more precise aiming, you’ll be slaughtering your way through the levels in no time. Despite that though, I feel a keyboard and mouse would still be the most ideal way to control the game.

At just £6.49, it’s impossible to state just how much game you’re getting for your money. I’ve been playing it for so long, completing the game several times and collecting all the secrets, masks and weapons, let’s just say spending £20 still would have felt just as fair. There may not be any extra modes apart from the story chapters, but there are a few extra chapters that are just for fun and a scoring system gives extra incentive to replay and get those A+. The scoring system goes off the combos you’ve managed to pick up during the level as well as time bonuses and how direct you were. This scoring system is what helps unlock some masks and extra weapons that will be available in the chapters.

SPLAT!

SPLAT!

I could talk for hours on the topic of Hotline Miami, a game costing just £6.49 giving me just as much enjoyment as a £40 game. The indie scene is a major player in the games industry moving forward, and if they keep developing games as crazy and unique as this, then I can’t wait to see what pops up in the near future. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the sequel to this amazing game, and whether or not it will come directly to the PS3/ PS Vita alongside the PC release is yet to be announced. Due for release at the end of 2013, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. So treat yourself, whether on PC, PS3 or PS Vita, pick up Hotline Miami, support the indie and put that mask on, it’s going to be a long night.

96 Animal Masks out of 100

-ast

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The Last of Us – First Impressions

Buy it. NOW!

Buy it. NOW!

PlayStation 3 Exclusive

If Naughty Dog are to be remembered for anything, I bet you it would be the Uncharted series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Uncharted games, they’re some of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played and they have some of the best characters written for video games. But in my eyes, from the 2 – 3 hours I’ve put into The Last of Us so far, I think this my be their greatest achievement yet.

The Last of Us is set against a post apocalypse setting 20 years after a viral infection nearly wipes out mankind. You play as Joel and you’re tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie across a dangerous US, having to deal with both the infected and bandits. This is a third person game like their Uncharted games, but is much focused on stealth and melee combat rather than being an all out shooter. Due to the rarity of bullets, you’ll end up only using your gun when you’ve got no other choice.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

There’s nothing quite like a memorable opening to a game. Setting the tone for the rest of the game and establishing the characters. The Last of Us has easily one of the best openings to a game I’ve ever experienced. It blew my mind. Never before have I felt such an emotional connection to characters and what’s happening all around them. Believe it or not, I actually replayed the opening 30 minutes again straight after. I’ve never done that before, usually saving such a feeling for a second play through. But I had to see it all again and I’m still looking forward to playing it yet again when I go through the game on a harder difficulty.

The rest of the game since then has been exceptional too, don’t think it the lets it foot off the gas for one second. Characters are so lifelike, the writing, voice acting and graphical quality all help towards this. Coming to the end of a generation of consoles, you’d expect we’d seen the best from the PS3. Naughty Dog has quite the reputation for having such high graphical quality and they have stepped up the bar once again. Even I had my doubts, but they were put to rest at the very second I saw playing out in front of me. The animations are just as good too, from the simplest animations of walking and running to complex and totally believable animations that play when you’re strangling an enemy from behind.

Combat seen in the game is simple, but mastering to lure enemies and strike at the right time is essential to your survival. Even when playing on normal, it doesn’t take many bullet to put you down. The hand-to-hand is incredibly violent and get more violent as you start to get your hands of metal pipes and 2×4’s. The Uncharted series may have had a focus on shooting, but many fans will confess that the shooting took a little while to get use to, enemies felt like damage sponges and shots didn’t feel like they had impact. Naughty Dog have finally nailed it, maybe the feeling that each bullet counts helps towards the feeling, but the shooting in The Last of Us has a great weighty feel to it.

Mine FTW!

Mine FTW!

The enemies seen in the game have some fantastic A.I. behind them too. At one point I had grabbed someone from behind but got spotted as I tried to choke him out. At this point I saw 2 enemies in a warehouse run into cover and out of sight. It was at this moment I had just finished choking out the guy, only to be flanked by an enemy whom had no weapons and had to rely on using his hands to take me down. I never saw him coming and turned around straight into a punch to the face off him. After dealing with him I then moved into the warehouse and the last guy was hiding behind a box, but I didn’t know where. It was only when I walked into the open did he pop out and get a couple of shots at me. I felt like I had been outsmart for the first time ever in a game.

Infected on the other hand behave a lot like many other infected in games and will simply chase you down once they’re aware of your presence. Clickers and Runners are the two types of infected and the Runners resemble the infected from the movie 28 Days Later or even the remake of Dawn of the Dead. On the other side of the coin though are the Clickers, these guys are blind and use a sonar like ability to find out and rely solely on sound you make. These guys a frightening and will kill you once they have a hold of you. They’re very hard to take out to, so good luck, I died several times when thrown in a room full of infected.

As I’m in the early days of the relationship between Joel and Ellie, it’s hard for me to say what the chemistry is like. Early signs are good though, and if it ends up anything like the way other characters interact with each other, then I know I’ve got much to look forward to. Now the game also includes a crafting system, and whilst a simple mechanic within the game, crafting items on the fly in the middle of a fight is a great risk/ rewards system and can help turn the tide of the battle.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

I’ve currently not had the chance to play the multiplayer, but it’s something I can’t wait to get stuck into later. Called Factions, you must initially pick a faction to join, being aligned with the hunters or fireflies. Each player begins with a small number of survivors that must be kept alive and grown over time. You accomplish this in two modes, the first of which is Supply Raid. In this mode, your team has 20 reinforcements. Once they’re exhausted, the match will go to sudden death. In the Survivors mode, no one can respawn. Once you die, you’re finished until the next round begins. Matches are best of seven, meaning the first team to win four rounds, wins the match.

Everything I’ve played so far suggests that The Last of Us is shaping to be the game to beat this year, like many reviewers have stated. Unfortunately, with the next generation kicking off this holiday season, I hope The Last of Us doesn’t get forgotten about as the GOTY nominations get announced. Now please excuse me as I go off and play some more of The Last of Us.

-ast