I finally got around to playing Hotline Miami yesterday. I've had my eye on it for a while, but I knew it was coming to the Vita, so I held out. I'm glad I waited, but to be honest, it's been a very hot/cold experience.
When things are going well, it really pops. The feeling of sneaking around a corner and taking out guards is great, and walking out of a building after a "job well done" is quite satisfying. However, things only go well a small fraction of the time, and only after many, many retries.
I don't know how it handles on PC, but on the Vita it controls like a greased-up squirrel tweaking on meth. The unit's sticks have never been my favorite, and those combined with the general control layout, the super sensitive/specific shooting mechanics and the lightning-fast reaction of the enemies make for a fairly high level of frustration. It's great that the developers allow retries almost instantaneously, but I'd rather see some polish applied to making it handle just a little more calmly.
The AI can also be fairly maddening—the game randomizes certain things including weapon drops and enemy behavior, so just when you start to get into a good pattern for clearing out the floor, things change up and your best-laid plans go out the window. I guess it makes sense in a way since it can be seen as a vaguely equivalent to the random behavior of the people that would ostensibly be hunted, but it drives me crazy to see stuff like an enemy acting totally oblivious in one run, only to have super-sharp hearing in the next.
I have to say that I really didn't care for the game very much in the first few levels, but I've heard so many people praise it that I was compelled to push on. Now that I'm much further in, I can see the appeal—there's definitely something about the way the various elements of the experience come together and like I said earlier, when things come together it really pops. A slightly lower level of aggravation would be appreciated, but I'm hanging in there.
Just a random tidbit here, but I've heard a few developers lately talking about why they are in favor of DRM and getting rid of used games. I know this is a huge discussion and I don't really want to get into every aspect of it right here, but there are few things I need to get off my chest:
1. If there are no used games, then sales of new games are going to go down, period.
I don't have hard numbers, but my gut feeling is that the very large percentage of the game-playing audience won't be able to drop $60 as often as the industry thinks they will, and when they do, it will likely only be for titles that they see as "can't miss" projects. For those developers who are taking risks or who are an unknown quantity, don't expect to sell a million at full price.
2. If there are no ways to buy and sell used games, developers are going to go out of business even faster than they are now.
Why do I say this? It's simple—if I buy Gears of War digitally, then Epic made their money. Hurray for them. The buck stops there.
However, if I had bought it on a disk (or resellable digital) then I could trade that in and kick in a few bucks to buy Batman. I wouldn't have been able to buy it outright, but with my used game defraying the cost, I can. Oh look, Rocksteady just got paid. And if I can trade that in after I'm done, I can knock down the price of my next new game, and pick up The Last of Us. Hey, check it out… Naughty Dog just got paid.
By my count, that's three developers who got paid with a consumer like me taking part in a used game ecosystem.
In a scenario where used games don't exist and all sales are final, Epic would've been the only one to make a buck and those other two studios would be left with a big fat zero.
3. I've heard some developers say that used games need to go away so that the increasingly-large budgets needed to create games can be sustained.
As we are currently seeing (and have been seeing for a while now) there are very few blockbuster-sized games that are able to make a return on the investment needed to craft them. I'm not sure what kind of business thinking has led to this "go big or go home" mentality, but it's incredibly poor business practice to put so many eggs into so few baskets and then hope and pray that an unreal number of copies will be sold in order to turn a profit.
I'm not a developer but I do know about business, and the way I see it, if there's no realistic way to make a profit on a huge game, then you need to make a smaller game. Additionally, I eagerly look forward to the day when this fallacious stigma about releasing games for less than $60 at retail will go away.
I don't know about you, but I'm way more inclined to pick up three games for $20 or two games for $30 than I am to pick up just one for $60. And I'm not sure where this idea that anything less than full price is guaranteed to be a crappy game, but it's ridiculous and I believe there are lessons to be learned from other media—in most other businesses, lower price leads to selling higher volumes, and when managed properly, higher volumes equal higher profits.
I've got a lot more to say on these topics, but that'll do me for now.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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