Dennaton Games took the world by storm when it released the first Hotline Miami. As if the ultraviolence wasn’t enough, the 80’s style soundtrack and atmosphere – with shades of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and a heady dose of existentialist moral pondering – cemented it in our troubled minds and souls. Hotline Miami seemingly couldn’t be topped. Then, a sequel was announced.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number takes place after the murders committed by Jacket under the direction of 50 Blessings in the first game. The original saw Jacket destroying various outlets of the Russian mob at the insistence of mysterious phone calls; the game itself tore through its confines and mocked players on their unquestioning of wanton murder. Wrong Number doesn’t focus on a single protagonist. Suffice to say, Wrong Number doesn’t focus on a single timeline or plane of existence either and while it doesn’t break the fourth wall as often, it still messes with your perceptions of reality throughout.
"And honestly, if you thought Hotline Miami was violent, then Wrong Number tops it. It's amazing how despite being de-sensitized to the violence of the first game that the sequel could still overwhelm one with its brutality."
You’ll take control of Manny Pado, The Detective who is investigating the various murders taking place throughout; Evan The Writer who is friends with Manny and is a journalist trying to figure out the organization behind Jacket; The Pig Butcher Martin Brown, who plays Jacket in a fictional film based on his exploits; and The Fans, a gang that emulates Jacket and goes about committing murders in the name of justice. There are many others and Hotline Miami 2 constantly switches back and forth between characters.
One minute you’ll be controlling Tony and trying to rescue a seemingly troubled teen from an apartment full of low lives. The next you’re controlling Jake, a man who receives calls from 50 Blessings and unwittingly follows their instructions. At times, especially when playing as Martin, you’ll find real life and cinema blurring. Is Martin’s role in Midnight Animal his actual existence? Is he actually just a murderous psychopath living vicariously through the Pig Butcher? For that matter, what drives the likes of Alex or Tony or Ash or Corey who look for any excuse to commit murderous atrocities? The story jumps back and forth between the two games but keeps the same blood-drenched insanity. It all becomes a bit exhausting after a while, especially with all the violence, but you’ll find yourself unable to pull away.
And honestly, if you thought Hotline Miami was violent, then Wrong Number tops it. It’s amazing how despite being de-sensitized to the violence of the first game Wrong Number that the sequel could still overwhelm one with its brutality. Skulls, complete with spinal cords, can be ripped out. Chainsaws can be used to disembowel victims. Entire floors are painted with the blood of one’s enemies. These new, murderous avenues open up fresh gameplay mechanics as well. Ash and Alex can be controlled simultaneously, with the former gunning down enemies from a distance while the latter employs the chainsaw. Mark can dual wield SMGs in combat, making it much harder for enemies to flank him. Evan The Writer takes a non-violent approach, unloading any weapons he picks up in combat and only injuring enemies with attacks (though lethal finishers can be performed as well, which can be built up to increase his murderous drive).
"Despite the new ways players can kill their targets, Hotline Miami 2 is pretty much the original in terms of its gameplay. You have to clear floors in order to progress and a single mistake will cost you."
Dennaton has maintained the series’ unforgiving difficulty as well. You’ll be constantly outnumbered and have to employ a combination of knock-downs, weapon throws, melee attacks and stealth to best your foes. You’ll still reload the game several times in order to clear a single floor and frustration can mount as you down every single enemy only to die from a knife to the throat or a single dog. There are a few new enemy types, with dogs that will rush you upon sight and various police officers with their own special abilities (such as the dual wielding, special forces type who must be brutally executed). For the most part, you’ll be killing many of the same archetypes as before.
Despite the new ways players can kill their targets, Hotline Miami 2 is pretty much like the original in terms of its gameplay. You have to clear floors in order to progress and a single mistake will cost you. You can play somewhat sneaky but you’ll have to get your hands dirty eventually. This approach of killing everything plays into both the classic console games of yore and the game’s story and atmosphere but a bit more variety in mission structure would have been nice. That being said, there are multiple ways one can go about slaughtering the opposition and some degree of randomness in enemy weapons and placement goes a long way. Even as you attempt another run, you’ll rarely feel like the same plan is running twice.
With the amazing soundtrack seen in Hotline Miami, courtesy indie artist Moon, there’s more than a little expectation as to how the sequel will fare. The sensation of newness which gave the first game so much raw energy and violence is somewhat diminished but the music still capably sets the tone throughout. Jasper Byrne’s Voyager in particular will stay with you long after you’ve switched off, and some of the other tracks – Perturbator’s Sexualizer, for instance – will pulsate through your bloody senses.
"Any one who enjoyed the original should venture back to Miami - there's still plenty of stylish, sick killing to be had."
Some technical glitches rear their ugly head from time to time. Enemies may become stuck on doors and enter an odd state where they’re clearly in between the frame but on the opposite side. It can be a little annoying during twitch moments, especially in cases where enemies rotate seemingly endlessly against the open doors. It’s even funnier when it happens to dogs.
The enemy AI may also rustle a few jammies as they’ll be aware of you even if you’re all the way down the hall. Sneaking up on one is impossible – you’ll have to rush one shortly after rounding the corner. This difficulty, along with the ensuing violence and mayhem, may turn off most players. Conversely, enemies can be incredibly dumb, failing to notice the piling bodies of their comrades or gunshots that miss them by inches.
However, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number knows what fans want and gives them more. More ways to dismember enemies, more unique challenges, new masks with different abilities, new characters who are mostly psychotic even as they come across as relatively calm, new levels and a brand new storyline that calls back to the original in several ways. Those hankering to try out the series for the first time will spew much angry verbiage at the difficulty. Some veterans who played the original to death may not find enough fresh gameplay for their liking. However, any one who enjoyed the original should venture back to Miami – there’s still plenty of stylish, sick killing to be had.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Stylish visuals and intoxicating presentation. Combat is brutal and satisfying. New masks provides more variety in tackling missions. Story and characterization are top-notch. Amazing soundtrack.
Not much mission variety overall. Uneven enemy AI and some path-finding glitches. Difficulty isn't for everyone. Violence and story content most definitely aren't for everyone.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is violent and unsettling but still pulls you in like nothing else. Its inherent flaws feel more pronounced the second time around but it's still the 80's grindhouse murder-a-thon you know and love.
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