Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number on PS4
You grip your sweaty controller and clench your teeth. “Just one enemy left,” You sigh with relief. Your 16-bit anti-hero dons a snake mask as he presses up against a wall.
Damn. The last dude standing has an Uzi. You tighten your hold on the controller even further and it starts to creak in your hands. The sound of break-beck outrun music is blaring over your speakers. It’s now or never. You gracefully slide around the wall you were hugging and unleash an all-out sprint towards the final enemy whom is blissfully unaware of your presence and the mayhem you’ve already caused. SPLAT. The deed is done.
But the music reminds you your job is far from over. A bright red arrow demands that you GO ON. Your sadistic mission is far from over, it’s just beginning.
This is how your typical mission plays out in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the sequel to the 2012 hit indie game. Originally designed as an expansion, developer Dennaton Games eventually decided to push forward with an entirely new game. But do not be fooled. It’s not just more of the same. There’s enough new content here, in addition to more of what fans loved about the first game, to justify Hotline Miami 2’s existence.
Hotline Miami 2, expands on the confusing lore of the original game by introducing a medley of new characters. There’s a gang devoted to re-creating the murders of the “Pig Butcher” from the original game, a writer on a quest to learn the truth, a crooked detective, a deranged brat, and a military man stationed in Hawaii, just to name a few. The constantly shifting narrative keeps players confused (in a good way) and excited to see what comes next and ultimately contributes to the dream-like feel the series has managed to capture so far.
In addition, this also helps to stave off any repetitive gameplay that plagued the original. Other games will often have players select one of several different characters available to play out a mission. Not Hotline Miami. The game forces you to play as unfamiliar characters, arming you with their strengths and weaknesses. This helps provide a change in an otherwise monotonous gameplay cycle of run and gun.
Despite the shifting perspective in Hotline Miami 2, the game manages to tell a more cohesive story through sequences filled with actual dialogue. Also, the sense of “dissociative identity” disorder that develops through playing so many different characters causes you to question the characters you play as, or whether or not they even matter. Are they simply collateral damage in an overall bigger scheme that only Dennaton Games understands? Whatever the answers are, by having players question the very fabric of the world presented in Hotline Miami 2, Dennaton Games successfully draws players into the world, and subjects them to the narrative that unfolds.
However, there’s a bit of charm that is lost in the transition to a narrative with actual dialogue. Overall, it feels less brave than the original which left details of its story open to reader response. Although still done well, this time around the story definitely feels more concrete. Whether that’s better or not is going to depend on your personal preferences.
As alluded to above, each set of characters come with their own unique abilities. Each gang member can either roll, dual-wield machine guns, use lethal fists, etc. By far the most fun is the character that is actually two; the primary wields a chainsaw and his partner, who trails behind, wields any gun. These two characters on-screen are a blast to play as; running down corridors spilling guts with the saw and plugging away at off-screen enemies with a firearm all at the same time.
Another highlight was the writer, an expert of non-lethal blows. Instead of using guns, he disarms them, making firearms useless for enemies. But, should you give in to the writer’s sadistic desire to hurt people, the screen will start to turn red. When it reaches peak red, the writer sheds his duster and is given the ability to wield guns and deal lethal blows.
This constant change forces players to adapt and survive in each encounter instead of getting comfortable with a certain play style. Careful enemy placement and room design are delicately placed by the developer to ensure maximum challenge for skilled Hotline Miami players.
Despite the engaging encounters, the biggest problem with Hotline Miami 2, is the large amount of firearms they’ve pumped into so many levels. It seems like most enemies wield guns rather than melee weapons. This boils gameplay down to spotting a gun wielder, hiding behind a corner, poking out so the gunner chases after, and knocking him out and taking his gun when he turns your corner. Situations such as these where there’s little in the way of viable strategy severely curb creativity. While the different playable characters helped stave off the monotony of combat from the first game, the inclusion of way too many guns over melee weapons introduces a new sort of monotonous daze.
Forcing players to figure things out on the fly as they scramble for enemy to enemy in the first game was much more satisfying because it requires an equal (but fair) dosage of both skill and luck. And while there’s still some of that present within Hotline Miami 2, it feels more formulaic this time around. Instead of carefully planning out your hammer throw, throat slice, knife throw, to machine gun burst; the gameplay in Hotline Miami 2 often devolves into run, machine gun burst, empty clip, run, get new gun, rinse, and repeat. While this play style is completely optional, it certainly feels encouraged.
Small complaints aside, Dennaton Games have struck gold twice! The game is more of the original with all sorts of new features thrown in, including a level creator! And fret not, the game’s soundtrack is still superb. The mix of artists from the original, like M.O.O.N. and Perturbator, feels refreshing and familiar. If you want a wonderful, head-nodding score to keep you in tune with your inner psychopath, look no further. This game is outrun music at its finest.
Despite some minor issues, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is exactly what the fans of the original want and an excellent jump-on for people curious to get into the series.