Welcome back everyone. Today we’ve got another case of “Yes, there is no shortage of people reviewing this game, but I need to do it anyway because it’s that awesome.” Specifically, Hotline Miami 2- Wrong Number. For those of you who missed the first game, it revolves around clearing buildings full of enemies via guns, bludgeons, and other weaponry as they try to kill you right back. The second game is commendable for expanding on this basic system, and filling some of the gaping holes left in the plot of the first game. The 80’s style aesthetics return, and the music is as exciting as ever, particularly tracks such as Roller Mobster by Carpenter Brut. It’s that sort of soundtrack that makes you want to get back into the action, no matter how many times you get splattered across the floor.
There’s a number of arcs going on at once that the game switches between, each with a different playstyle. The Fans, for example, are seeking to emulate Jacket (the original protagonist) by going on vaguely well-intentioned killing sprees and thus they play in a manner similar to the original game’s animal masks, each character having a cool ability that generally coincides with a reasonable penalty to offset it.
To quote someone with a little more wit than I, this game is nuts. It’s also balls to the wall hard. I mean really, if you had trouble with the first game, you will be screaming at this one, just like I’ve been (yes, I am bad at games sometimes).
Part of the difficulty comes from the characters, like Tony, who can’t pick up guns, or Beard, who refuses to pick up the 3 dozen AK-47’s on the floor and would rather traipse all the way back to an ammo box so he can pick up a paltry 10 rounds for his machine gun. I’m not too happy with difficulty like that. There’s also what I consider to be some bullshit level design, such as a floor that has one enemy that must be dispatched by gunfire, and the single gun-wielding mook on the floor is tailing him. One character in particular had me gawk at what was waiting for him in every floor of every scene, occasionally followed by utterances of “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
That said, I can’t accuse the developers of slacking off. They’ve done a great deal to expand their game, and make it more complex with new enemy types and mechanics. And while this does lead to bone-crushing difficulty, it also makes the payoff so much sweeter when you clear a level. Especially when you clear it all in a single non-stop rampage, rather than tactically planning out each room as you are likely to do on your first run. As in the first game, more points are awarded for stringing kills together, and smashing someone’s face in with the pipe is worth more than gunning them down from the safety of the doorway. That said, you seem to unlock new characters/masks/weapons even if your score doesn’t hit the arbitrary benchmark, so you can still enjoy the game even if you cheese the levels. You can always come back later and out-do yourself thanks to the level select system.
Personally, I felt the story, and the game in general, was beginning to waver after Act III, fittingly titled “Climax”. Important stuff happens after, to be sure, but the game just kept finishing the arcs of characters and then introducing new ones and as such, it was hard to keep the momentum going. Don’t get me wrong, I love how much story they crammed into a game that is primarily about slaughtering tons of mooks, but I think their delivery could have been better. After the first couple groups of characters, I found myself wondering “What do I care what happens to these people?” Maybe it was just fatigue from being brutally stomped into the dirt every time I made a mistake.
Ultimately, I think Hotline Miami 2 is a flawed but worthy successor to the original game. Hotline Miami 2- Wrong Number can be found on Steam for $15. I’d recommend it to anyone that enjoyed the original. For newcomers, I’d highly suggest playing the original first, both because it’ll be easier to get into, and so you don’t miss out on the story.