Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the best game out there right now, assuming you loved the first Hotline Miami, and assuming it was also the only game you’ve ever played. Here, you’re playing the familiar styish top down, twitchy, hard as brass balls, shooting, stabbing, baseball batting, blood and guts and gore and tears and sadness and trippy techno beats psychotic drug frenzy game that we all know and love, like mothers milk, all filtered through a fuzzy, neon-lights aesthetic with a touch of 80’s nostalgia. If you loved all those things from the first Hotline Miami, and ONLY those things, then Hotline Miami 2 the best game you can play. Otherwise, it’s just kind of “meh.”
The gameplay is virtually unchanged, albeit a few twists. It plays tighter and smoother than ever, rarely any frame rate drop. Even during the most frantic moments of the game, I was able to maintain perfect control, and change directions with a quick change of the wrist, like it was second nature.
The music is incredible as always, but it feels like it has a different focus this time. It’s an integral part of the overall game experience, and the composers certainly have a great deal of confidence on display, but the music doesn’t speak to me as distinctly “Hotline Miami.”The first Hotline Miami hasn’t been around very long, but already the music tends to pull me into a state of nostalgia. I get a similar sense when I hear the theme to Back To The Future – I just KNOW this music was created specifically for this thing. Hotline Miami 2 feels like the music was composed for a club soundtrack, and they went all out to create the heaviest sound they could possibly come up with, (which, for the most part, they succeed) and then see how it fits in with the game. There’s a level which features a track called “Hotline Miami Theme,” and while it certainly sounds incredible, it feels like it could be replaced with any other track with a slightly epic and heroic flavor. The music’s good, they’re just not as memorable to me. Though there’s still that moment at the end of the level, after you’ve spent so much time infuriatingly trying to clear out the level, and once you finally do, the music disappears, replaced with a low, tense, ambient tone, and you, the player, can’t help but observe all the death, and you start to think how disturbing the game really is.
Hotline Miami 2 was originally conceived as an expansion, which I feel is the proper mentality to have when playing. The game certainly expands on the story, but it does so the same way that one adds gravy and sugar and growth hormones to expand the flavor of a perfectly good steak. At the core of the series, there’s Hotline Miami, the heart of the story. Hotline Miami 2 adds bells, whistles, and other such redundant decorations to make the story appear more epic and involved than it really needs to be. Though the guys at Dennation Games can’t necessarily be held at fault, they just wanted to use all the ideas for Hotline Miami that they couldn’t use the first time around. And that’s fine! Get it out of your system, I say.
Hotline Miami 2 is told through the focal point of 13 different campaigns; 13 different characters. The game behaves more like a short story collection, each story containing the same themes, it’s just unfortunate that it feels like this could have been handled better. With all the different characters, different motives, and different place in the game, I still found myself running through and frantically killing everyone I came across. It started to feel like the characters all bled together, and nothing was really different, and the story ceased to matter to me. Then again, that may have been the point all along…
No review is complete without a brief discussion of the Writer. There’s a character who seems to be a pacifist at heart, and this proves to be a very interesting twist on the gameplay and the themes. The character actively resists killing anyone, with few exceptions. He doesn’t use guns, only melee weapons, and when he attacks a bad guy, they simply fall down and hold whatever part of their body that was hit. That proved to be very effective, because with the character avoiding bloody violence, there’s a certain preservation for life, that makes the game all the more gruesome and tough to endure when there actually is gun fire and death occurs.
Hotline Miami 2 is a very enjoyable game and it tries very hard to do new things with the gameplay and the story. The game feel is spot on, and I certainly felt at ease when playing through the levels. It’s structure demands repeat play throughs in tandem with the first Hotline Miami, and it certainly deserves those extra play throughs, but it also takes some time to adjust to it’s ambition.