By: Jeff Cater
A few years ago, a little game called Hotline Miami dialed us into a wicked world of brutal violence and forced cooperation. The action was fast, bloody and very addictive. This year has seen the release of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which is packed with much more of what was mentioned above, but is more of everything really the answer for a sequel? Developer Dennaton hopes you will answer the call.
The default controller mapping can take a little while to get used to, with L1 picking up items/weapons and Square being the attack button, but the whole scheme can be tailored to your liking. I personally found myself discarding weapons accidentally until I switched my attack to R2 and my item grab/throw button to Square. X triggers your characters given ability, like a bullet dodging roll, but it’s hard to unglue your fingers from the throwing and firing buttons.
Movement is really snappy and quick, even grazing the Left Stick will nudge your character along at a decent clip, and aiming with the Right Stick is just as responsive and comfortable (as long as you’ve gotten used to your control scheme). Interestingly, the developers decided that the best use of the Touch Pad button was to use it as an alternative aiming method, which does NOT work well for how fast-paced the game is, it’s simply too inaccurate and sensitive.
If you played its predecessor, you’ve pretty much seen what Hotline Miami 2 looks like. A bit of flair has been added to the backdrops, and there is definitely more going on on-screen at any given time, but it still looks pretty much identical to the former game.
Hotline Miami 2 features a classic, ‘80s 8-bit motif throughout. Due to this, characters are generally only made up of a handful of pixels with an equal serving of animation frames. To seemingly distract from that, truckloads of blood are strewn about from gaping head wounds and bullet holes. Trouble is, all this blood is regularly spouting from bodies that are clipping through walls, effectively shooting blood all over an untouched room.
The soundtrack, while a bit slower in pace than that of the original Hotline Miami, is still chocked full of smooth, thumping ‘80s synth. Other than the wonderful soundtrack, the sounds that fill the various rooms and halls are rarely more than gunshots or gurgling calls for help.
Hotline Miami was a sadistic game about answering a phone call and being driven to commit absolutely gruesome acts of violence, all in the name of simply being a psychopath. In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number you’re given a few different structured characters, which is a departure from the original game that made it seem like it was *you* being manipulated.
Through the course of the game you’ll deal with sleazy porno directors, sleazy security guards, sleazy judges and even sleazy racists (key word being “sleazy”). The storyline itself is schizophrenic and jumps around jarringly between characters. One minute you’re in jail as a fat man, and the next you are a reporter-type dude who cannot fire guns — the reasons behind all of this are buried beneath excruciatingly difficult gameplay.
In the first game, one shot (or maybe two from a pistol) was enough to down you, and one punch could send you back to the beginning of the level. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number carries on this high-risk style of gameplay and poorly tries to amp it up by severely increasing the number of enemies carrying guns.
Hotline Miami was more about making a beat-run through a level and relying on twitch and instinct to make it to the end. Wrong Number breaks the intense pace set by the original by forcing players to court enemies into doorways and hallways in order to dispatch them. Any other method will surely result in being killed by an eagle-eyed opponent from far off-screen.
Who knew more guns could mess things up so badly? I want to feel like a dangerous psycho, not a guy who likes to pile up bodies in a hallway over the course of 20 minutes. Then again, that does sound like a pretty dangerous psycho.
Maybe this is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me,” but I honestly don’t believe that the intense stray from the original formula was this intentional. Sure, there will be plenty of people who will enjoy Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, but it’s only those gamers willing to put up with the frustratingly unfair advantages of enemies who were already at a great advantage.