Do you still like hurting other people?
Hotline Miami has returned, the DLC-turned-sequel to 2012’s most brutal and motion sickness-educing game. Developer Dennaton Games originally intended for Hotline Miami 2’s content to be paid DLC but later changed their scope entirely to something that could stand on its own. That something is Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, an entirely new sequel with new characters, new weapons, new levels and of course, a new soundtrack. While Hotline Miami 2 may currently be banned in Australia, a copy of the game somehow found its way into my Steam library regardless so I intend to review it for my fellow law abiding citizens.
Graphics and setting
Fans of Hotline Miami will find the game’s setting and graphics quite familiar as there isn’t anything too new here. The game continues its signature top-down pixel graphic style that works so amazingly well, with some new weather effects and environmental details thrown in over the top. There does seem to be less ‘camera sway’ this time around though, so if you found yourself getting slight motion sickness in Hotline Miami, chances are you should be okay this time around. The level design in Hotline Miami 2 takes a bit of a departure from its predecessor, with larger and more open levels that fans may not be expecting. If you felt most comfortable swinging a baseball bat while charging from room to room in Hotline Miami, you’ll be going out of your comfort zone in Hotline Miami 2. There are much more long open corridors, windows and large rooms that can be very difficult and frustrating to handle. The setting varies greatly, without spoiling too much, players can expect a few levels that take place outside of Miami too.
Overall the aesthetic is still every bit as amazing as you might hope, dripping pure neo-80’s atmosphere paired with what I predict will be the best soundtrack of 2015.
From the moment the title screen loads up and you’re greeted by the soothing sound of The Green Kingdom’s ‘Expanses 2’, you might think you’re in for something a little different this time around, and you’d be right. Hotline Miami 2 is a lot more story-driven than you might be expecting. Delivering a more sentimental tone that I think engages the player on a more emotional level. There is a lot more dialogue and cut-scenes, a wider cast of characters and a story broken up into several chapters, cleverly packaged as their own films contained in VHS cassette tapes, a really cool little idea. I find the dialogue can be a bit awkward most of the time. Like a Tarantino movie, each character seems to talk the same rather than display an individual personality, but given the genres that Hotline Miami draws from, this could entirely be intentional.
The gameplay of Hotline Miami 2 is where most of the game’s issues lie sadly. It is a lot harder than the first Hotline Miami, ridiculously so. The level design is the main contributing factor here as I touched on earlier. It’s just plain bad in same cases, the levels are just too big and the amount of enemies have almost doubled. I found that the difficulty jumps to an absurd level far too quickly. Players that have not played the first do not stand a chance here. I was constantly frustrated and unable to play the game in long sittings, after spending almost an hour on one level I immediately had to walk away and take a break, this happened many times. Where Hotline Miami offered small environments such as night clubs and apartment buildings, Hotline Miami 2’s levels are wide-open and less conventional for varied play styles. Enemies constantly hide off-screen, waiting to pop out and blast you right after you just pulled off that kick-arse combo. In Hotline Miami 1 I always felt like my deaths were my fault, in Hotline Miami 2 the gameplay is just unfair at times.. Melee weapons are no longer a viable option for the most part, this time around the gameplay centres around guns and playing peek-a-boo. The gameplay does offer some great variety though, never letting the player get too comfortable with one character as each new character you play has a new mechanic or restriction to test your skill, this is great for those that enjoy a challenge but players that had a favourite mask and play style in Hotline Miami will truly be tested here. I found the pace of the game much slower than its predecessor, blindly charging through each level rarely ever works, instead the gameplay rewards those who take it slowly and plan their attacks in advance. Trial and error is involved as you must explore each level and try new methods. Unfortunately the game is considerably buggier too. I died many times to invincible enemies stuck in door ways and inconsistent AI. Dogs seem to bug out whenever they come into contact with a door and some enemies are incapable of hearing a gunshot right next to their face or a mask-wearing psychopath standing right in front of them. Hotline Miami’s frustrating controls also make a return unfortunately, but I’d still take a mouse and keyboard over a controller any day.