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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number [Review]

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number [Review]

Review Overview

3.9
3.9

Good

A sequel that sacrifices living up to the expectations of the original for it's own identity. Regardless, it was still pretty good.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a top down action game that was released in 2015 for the PS3, PS4, Playstation Vita, OSX, Linux, and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital. This review covers the PC edition, which is currently selling on Steam for $14.99. A digital special edition is also available for $19.99, which is pretty nice for Payday two (a game I swear I’ll get to reviewing) players as it unlocks some pretty cool bonus content.

So, I actually managed to get my hands on a more recent game this time around. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number to be precise. After playing through the title I found it to be, while not living up to the expectations of the original, a perfectly good game in it’s own right. The combat was nice (though not as good as the original), the story was… difficult at times, but engaging (though not as good as the one in the original), and the soundtrack was pretty good (though not as good as the original). I can say without a doubt that the biggest flaw of Hotline Miami 2 is the fact that it has to be compared with Hotline Mami one.

Hotline-Miami-2 So we return once again to the world of Hotline Miami and it’s colorful rage/cocaine/insanity/nationalism-induced pixel murder sprees. The game starts two years after the end of the first game; following a metric crapton of protagonists including a group of disturbed friends that idolize Jacket (the protagonist from the first game) and start murdering criminals in order to emulate him, a crooked cop, a mob boss, Richter from the first game, a writer who isn’t really trying to hurt anybody (the odd man out in this franchise), a soldier, and an obese redneck that looks like a Mama June genderbend. The game follows all the protagonists as they each set out on series of murder sprees. The top-down shoot/stab/bludgeon everything that moves’ gameplay returns in another ten hour stretch that probably isn’t suited for people with heart conditions. Overall, I enjoyed the experience.

To the relief of all parties involved, Hotline Miami’s top-down pixelated murderfest style of gameplay returned in the sequel. I mean, of course it has; if the developers had stealthy made the sequel into a cooking simulator then they would have never heard the end of it. So once again we are treated to the good ole fast paced, high risk combat that made the original so good. Although the gameplay is essentially the same, I think that it is a step down from the original. For example: I think that Hotline Miami 2 had inferior level design, as it had far more points where the player is forced to attack enemies armed with guns that are positioned so far away that you can’t see them. Also, the game lacked the mask and weapon unlocking system that the first game had, making it not as fun to replay and overall decreasing the different styles of play available. Then, there is the fact that the game is just buggy. Enemies frequently get stuck in doors in this really annoying way that leaves them spinning in place like it’s a Microsoft executive during the unveiling of the Xbox One. Despite all of these problems I still found the gameplay very enjoyable.

If there was one major problem I had with the game it would have to be the story. And by that, I mean it just ain’t good. The game constantly cuts away to different characters at different times to the point where this shit just gets straight up tralfamadorian. The game is just too jumbled up to understand without going back and putting the pieces together (or just reading the wiki, where someone already did that for you). Due to the nature of the story it’s impossible to explain without completely dissecting and spoiling. All I can say is that all the jumping around from time, place, and character really makes the story less engaging than that of the original, where it was just Jacket (and occasionally Biker, but nobody really wants to talk about those levels). Maybe telling the story of each protagonist separately (except for Richter’s, as it uses Evan’s story as a frame) would have made things more coherent. Either way (once you sort everything out of course) the story is a pretty nice ride through and through. I especially liked the ending; it stands as a living testament to the fact that the folks that made Hotline Miami two truly have a pair of balls (though making Hotline Miami and having a pair of balls are kinda mutually inclusive things in my opinion)

Hotline-Miami-2Speaking of the tralfamadorian storyline, I think that it has a negative influence on the gameplay as well. Back in the original, for instance, the player had to unlock weapons and masks as they went along (not to mention the puzzle). It made the experience more cohesive and made replaying the game more fun as there was always more stuff to collect. Hotline Miami two doesn’t really have much of those things. The fans only have four different characters to choose from for their five levels (while in the original you could choose any of Jacket’s masks for any of his levels, with the exception of that goddamn forced stealth section), the soldier has five separate weapons to choose from for his three levels, the mobster has three techniques to choose from in two of his four levels (although they are basically copy-pastes of some of the fan’s different abilities), Jake (the redneck) has three masks for his two levels, and everybody else can’t change their abilities. The point I’m trying to make is that despite the fact that there are more levels and characters in Hotline Miami 2, there are still less ways of to play each level than in the original. And in the original there were far few story-based restrictions on the gameplay governing what you could and couldn’t do here and there. It was all more interconnected because any mask you pick up in one level can be used in almost any other.

And whatever happened to boss fights anyways? I fondly remember getting repeatedly pounded into a red goo by some big baddie over the course of Hotline Miami one. There you had Biker, the Producer, that guy in the van with his molotov cocktails, and the final boss battle. In Hotline Miami two the only bosses were that guy in the prison level who tried to use Richter as a dick-cozy and the final sequence. I think another boss or two would have really been beneficial to the game; it would have added more challenge and fun to the game.
Am I being a little unfair to Hotline Miami two? Well, maybe a little. The truth is that it has certain expectations to fill being the sequel to Hotline Miami, which it doesn’t. I’m not saying it’s a bad game; by no means is it bad – It’s thoroughly alright, it’s just that it doesn’t compare to the original. The only two things that were improvements over Hotline Miami one was the length, which has been increased to a more generous ten to eleven hours and the addition of a hard mode, for the more masochistic members of the audience.

Still cheaper than hiring a Dom, so at least you have that going for you.

Still cheaper than hiring a Dom, so at least you have that going for you.

I think the relationship between the two Hotline Miami’s is most similar to the relationship between the two Portal games; the first one was anemic, but highly refined while the second one had more plentiful, but less refined content. I’m not saying that Portal two is a decadent cash out on Valve’s part nor am I saying that Hotline Miami two should be taken as a sign that Dennaton Games need to get the hell out of the games industry; that’s just the way the games they made turned out. I think Portal two was phenomenal and I want to see what Dennaton does next. The long and short of the situation is that Hotline Miami 2 is a good game that worthy of your time and money, even though it’s not as good as the original.

2034 Views // April 16, 2015