Hotline Miami 2 preview: curtain call

By Ozzie Mejia, Jun 19, 2013 6:00am PDT

All good things must come to an end. That's the essence of the story behind Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the follow-up to their acclaimed original from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital. It contains the same 2D top-down action of the first game, but the story treads into darker territory and brings with it a sense of closure, as seen in a private demo at E3.

"It's the finale for Hotline Miami," said Dennaton's Dennis Wedin. "We're gonna work with how we cope with things ending. The characters in the game, they're all gonna meet their end--their mission, their life, or their dreams."

The demo started out in a level designed strikingly similar to one from the original game. The character seen here was the Pig from the first game's original teaser, playing through a new level seemingly pulled straight from the previous game. But the next dialogue sequence revealed that it was simply a re-enactment for a new movie based on that teaser, indicating that Hotline Miami's events were indeed a thing of the past. In fact, Jacket, the first game's main character, will not be playable at all.

The next sequence showed just how deep Hotline Miami's narrative hopes to go, introducing a new vigilante group called the Fans. "It's about a bunch of wannabe guys that wanted part of that first game's vigilante movement, but they kinda missed it," explained Wedin. "And since Jacket pretty much killed all the Russian mobsters, there was no reason for the Janitors to keep calling people. But they are still wearing the masks and driving around in their van, beating up any thugs that they can find in hopes of getting enough media attention that someday they might get that call and be a part of it all. They kind of symbolize the players that want Hotline Miami 2 to be exactly as Hotline Miami 1."

Wedin indicates that some elements of the first Hotline Miami, like donning masks and getting phone calls, will be in the game, but for the most part, this will be a whole new game with new goals, storylines, and motivations. However, the gameplay will remain intact. "People seem to like it a lot," he added. "If you the feeling, the pace, and the difficulty of the first one, it's going to be in there."

That segued into a demonstration of the next stage, in which a whole new character needed to bust into a nightclub and find the owner. More of the action from the original game could be seen here, as the idea was to avoid gunfire and pound away on thugs with fists. There were also several sequences that required getting the drop on thugs by swinging doors at them, in order to cause a distraction. And make no mistake, this looked hard--very hard! Even the makers of the game, who were playing through the closed demo, were dying repeatedly in the game's opening stages. They'd either get popped with a stray rifle shot, beaten to a pulp, or bashed with a baseball bat. Just like the first game, one hit puts you down, often in a pool of blood.

It was upon finding the owner that Hotline Miami 2's darker tone began to take shape. The nightclub owner had already been beaten to a bloody mess. He had seemingly been completely compliant, expressing that he wanted nothing to do with what was happening and had simply wanted to go home. The vigilante Fans wound up beating him within an inch of his life anyway. At that point, the player simply put the poor guy out of his misery with a single gunshot.

In terms of story, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appears to take a major step forward. Dennaton manages to mix in clever meta commentary through the Fans, as well as sprinkle in fresh motivations for the game's characters. Even without Jacket, it doesn't look like fans will be disappointed. Meanwhile, the tough-as-nails gameplay appears to remain in place and may prove even more difficult than its predecessor. Sprinkling in a brand new soundtrack that matches the original's in spirit, Hotline Miami 2 is on its way to becoming a memorable swansong for the series. The Hotline Miami series is set to say goodbye on PC, with no confirmation of a console or Vita version at this time.

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