It's time for another 8-bit bloodbath with Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, a game where you play as a deranged killer on a murder spree. This time around, you can select from multiple characters, each with special skills. Corey can do a dodge roll, Tony kills people with one punch, Alex and Ash wield a chainsaw and gun respectively, and Mark uses two submachine guns to mow enemies down in a spray of gunfire. There are a few other characters you're forced to play, but those just named are the more interesting ones.
Like its predecessor, Hotline Miami is a sort of blood soaked puzzle game. One where you to maneuver your character across each level, eliminating all enemies, without getting shot, stabbed, or mauled by a guard dog. The levels are considerably larger than the first game, and all too often, you can end up being killed by something that comes or shoots at you from off-screen. The trick is often to hide around corners, knock enemies down with doors, work quickly, and hope that nothing takes you by surprise. All the blood and gore almost becomes incidental after a while, as you make your way through each floor to eliminate all the combatants.
The story is told in a disjointed way that involves multiple points of view that play out like B-movies. But no matter what character you're playing as, whether it be as a cop, a writer covering the masked killer from the previous game, a bunch of masked fanatics, or a drugged out Russian mafia enforcer, lots of 8-bit blood and guts are bound to be involved. As expected, the plot plays fast and loose with what's "real" all the way to the end. The game can be interpreted as some psychotic interpretation of actual events, or as a strange 80s slasher/action flick, arbitrarily told by whoever is controlling the VCR. That being said, I should mention that there are one or two scenes that push the boundaries of taste, even for a game that specializes in craziness and gore.
It doesn't matter how you interpret the story, because the only real thing that matters is the gameplay. If nothing else, Hotline Miami 2 is a very challenging game. There's a lot to keep in mind, including enemies that will see and shoot you through off-screen windows. Enemy lines of sight and reactions can be a little inconsistent. Sometimes you can burst through a door and strangle someone without notice. Other times, they'll come at you in droves when they hear a single gunshot. Enemies often have dead-on aim, and can hit you even if you're running and shooting at the same time.
The Definition of Insanity
Hotline Miami is a game that compels you to try over and over again, until you figure out the magic pattern that will get you through to the end. This is a game that tests your puzzle solving skills along with your reflexes. All the while, you could end up fighting with the controls, or the game's 2D 8-bit art style. Although the art gives the game its distinct personality, it also makes it hard to tell what objects provide cover and what can be shot through. My biggest issue is how you can hide behind some cars in a chop shop, but not others. Also, enemies can't see you over kitchen counters, and that pile of sand bags must be way higher than it looks.
As for the controls, they can feel a touch too sensitive at times, especially when playing with a gamepad, and it too often fires the gun instead of locking on to a enemy. When playing as Alex and Ash, you have to compensate for how Ash trails behind with the gun, forcing you to run a little further before shooting. At the same time, two characters makes for a bigger target. My favorite character ended up being Tony. Although he can't use any weapons, rushing in and punching everyone to death is extremely satisfying, and I don't have to worry about keeping track of the bullet count.
Although enemies will react to sound, they pay little mind to the corpses littering the hallways. While they will generally stick to a fixed pattern of movement, they will occasionally break out and do something completely unexpected. This is part of what makes Hotline Miami 2 so addictive. You've never completely sure what to expect with each retry. Those looking for a more straightforward action shooter might be disappointed, since your character dies after one or two hits, which forces you to restart the level. Few things are as frustrating as being shot from off screen and being forced to restart again.
I'm not really a huge fan of the game's ending, but I truly enjoyed getting there, even though the game started to feel drawn out after a while, especially after I restarted some of the levels dozens of times over.
But if you're looking for a game that provides a nice challenge, and you don't mind the trippy story, Hotline Miami 2 is a good way to go. In it, I busted through a door, knocked a gunman to the ground, threw glass bottle that killed his partner, bashed the gunman's head in, stole his gun, then killed someone else with it by shooting through a window. Those are moments that make you stand up and take notice. There's definitely a thrill in figuring out how to efficiently complete levels with big combo points. That thrill just happens to be decorated with a ton of 8-bit carnage.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is available digitally for $14.99. The game is rated M.
Hotline Miami 2
- Challenging levels
- Nice mix of characters
- Great soundtrack
- Controls can be iffy at times
- Hard to tell what provides cover
- Disjointed storytelling isn't for everyone
Steven Wong posted a new article, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review: Call Again
Was anyone else disappointed with Hotline Miami 2?
I have incredibly mixed feeling about HM2 now that I finished it. A lot of the things they changed just don't work that well and slow down the pace of the game, where part of the original's game appeal and what made it successful was how fast it movies.
The outdoor areas seemed to just drag for me and often turned into me firing a gun to distract a few enemies at a time and dispose of them before moving onto the next group. They end up being frustrating and tedious which is how I never felt while playing the first game, no matter how many times I had to restart a level, except for the hospital level of course.
I was also disappointed by the story. I thought I would find it more interesting since I enjoyed the few scraps of story in the original game but it never resolves any of the plot points in an interesting way. It just kind of slowed down the game some more.
I don't think it was a bad game. I think I still mostly enjoyed it but I'm probably not going to replay it like I did with the first game.
But at least the soundtrack was still amazing. I don't regret buying the vinyl LP soundtrack for the game at all.
Yeah, I'm pretty mixed about it too.
Yeah, in my opinion the reliance on so much offscreen action and large areas hurts it. It feels clumsy to have to freelook so often.
I also feel like a lot of the puzzles rely on you pausing your runs within the first couple of seconds. These types of patrol patterns happened in the original, but they were a change of pace. It's happening all the time here and I think it makes retries feel slightly worse.
Music's amazing like you said, and I'm still looking forward to playing it later.
But how is the soundtrack?!
The soundtrack is the among the best in the history of video games, the gameplay is solid, and the story is compact but well written. The only cons I can think of is the levels being a bit too large, and the difficulty can be frustrating at times, but overall I'd definitely say SM2 delivers what the fans wanted.
I spoke with Perturbator last night on a twitch stream and it costs too much to ship his ass out to the states from Belgium or wherever he is but I'd love to see him live.
You guys should interview him, he's awesome and super easy to talk to. Here are his tracks from Hotline Miami 2. I love this guys stuff.
You can download most of his albums for free right here!