More of the Same, Please
Hotline Miami was one of the best debut games that I can remember. A stunning, sometimes shocking and always challenging real-time murder puzzler, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has a lot to live up to.
This Looks Familiar
Dennaton Games certainly didn’t decide to reinvent the wheel when it came to the aesthetic or sounds in Hotline Miami 2. The style is the same although it looks to me like they’ve increased the sharpness and detail a little this time around. The music is new and this time takes on more of a 1980s European nightclub feel.
If anything, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number feels more like an expansion pack rather than a sequel. The story is similarly obtuse as the first time through, too. There’s nothing wrong with this approach when a game is as well received as Hotline Miami was. Here, you get to apply the same satisfying planning and gameplay mechanics that you learnt in the first game in completely new levels. This is the benefit of creating a fun title that, while being immensely satisfying, also left you wanting more.
Getting deeper into the game, you’ll find that a lot of the core has been left alone. The mechanics are identical. It feels exactly like playing the original. Enemies still react to your actions in the same way, they move in the same at the same speed. Picking up weapons, striking with them and throwing them is the same.
But Wait, Something is Different
What became quickly apparent as I made my way through Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is that Dennaton Games have made it much more difficult. Clearly then, this is where it becomes a sequel. The difficulty matches that of the end of Hotline Miami early on and it quickly surpasses it. Half way into the game and you’ll be left in no doubt that this iteration is much harder than its trailblazing predecessor.
As I was engrossed in the game, I couldn’t figure out exactly what was making it so much harder. As I mentioned earlier, the enemies react and move the same as they did in the first game. Actually, the answer is quite obvious having taken a step back – the levels are larger and more complicated.
Whereas, in the first game, the levels were quite small and enclosed, this time around they’re much more open, larger and with more characters. There are less safe walls to hide you, and more windows that you have to avoid being seen through. You’re constantly under threat from all sides now, which makes being aware of your surroundings even more important.
Getting further into the game, it’s clear that Dennaton Games wanted people to pay more attention to the story. As you reach a certain point, you’ll be presented with more text and storyline than you were in the first game. Is this what some players wanted? Sure. Will others find that it gets in the way of just getting to the addictive combat sections? Yes.
In the previous game, I made a point that sometimes the story went a little too far for no real reason. Well, this game goes to even greater lengths. The story involves mental illness, drugs, conspiracy and even rape. It’s a decidedly grim plot line that will make a lot of people uncomfortable.
Release Date: 10/03/2015
Available on: Linux, PS Vita, Mac, PS4, Windows, PC Download
Game Play Review
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More Run and Gun
The first game was a little bit more open in terms of how you wanted to complete a level. Sure, you could decide, if you wanted, to ignore guns as much as possible and stick to melee combat. In Hotline Miami 2, however, this becomes less of a possibility. With the levels being larger, there is often no choice but to make use of firearms. This is especially true in levels where enemies will take cover.
I thought that Hotline Miami deserved a lot of praise for leaving how a level was completed up to the player. In the sequel, that’s not quite the same. While a lot of levels can still be solved in a variety of different ways, there are a few here that simply can’t. There’s one way to do it and one way only. A minor gripe, for me.
Carrying on with this theme, there are now fewer masks (masks give you certain bonuses) to choose from, which again give you fewer options in how to play the game.
The execution of Hotline Miami was near faultless. I didn’t encounter a single glitch or issue that hindered my enjoyment or ability to progress, Hotline Miami 2, sadly, suffers from a couple, even this far after release.
There are still instances where enemies get stuck in doorways or behind an object. Whether this is a symptom of the more complex levels or a result of some change they made to the AI I’m not sure - but it’s sad to see a great game regress a little in this way.
It’s fair to say then that some of the biggest changes in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number can be seen as steps backward, which is a shame. The levels being more open and larger actually reduce the possibilities. The reduced number of masks and more focus on story detract from the core strength of the previous game, too.
I finish the review feeling a bit down on my experience with Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. It’s not because the sequel is a bad game, far from it, it’s still brilliant and a ton of fun. My main issue is that what few changes they did make didn’t improve the experience, if anything they made it less enthralling. It’s certainly more about guns than melee combat. That happens with sequels, sometimes.
However, if you look at both games as being a part of the same package, they’re still the absolute best gruesome, tactical murder puzzlers anyone has ever made.
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Hotline Miami 2 is developed by Devolver Digital.