A BLOODY MASTERPIECE
Violence has become a trope in media today. From the increasingly gory television shows like The Walking Dead to torture porn films like the Saw franchise, violence is something we are inundated with on a daily basis. On top of this, filmmakers, game designers, and showrunners continue to push the envelope further and further with the end goal of making more money and seizing more attention. Sure, one can argue that a lot of these creators are just following their vision. However, most of the time it feels as though these artists are seeking attention, and controversy tends to be an easy way to attain this. Upon first glance, it may seem as though Dennaton Games’ is trying to get attention for their gruesome game. However, after a few scenes it becomes immediately clear that there is a lot more to Hotline Miami than its gory presentation. Like the first, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a gruesome and unsettling experience that demanded my attention from beginning to end.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the final chapter in the Hotline Miami saga. As it should, the sequel expands upon the universe, ties up loose ends, and introduces new mechanics while keeping the original formula largely intact. This time the plot is much grander in scale. Rather than focusing on one character, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number bounces back and forth between a handful of characters and time periods in order to tell a much more ambitious story. The game jumps between the 80s and the 90s. You’ll visit Hawaii, San Francisco, and Miami while playing as a cop, soldier, writer, murderer, and masked vigilantes. With all of this spinning at once, the plot can get messy at times, but after a couple hours things start to fall in place and ultimately lead up to a satisfying, albeit complicated, conclusion.
Arguably, one of Hotline Miami’s most recognizable features is its simplistic, yet gruesome presentation. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is without a doubt one of the most violent games I’ve played. Despite its crude pixelated graphics, Dennaton Games does not pull any punches. Shotguns mutilate foes, axes chop up enemies, and blunt objects crush victims. It’s hard not cringe when visuals paired with the visceral sound effects and copious amounts of blood. Up until the very end I never felt fully desensitized to the violence as I would in most games. Backtracking through a level after you have killed all of the enemies is just as haunting and sobering as it was in the first. Like the first, the players are forced to think about their actions. Even though most of the enemies you kill are russian mobsters, you’ll never feel like a hero. The way Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number uses its over-the-top violence shows a level of maturity that games like Gears of War and Grand Theft Auto lack. That being said, there is one scene early on which I felt took things a bit too far and didn’t serve much a purpose to the narrative.
It would be hard to talk about the sequel to Hotline Miami if I did not mention the soundtrack. The hard electronic music returns for the sequel and it’s better than ever. The game’s score is euphoric and damn near perfect. The slower moments are complemented by quiet, atmospheric pieces, while the fast-paced sequences are paired with dark and explosive bass and hypnotic synths. A few familiar songs return as well but with a slight remix.
Like its presentation, the gameplay is brutal and unforgiving. You will die in Hotline Miami 2. You will die quickly and frequently. One hit from an enemy will kill you and, in most cases, one bullet will send you to the pavement. Fortunately, the same goes for most enemies. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is all about using your environment to get the jump on your enemies. For example, slamming a door open on an enemy will stun him while you quickly dispatch the rest of the guards in the room is a strategy I constantly found myself using. In other situations I would use the doorway as choke point so I could eliminate multiple enemies with one devastating blow. However, eventually walls are replaced with glass windows that enemies can shoot through, forcing the player to use a more offensive approach.
One of Hotline Miami 2’s most addictive and successful qualities is the room it allows for experimentation. Because death is so frequent and there is no penalty, the player is forced to try different tactics, weapons, and routes. Some gamers might be frustrated with the constant trial and error type gameplay, but every death taught me something new. Whether it was an enemies pattern, or a tricky tactic that could help clear a room without alerting nearby thugs. While there is never one key way to complete a mission, different players will find different play styles that work for them in a given situation.
Though the game is meant to be difficult, there were some scenes where the difficulty spiked unnecessarily high. The first couple of missions were a breeze, but near the end, the difficulty is all over the place. Some missions were unbearably difficult, taking almost an hour to complete, while others took minutes. Hotline Miami suffered from a similar problem, however, it was even more frustrating this time around. One section in particular has you run down a hallway which is flanked by two rooms with glass windows and enemies armed with assault rifles on both sides. Your only option is to run down the hall swinging, hoping you can avoid the bullets, take out the baddies with melee weapons, and get to cover. Not only did I die a lot in this particular section, but there was little room to experiment. I felt like I was merely rolling the dice every time I reloaded the checkpoint.
The Verdict: 9.4 out of 10.0
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a brutally satisfying sequel that delivers in nearly every way. While the plot wasn’t quite as interesting as the first, the gameplay and presentation are a lot more focused than its predecessor. Unless the violence turns you off, there are very few reasons not to pick up Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.
Jacob Dekker is a Senior Writer for MONG. For sporadic, yet infrequent updates about nothing follow him on Twitter.