Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review

More Frantic Top-down Action with Animal Masks

Genre: Top-down Shooter
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Vita
Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Tested In: PC

In a way, Hotline Miami 2 is all about violently waking up from some dream state.

In a way, Hotline Miami 2 is all about violently waking up from some dream state.

It’s a bit sad to think that it’s the last game in the series, but this is quite a way to go out for Hotline Miami. The 2012 indie hit wowed critics and gamers alike with its action-packed top-down gameplay and 80’s inspired style and story, mixing Miami Vice with a bit of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. With this sequel, they’ve taken the basics and expanded them into a more fleshed-out game with a longer campaign, more characters, and more ways to go on a rampage.

Developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the much-awaited sequel to the critically-acclaimed top-down shooter that combined hyper-violence with a weird narrative involving a mass-murdering animal-mask-wearing dude in a jacket and the Russian mob. This time, there are more characters, more masks, and more enemies to execute and eviscerate. The pixelated blood and guts, as well as the methods to spill them, are now even more plentiful.

The game details what happened before and after the events of the first Hotline Miami, between October and December 1991. While Jacket stands trial for his mass murdering spree in the first game, different characters with their own motivations continue where he left off and shake things up, whether it’s against the Russians or the police. You get to play a detective, a journalist, a Russian mobster, a Jacket fanboy, a loser, and so on. Each have their own goals, as well as abilities and mechanics that makes this game feel a bit different from its predecessor.

Good cop, bad cop... doesn't matter when you're a maniac in a pig mask.

Good cop, bad cop… doesn’t matter when you’re a maniac in a pig mask.

While the same pixelated look is retained here, the interface has been updated to double up on the retro stylings like the pause menu that emulates the menu on an old VCR. As for the music, the OST is jam-packed with 49 tracks from artists like Perturbator, MOON, and Mega Drive. Most of those used in the game fit the levels and the gameplay so well that it would be quite hard not to get into the action, even if you keep dying over and over since you’ll just hit restart and rush back in as the music keeps playing.

The gameplay is mostly the same as that in the first Hotline Miami, consisting of running around with guns and melee from 2D top-down perspective. Whether you choose to beat up the opposition or shoot them, being able to move fluidly while aiming at the right direction at all times is key. To that end, the controls do a pretty good job in terms of smoothness and responsiveness with either pad controller or keyboard and mouse. Many will find the lock-on feature to be a nuisance, but it can be opted out like in the first game.

Tony the Tiger mask still has one-punch knockout power. However, you can't pick up weapons with it anymore.

Tony the Tiger mask still has one-punch knockout power. However, you can’t pick up weapons with it anymore.

Along with having more characters, there are more masks and abilities for more variations in gameplay. The old masks from the first game are back, but have been adjusted for more interesting gameplay, like the Tony the Tiger mask having been nerfed by being melee-only to balance it out. As for new ones, they add character-specific abilities like roll dodging, lethal throws, and so on, all of which add new dimension to the gameplay. There are also some special levels that add to the story and let players experience new restrictions and interesting mechanics that weren’t in the first game.

Another minor improvement worth noting is the text instruction for holding the right mouse button to skip cutscenes, which was also possible in the first game but wasn’t detailed as clearly. If you didn’t know about that in the first game and was annoyed during boss fights whenever you died and have to go through the cutscenes all over again, you’re now constantly yet discreetly reminded that you can skip it if you want. However, you may not want to skip everything in your first playthrough since the story does get pretty good in this game.

Fans of the first game should take to this one quite well, while many would find it even more frustrating than before. The Hotline Miami series is like the Dark Souls of 2D shooters, wherein a big part of the gameplay is taking risks to learn what lies ahead and to blitz through multiple enemies whenever possible.

Not everyone can be persistent with a game like this, and some may even find it boring. There are also some who may take offense to its gratuitous violence, depiction of women, and so on. Suffice to say, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and its predecessor aren’t exactly games you’d want buy for your 6-year-old child’s birthday (stick to Minecraft for that).

Architecture and the tendencies of enemy AI make for a puzzle component in this action game.

Architecture and the tendencies of enemy AI make for a puzzle component in this action game.

To think of it as merely an action game is not wrong, but it can be better seen as an action puzzle game that makes players think of what sequence of movements and actions in a level is best for completion. When you do finish the game, there’s value in going back and trying to get a higher grade in each level by being faster and racking up bigger kill combos.

Due to its more satisfying length, numerous improvements, and an even better soundtrack, it can be said that Dennaton has succeeded in making a sequel that tops the original.