Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number PC Review
The original Hotline Miami was an incredibly challenging game full of both aesthetic brilliance and fantastic tense combat. Are you fan of that game? If the answer is no then this really isn’t for you. If the answer is you haven’t played it, then it probably isn’t for you.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and its predecessor are games where the objective is to kill everyone in the area, you cannot progress to the next stage until you are the only breathing person there. From a top down perspective you use a variety of weapons to take down enemies in spectacularly gruesome ways. Every enemy goes down in a single hit, but so do you, and be careful of using guns as they make noise and will attract nearby enemies. Quick restarts remove frustration from the challenge, meaning that it becomes all too easy to spend a long time attempting to beat a stage without realising it.
The story also relies heavily on details from the first game (including its secret ending). This is a game made for fans of the first one, and those unfamiliar will have a much harder time understanding it. With that said it it doesn’t quite make things clear for experienced players either. The game often shifts between multiple perspectives in a seemingly random order that it can be a little difficult to tell why everything is happening the first time around. That can be frustrating because this game has a lot more story than the first.
There’s a lot more of everything here. The scope has been widely expanded, with more stages, larger levels, and a bigger cast of characters. The first game could take a good player 4 hours to finish, whereas this would take 10-12 hours. And with such an expanded length it could be a concern that the game could run thin, and that is not the case here.
In the original game, before each level you were given the choice of multiple masks that would give you different abilities, such as the ability to make doors lethal, give you lethal punches or make guns quieter. Because this one switches between multiple perspectives, you only get a handful of choices before the start of each level but they’re a lot more distinct from each other. Some levels you’ll be playing as someone who takes down enemies non-lethally (mostly), or someone who completely relies on guns. My personal favourite is one where you play as two characters at once, one with a chainsaw and another with a gun.
Larger levels here means that the game plays out rather differently than the first. In some stages it enforces a more slow and considered play-style before you have an idea of the general layout, and the random nature of guards patrols can sometimes lead to being shot by someone you didn’t see coming, but the game wants you to learn that. To be good at Hotline Miami 2 you need to have a good understanding of how many guys there are in the stage, what rooms they’ll be in and what kind of weapons they have. Dying is all part of the learning process, and you’ll be doing that repeatedly until you perfect every scene. Be warned that it can take a long time, I spent as long as an hour and a half trying to finish certain stages for the first time, and have barely made it through the game’s hard mode, which flips all of the levels upside down.
All of this is cemented by a cracking soundtrack that really gets the blood pumping, and gloriously messy visuals, both wearing their 1980s inspirations on their sleeves. It even goes as far as making the pause menu look just like pausing a VHS, and on the level select screen every stage is given a B-Movie style video cover. Explosions of blood turn each level into something resembling a pixelated Jackson Pollock painting.
I did mention that these games were gruesome, and while the original was rough, this one did a lot more to push me out of my comfort zone. The opening stage includes a moment of sexual violence, that you can tell the developer is even concerned about as before the game even starts it gives you the option of skipping it. Without spoiling, there are also more moments in which violence is framed in manners which can be rather unnerving, and do a lot more to make the playable characters much more unsympathetic. You are never the good guy here, everyone here is violent for the sake of it.
For some that sounds like an absolute turnoff, and it’s very understandable. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a game so savage that it can be unpalatable to certain players. But for those who enjoy the thrill of overcoming difficult combat where a single mistake can be your undoing, I can’t think of a lot out there that’s better.