If the film Drive (2011) were to have influenced the original Hotline Miami in some way, then Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is going to fuel one hell of a controversial sequel from that. The original game was praised highly for its arcade style, top down pixel on pixel violence and its successor is bigger, bolder and far more phenomenal with a body count that would make Jason Voorhees blush like a little girl and that is in a single Act.
Hotline 2 is by near and far a sequel worthy of its progenitor. It boasts levels at minimum, three times as large with a strong narrative and multiple playable characters that all serve a purpose in the grand scheme of the story. This could have been a case of more of the same; but the compelling arcade-y, retroactive 80’s ultra-violent game still swans around in its prettiest dress; covered inches thick in blood, body parts and a masochistic smile beaming from ear to ear. Those of a sensitive disposition may well find some of this disturbing.
Immediately from the start; the game will ask if you would like to turn off the ‘allusions of sexual violence’ and believe me, doing so would not make a blind bit of difference as what it is essentially; is a phallic frenzy of the body horror in which gender is an indiscriminate target as you thrust knives and any other blunt or sharp weapon into any man or woman who stands in your way. This is something in the games DNA and when looked at this way, cannot be filtered. It is unadulterated, visceral and absolutely NOT for children or for those with an immature, unbalanced state of mind.
Gone but not wholly forgotten, are the expository mysterious phone calls that sent you on your way from one level of adrenaline induced rage to the next; are now instead told through a more sophisticated narrative that spans from the 80’s to the early 90’s. With the original games Protagonist – Jacket, Now on trial due to his en mass homicidal kill spree, it is up to the ardent fans who have looked to him with a cult status to wean out societies unwanted chaff; through ‘a bit of the old.. Ultra violence’
Dennaton Games have ramped up the clean-cut blood bath levels of the original in favor of a more expansive narrative for those of you who do not mind their story playing fast and loose with convention, will find an exhilarating surreal romp through an acidic trip gone wrong that mirrors the works of David Lynch or Luis Brunel; those who prefer something straightforward, be prepared to be left in the dust as the sequel spins itself around more times than Dead or Alive (The music band) would care to count.
Much of the gameplay from the original will be found in the sequel as it will have you outmatched and outgunned from the very beginning. This is a game about death and masochistic violence on a scale previously unseen; you will die more times than the kill count you rack up on a single mission, no doubt. It is bastard hard and unforgiving; you will either quickly learn to embrace your death through trial and error or so help-you-god, you will be forking out for a new Controller or Mouse & Keyboard by the time it is all over. This game glorifies death and annihilation and it cares not between Player and their prey. When you do clear a stage there is nothing more gratifying than seeing those very words swamp the screen as you stand over the corpses of your enemies with lead pipe in hand, the room saturated in blood.
There are nine playable characters throughout the campaign and each have their own demoniac way of dealing with those who oppose them, that change the gameplay up from level to level. The Writer being one of the unique as he will not kill any character; instead opting to knock his oppressors unconscious and picking up a weapon will completely disarm it and then be discarded. All characters will impact gameplay to varying degrees and it will be up to the player to decide how to deal with each mission. You can case the exterior of a building on the ground floor before beginning the carnage to spy enemy patrols and placements before executing your plan and then every henchman along with it. Some players of the first Hotline Miami will find this to be a stripped back or perhaps more linear experience as there is now some limit to experimentation in its sandbox-y design as a result of the character functions, although for me was no bad thing as it teaches the player to be more prudent in how they choose to tackle the obstacles set in their way; but will still find the satisfaction of jumping an unsuspecting guard then watching their face cave in when hit repeatedly with a baseball bat and really that is all that matters. Death comes cheap and by the dozen, as everyone including you can expire in a single well placed bullet and your opponents are DEADLY accurate, wasting little to no movement. If you do not carefully plan your approach that single shot will be all it takes to send you back to the beginning of the stage and forcing you to do everything again. This however, can fuel a players’ unbridled rage which if channeled correctly can be extremely constructive as when you restart, you will outright fuck up anything in your path in a hail of bullets, stabbings and bludgeoning. If you cannot take that kind of stress in reality, shit around you might get destroyed whilst playing. Do not have your partner in the room or anyone within earshot when shit hits the fan.
This is not pitch perfect in all of its execution as the AI still suffers from questionable logic. You can discharge a firearm and the guy in the next room will not hear a thing but six of his friends who were three rooms down the hall from there will and they quickly descend upon you, forcing a restart in the blood bath that follows along with your inevitable death. Several playthroughs also saw the AI outright freeze in a doorway or on a stairwell looking bewildered and confused as I stood there with chainsaw in hand. Then again, had I seen a masked murderer looming in the corner of a room I might have been frozen in fear much like those seen here. Still, it can be immersion breaking and if they do this outside of the levels boundaries and you have no firearm in sight; guess what you will be doing? It is incredibly annoying; as it will easily undo all of your hard grafting in less than a New York minute. With levels that can confidently span large open environments like Malls, Drug Dens, Auto Shops, Docks and Hotels that can take upwards of twenty minutes to complete; a single well placed bullet or game bug can cripple a lot of the fun you were having.
Visually, the game is much like its predecessor with vibrant neon colors that are thematically representative of the 80’s and graphically, it has improved somewhat with more pixels adding depth to the characters and the environments they inhabit while still retaining much of that hard-edged old-school console & VHS look. The devil is in the details and the striking number of ways in which you can decapitate and mutilate someone is now far more shocking and blood will soften and distort in the water, weather effects are now included in some outdoor locations such as rain; giving a grittier atmosphere to an already macabre game.
Of course, what elevates this game beyond all that though, to give it true cult status for years to come, is the incredible soundtrack comprising of electronic synthesizers and deep bass beats that you can listen to in or out of the game. There is something hypnotic and dreamlike about the Artists’ music that will hook you into the mood and sink you right into the atmosphere. Just listen to Vestron Vulture – New Wave Hookers or Jasper Byrne – Voyager to understand what I am trying to say. The music is infused into the gameplay and rarely will you find a marriage of sound and video that come together so completely. It should not be a joy to rip people apart and cover the room with their entrails and revel in all the madness but that is exactly what this game will do, it will have you playing and thinking ‘fuck me. Am I deranged to be enjoying all this?’ The answer would be no, you probably are not, but a game that has you questioning who is nice and who is naughty as the story unfolds and characters begin to blur the lines between good and evil, you cannot help contemplating which side of the fence you would be on if society descended into this.
In the end amidst all the whores, drug addicts, gangbangers and Gangsters; Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number achieves all it set out to do despite some critical backlash and will have you feeling like you’re doing the Lords work with the Devil riding shotgun and its fucking AWESOME.
[ 90 / 100 ]
– Daniel Kerr Spendlove