Earlier in the year, I published a top ten list of my favourite games of 2014. At the top of the list was the PS4 release of the 2012 masterpiece Hotline Miami. The tight combat, mesmerising soundtrack and interestingly simple visuals were captivating, and the game’s incredibly addictive gameplay led me to complete it several times in a very short space of time. So understandably, my hopes for the sequel were very high. Did it live up to expectations?
To those uninitiated into the universe of Hotline Miami, the game is a collection of levels based on a house or building containing a large amount of enemies. Your task as an assassin or vigilante is to eliminate everyone inside, gaining points for each kill as well as style and speed. This may sound simple enough, but whilst the enemies can be taken out in one hit, so can you. A multitude of ferocious bludgeoning devices and firearms are at your disposal, and are suited to different situations, leaving just how you go about your task entirely up to you.
Straight off the bat, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has everything that made it’s predecessor so engaging. Gameplay here is largely unchanged, but a few additional tweaks have been added to spice it up a bit for anyone familiar with the original game. Instead of having the freedom to choose a mask at the beginning of each level, a majority of levels put you in the shoes of a detective, a writer, a soldier and a Russian mobster. However, there are still sections of the game that allow you to experiment with different play styles, labelled as The Fans.
While these sections of the game offer more freedom, the play styles offered through the different masks can be subtle. For example, one mask allows you to roll underneath bullets at the press of a button, but this is rarely ever useful, as is the mask that allows you to aim in two directions at once with a set of machine guns. These restrictions can be somewhat frustrating at the beginning of the game, when you’re forced to use certain masks as they are unlocked.
Sometimes, the game’s ambition can get the better of it. Larger arenas for combat and more enemies placed far off the screen (that can somehow hit you from much further than you can hit them) can be problematic in a game with no checkpoints on each floor. This isn’t always an issue, however, but an awkward lock on system can make for some unfair deaths when it decides to prioritise an enemy five rooms away instead of the guard running at you with a shotgun.
Aside from this, the game is still an absurd amount of fun to play, and with my time clocking in at around 10 hours, the value on display here makes it incredibly hard to pass up. As a comparison, the same day as starting HM2:WN I finished the very hyped The Order: 1886. This game can run you anywhere up to £49, and lasted me half the time. This game cost me £9, and was more enjoyable than the former. The length makes the first game feel like a sample, but this isn’t the only reason. Variations Hotline Miami 2 brings to the table make the game feel almost like a perfected formula, a build upon the addictive quality of the first.
The game’s brutally stylish presentation is more blood thirsty than ever, and the bleak, confusing atmosphere of the first is explored upon in droves here. Whilst the plot can be frustratingly vague on a first play-through, a second yields plentiful rewards for those going back (and let’s face it, you want to), and the addition of a Hard mode teases the player into another ride in Miami.
It would be a crime to not give the game’s soundtrack it’s own section in this review, because in all honesty, it may well be the best video game soundtrack I’ve ever heard. I was worried it wouldn’t match the hypnotic qualities of the first, but I am delighted to report that it smashes any music found in it’s little brother. The range of genres is also much wider here, as the soundtrack allows anything from psychedelic riffs to near dubstep level tracks, with some bound to stick in your head long after you quit for the night. Each piece of music is memorable, and each can top the last with gusto. That is, however, until you hear the last one again.
So, did Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number live up to expectations? After some reflection, the game surpassed any expectations I had for it. Full disclosure, when I put down the controller after finishing the game, I almost felt bitter toward it. I thought it’s length worked against it, packing in more than required after the first three to four hour instalment was so perfectly packaged with it’s brevity. But in reflection, I think I felt that way because the game had just gotten the better of me at the time. I was so determined to beat the game as quickly as possible, and only now do I realise this was just because I couldn’t put it down. Frustration got the better of me, and only when stepping back and looking at the experience as a whole did I fully appreciate how utterly fantastic it all was. I loved Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and sincerely hope we get another game somewhere down the line. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to play Hotline Miami 2.