Gaming History 101

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review


The original Hotline Miami is still a massive indie hit that has a colourful over the top retro look to it with a fantastic soundtrack to accompany it. The goal of each level was simple: kill every enemy on screen by any means necessary. Although that comes across as a very basic concept the game is very difficult and you will find yourself restarting constantly until you finally figure out the magical formula to dispatch all the bad guys in the level. I was hooked to this game instantly when I first played it, and was pretty excited to hear a sequel was on the way.

hm2_3I first got a peek at Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number last year at EGX Rezzed 2014. It was being demoed on the Vita and PS4 and allowed you to play two levels from the game. What appealed to me at the time was the game was notoriously difficult from the get go, almost requiring you to have played the first game to have any chance of clearing each level. Getting hands on with the full game that is certainly not the case now. The game opens with a pretty simple to follow tutorial, then the rest is up to you. Controls are very similar to a twin stick shooter only you really have to make every hit count in this game. You will be switching between melee weapons and guns regularly, and you’ll have to change your tactics constantly as not every single enemy can be taken down with the same weapon. Every enemy you face can be taken down in a single hit, but just keep in mind your own character is equally fragile. It’s basically you versus a house full of enemies and as you take each baddie down you will be greeted with the most gory of pixelated graphics you have every seen in a retro inspired game, and its kinda awesome.  On normal mode the game allows you to auto lock onto the nearest target which makes taking down enemies a lot easier. If you brave the game on hard this ability is disabled and you have to rely on your own skill with the controls to pull through.

At its core the game is basically more of the same with relatively short levels, but you will be restarting them constantly trying to figure out your own magical formula to beat each area. Heres a quick overview of how a level usually went for me: enter the door got stabbed by the first guy, RESTART, enter door hit the guy shot by someone in the distance, RESTART, “ah ha I got that guys gun, oh wait here comes three guys in a row, damn I’m out of ammo”, dead, RESTART, “Finally taken everyone down, wait theres a dog oh fu-“, RESTART. You get the idea. Nothing quite beats that feeling though when you finally conquer a level after having restarted it several times.

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If I had a friend playing this game with me I could totally see this being a water cooler discussion on how you managed to get past certain areas. The boss battles in particular bring across that head scratching moment and since I played this game pretty much on release there was no help online at the time (though that would of course have changed now). It really reminded me of those nostalgic days before the internet where you really had no help in figuring out how to get through the game.

hm2_1The sequel does try to bring some changes to the formula. First off, the game is now heavily story focused. In the previous game you just picked up the phone and did a level; a little story was peppered in but the game was very quick to get to the action. This time around you will be reading a lot of text from various characters. It provides that depth some people may be looking for, those who wanted to know what the hell was going on in the first game but if you do just want to get to the killing you can skip these sections. The story contains a lot of twists and it’s really not worth spoiling in a review.  In Hotline Miami 2 you will play as various characters looking at the dark story from different angles. Sometimes you will get to choose between a handful of masked maniacs who each have different perks (e.g. a chainsaw or dual wielding machine guns), sometimes you will play a soldier in the jungle and you have to commit to a specific weapon of choice. This makes the game feel more linear. While it is good to provide the player with a unique challenge, fans of the first game where you had access to various perks in the forms of masks in the majority of the levels might find the new design to the game more limited. It doesn’t stop how much fun the game is and you can still finish the level in any way you choose.

 A large criticism I have to the game was it felt like there was a lot of cheap deaths from enemies off screen. Guns play a big role in this game and your fragile sprite can only take a single bullet. So it was particularly aggravating to go through levels where I was being shot by an offscreen baddie that was out of my line of sight. The game does allow you to pan the camera around to survey your surroundings but even then it might not be enough to see that bugger in the distance. It feels this time around you really need to learn the level and enemy positions rather than just winging it. I guess the reason for this design is to force you out of your comfort zone and take chances.

The retro inspired graphics are colourful and frankly excellent. They haven’t changed at all from the first game and they never needed to. Just like the first game you have a fantastic soundtrack to accompany your killing spree which is worthy of putting on your mp3 player and playing those 80s techno beats while you drive down those fine Miami streets in the setting sun with your shades on. Sorry got carried away there. If you don’t have that luxury you can enjoy this soundtrack outside the game whatever you decide to do.


Overall, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is fast, frantic killing fun. I always admire a developer who tries to bring something new to the table to mix things up for a sequel. To breathe some fresh air into the series as opposed to playing it safe and bringing more of the same. Some changes will sit well with fans of the first and some won’t, but this doesn’t change the fact that the game is still great fun and an excellent buy for gamers looking for tons of replay value in their game. I played this game on both PS3 and Vita, both versions are absolutely fine but the PC version does have the addition of a level editor which I can see as being a fantastic resource for people looking for even more Hotline Miami action.  Especially given that this game is the last in the series, future content is going to be left in the hands of the fans to continue.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy)

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is available on PC (including Mac and Linux), Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita for an MSRP of $14.99 and it is cross-buy on Playstation platforms (buying one version releases all versions).  This title was purchased by the reviewer and a press copy was not provided.

Written by jamalais

March 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

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