Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review
There is something infinitely infuriating about something that thinks it’s smarter than it is. That believes they alone have tapped into some deeply hidden well of profundity and insight that the rest of us couldn’t even begin to understand. So it is with Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number a game who follows in the footsteps of the near sublime Hotline Miami and proceeds to trip and fall along the way.
Brutality has always been the name of the game in the Hotline series, the player as one of many mask assailants is tasked with enacting swift and brutal justice/vengeance/psychopathy on the unfortunate inhabitants of various buildings using an assortment of weapons, ranging from bats to LMG.
Combat is quick and brutal with most foes going down in a single hit. But so do you. Levels are akin to puzzles as you must plan out your way through. Shoot Guard A, wait for Guard B to come, smash door into Guard B, use his gun to kill Guards C through F. Once you learn the basics you’ll soon be leaving mountains of dead in your wake,and they will be mountains thanks to how many enemies they throw at you.
Level design was one of the greatest strengths of the first game, with each level having its own distinct flow. Unfortunately, that subtly of design has been replaced by an emphasis on larger environment filled with loads of foes. These levels are so large that they stretch off screen, leaving you unable to see any upcoming threats who’ll surely see you before you see them which in this game often means death.
These longer levels make the previously quick gameplay of the first game significantly longer. No long can you die, respawn and be able to correct your mistakes in a few seconds, instead you’ll be engaged in instadeath firefights that will have you cry ‘Bullshit’ before wearily trying again.
All this bloodshed and death is framed by one of the most consistently bad and obtuse stories I’ve ever seen in a game. Hotline Miami’s story was an odd beast; an ambling stoner tale, punctuated by violence and brief moments of lucidity. The idea of a masked hitman, killing targets by the command of a voice on his answering machine was at least interesting. It’s a shame then that the writing was piss poor and clearly up its own arse in a lot of ways.
Matters aren’t improved with the sequel. Acting as both prequel and continuation to the events of the first. With several interconnecting plot lines that at times intersect it’s clear that they went into the game’s story with a lot of ideas. Unfortunately very few of them pan out and instead were left with a meandering plot that seems on the cusp of being decent but just kinda fizzles.
To many a poor story line would be acceptable if it didn’t affect the gameplay, but sadly that isn’t the case. In certain chapters, the player is limited in their abilities. One character can only use non-lethal melee weapons whilst another is bound to two machine guns. While these restrictions did come with certain masks in the first game, you always had a choice of what mask you wore. But now your choice is limited as the games story takes the leash
So what’s the verdict on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number? It’s the difficult second album from a developer who struck gold with the first game and believed they could make it happen again. Deciding to pack the game with a lavishly bad story, huge game breaking levels whilst all the while limiting players creativity in those levels. There are certainly moments when the game lets you off the leash and lets you recreate the manic slaughter of the original, but the game seems far more interested in telling you it’s story than your enact violent whims