The original Hotline Miami is quite a fun game, mixing puzzles, stealth and murder into one rather mind bending package. In fact I replayed it over the last week to get ready for its sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, hoping for more of the same. You definitely do get most of the same, but is Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number better than its predecessor? Well, the short answer is no.
That isn’t to say Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a bad game, not at all, but this time around it seems like Dennaton Games have crammed in a lot of ideas that don’t quite mesh together. There are many more playable characters, all with their own stories and new additions, but a bigger cast doesn’t always make for a better game.
The positive to note first is that the gameplay of Wrong Number is almost exactly the same as that of the first Hotline Miami, with a couple of extra additions. The main new feature is the ability to dual wield certain guns, and in one mask’s case control two characters at the same time – one of those has a gun, while the other a chainsaw.
At first dual wielding can be a bit of challenge to control, but after quite a few tries it all just clicks and you’ll be taking down enemies in quick succession. It is by far the most satisfying type of attack within Wrong Number, but due to the way the story flows the opportunities to dual wield or use the chainsaw and gun combo, are few.
I mentioned more playable characters and while that sounds like a good thing on paper, it can lead to a bit of mess in practice. The story in the first Hotline Miami, though weird, was pretty easy to follow. In Wrong Number events quickly become convoluted, with different arcs all vying for your attention. Some are entertaining, like that of the Fanatics, but other narrative threads, such as the Soldier, are quite boring in terms of plot and play style.
I really didn’t like the Soldier missions because of how they go against the grain of what makes the rest of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number fun. In the majority of the game’s missions when you kill someone you can pick up their weapons to resupply, and that allows the action to keep moving at a decent pace, but in the soldier’s story that mechanic is gone almost completely.
Now I’d understand it if the enemy didn’t have guns, but they do and when you kill them they drop weapons. Instead of being allowed to pick these weapons up you have to find a supply cache. It makes no logical sense from either a plot or gameplay perspective. No explanation is given as to why you can’t pick the guns up, as they taunt you by sitting next to your feet, and instead of presenting a challenge this design choice does nothing but frustrate.
It’s like the designers tried to add a barrier to make things more difficult, without really thinking through the impact it has on the overall experience. The aim was obviously to make a player plan their approach in these missions, like soldiers do, but removing such a basic ability to achieve that end feels like the implementation was rushed or poorly considered. At least in the original Hotline Miami you could guess The Biker preferred knives over any other weapon, so he wouldn’t pick guns up. That was part of his character.
That’s not the only disagreement I had with the decisions made for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. In the first game before almost every mission you are given a choice of which mask to wear, and each mask had its own single advantage to help in a stage. In the sequel that mask choice has been stripped right back, and you only get to choose a mask for a minority of Wrong Number’s levels. Even in those situations, choices are limited depending on the character you’re currently controlling. The abilities like one punch kills or lethal throws are fun, but more of a choice would have been nice. A couple of notable missing masks include the one that made doors lethal, and one that stopped dogs from attacking, though these were particularly powerful
Overall the difficulty of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong number feels much harder than its predecessor. There appear to be more enemies on screen, and they seem to react a bit quicker. It is very easy to get overwhelmed in certain areas, but each location does have a pattern and once you can see that pattern, moving through is all about taking down enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is very satisfying once you conquer a particularly tough stage.
Violence is Hotline Miami’s partner in crime, and Wrong Number turns that notch up. The blood seems to splatter more, and there are more execution animations when taking out a downed enemy with weapon in hand. The weapons seem more powerful too, which may be a response to the upped difficulty, with the shotgun being a particularly good choice due to its range and ability to take out more than one enemy at a time.
One of the other defining features of Hotline Miami is its soundtrack, one that became a personal favourite of mine, and Wrong Number continues the trend of having a great accompanying musical score. The majority of the tracks really sink in, though there are a couple that felt out of place. Overall though, the soundtrack could be one of the best you’ll hear this year, with its dance tunes making you nod along. They wouldn’t feel out of place if a DJ decided to have them in their set at a club to fill the floor.
Wrong Number also has a level editor, allowing players to create their own scenarios, but it is currently in an alpha stage. However the possibilities it has is great, and more talented people than myself could certainly come up with in depth and challenging maps for others to play. It isn’t completely open though, and will require knowledge of how the game works to really take advantage.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is an entertaining game, at least for the majority of its play time. It takes what made Hotline Miami great and made it greater, these being the weapons and level design. It is a much longer experience too, though personal playthrough times will be dependant on your skill. However, Wrong Number also tries to do too much too quickly, and its multiple character paths don’t work as well as hoped. Add in the fact there are fewer masks and it feels like a major part of the game has been stripped out. Overall it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as its streamlined, bizarre predecessor.
Version Tested: PC