Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review

By Brandon Fusco,
When Hotline Miami was released back in July 2013 on the PS3 and Vita, it quickly became a hit. It was flashy, violent, and had a dark message how being steeped in violence effects people, which was starkly contrasted against the bright lights and bloody gameplay. Underneath all of the twitchy gameplay was a scoring system that rewarded players for finding the best, most gore soaked route through Miami, which made the various buildings in the game seem like twisted murder puzzles. All of this left fans clamoring for more, and after a short but excruciating wait, developer Dennaton has delivered a title that makes their original game feel more like a well-crafted prelude than a stand-alone title.

Yeah. Whoa.Yeah. Whoa.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the bigger brother of the original game in almost every way. You'll still slash, bash, shoot, and execute your way through a bunch of crazy top down 2D levels, but this time they are even more densely packed with enemies of varying types to be taken down. These levels are absolutely huge by comparison, sometimes having five or more areas per level that stretch so far that the protagonist starts off screen. There are nearly twice as many story levels in this game. These range from the jungles of a far-off battlefieldto the crime ridden streets of Miami, beginning four years prior to the first game and ending two years after. Spanning that time period is a colorful cast of characters, almost all of which are playable, and each of which has specific quirks that change how a given level is tackled.

As this game goes on, the gameplay becomes something different. The increased focus on story leads to a change in how levels are approached. Rather than having a selection of unlocked masks that can be worn for varying benefits on any level, players are restricted to certain characters depending on the level. While some freedom is lost, players are forced to be more creative with the options on hand, rather than executing the same strategy on every level. For instance, while you may be more comfortable using primarily melee weapons for a quieter approach, you may be forced to start the level with machine guns that can't be dropped until they are empty, requiring you to learn how being loud can be advantageous.

Execute perfectly and you may survive.Execute perfectly and you may survive.

This in turn has affected the way that levels are designed. In many instances, levels are designed to be played a certain way with a certain character. On the whole, the level of craftsmanship present makes up for the freedom lost due to the restrictive character choice. When it all goes right, these levels will require techniques that you may have rarely used before, making success so much more rewarding. Unfortunately, the level design is not always up to snuff, particularly on the first playthrough.

As the levels have grown in size and complexity, so has an amount of chaos. In certain levels, this has the side effect of destroying any plans beyond the first 30 seconds or so. Frequently, this devolved into sitting in a room and methodically luring every enemy in proximity to their death before moving on. The pace would slow to a crawl, and the game turned into a test of endurance rather than planning and skill. In several instances, taking the wrong weapon into the next area may result in a headache. Unknowingly taking a pipe into an area where there are a large number of enemies immune to melee damage never feels like that game is being fair. While it's possible to plan for this on subsequent playthroughs, these elements can conspire against the player for a slow, frustrating grind.

When restarting is so easy, death is just a step in the learning process.When restarting is so easy, death is just a step in the learning process.

Thankfully, the presentation helps with this. Neon lights abound, and thumping music carries you forward from one attempt to the next with a rush of adrenaline. Despite the simplistic graphics, the art style creates a simultaneously vibrant and unsettling atmosphere. Cutting through each level feels like contributing to a horrific modern piece of art with red splashes of paint representing the rage that is cutting through the world.

How all of this contributes to the story and themes is where Hotline Miami 2 truly shines. Rather than just answering the questions surrounding the events of the first game, the sequel goes out of its way to expand its commentary by seeding further questions. The story is certainly wrapped up in the end with little left to the imagination, but more questions are brought up about the nature of humans and their obsession with violence. By putting the player in the shoes of people seeking out this violence, the game doesn't ask why the character is unphased by the violence, but instead asks why you aren't phased by it.

Be careful, this game can get pretty meta.Be careful, this game can get pretty meta.

Despite the increased length of the game over its predecessor, the game promotes replayability. Players are graded on each completion, and returning to attempt for A+ or S ranks on each level is rewarding in its own way. Completing the game also unlocks a Hard mode that spins the game on its head. Each level is literally flipped around so that the upper left is now the lower right. Tougher enemies are placed throughout each level, and the lock on mechanic has been disabled, requiring manual control on all of those tough shots. As a reward for playing hard mode, new story is made available to you.

As a sequel to what is considered a rather hard game, it should come as no surprise that some of the trophies in Wrong Number are tough to get. There are a few basic trophies for completing the story, but most other trophies require that a particular level or set of levels is beaten with certain criteria, such as using a silenced pistol through a portion of the level. A couple of trophies are a little more mysterious such as finding newspapers in the story sequences of the game, or knocking over a few cardboard cut outs in one of the levels. Completing the game on Hard and getting an A+ on every level on Normal round out the set as likely the toughest of the trophies, though which will be harder likely depends on your play style.

Kill and maim for fame!Kill and maim for fame!

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a strong continuation of the series, with great atmosphere, terrifying violence, and hectic gameplay. While most of the levels are well put together and make you feel like a powerful killing machine, some points in the game try to get too crazy for their own good, and the pace stumbles temporarily into the realms of slow and frustrating. Above it all stands as a meta-narrative that places you squarely into the mindset of the game's protagonists; it questions how a society that is obsessed with violence affects us and the world around us with dire implications.

Brandon played the game for approximately 12 hours and earned 10 of the 29 trophies. Even though he's slightly concerned with what the game has to say about him and his violent tendencies, he doesn't regret buying the Playstation 4 review copy himself and plans to continue playing it when he has the time.
Brandon Fusco
Written by Brandon Fusco
Brandon is an Editor and TGN's Host with the Most. The most what? The most opinions, the most understanding wife, and the most *funny cat videos. Previously Host of the Trophy Talk Podcast. (*Not Verified)