You know that feeling when you've finally done that thing? That exhilaration when it's all over? The warmth flowing downwards, dripping off your face?
Wait. That's blood. You've just murdered a person. Well, not one person. Several people. You're a vicious killer.
Ok, ok. Maybe that's a bad start.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a brutal, top-down game where the objective is to kill everyone before the player character dies, reminiscent of various slasher movies-
Do you like hurting other people?
Will you do what is expected of you, no matter how insane the request?
Does the thought of blood flowing down the halls excite you?
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number doesn't start by asking the player questions. It starts with opening credits. It starts with murder. It starts with the threat of sexual violence. It starts with...
Wait, this whole opening is a movie?
More properly, the tutorial level of Wrong Number has the player play as the lead actor in a slasher film loosely based on the events of the first Hotline Miami. At the end of the level, the director calls cut and demands that for the next scene, the player need to do it bloodier; and the female lead has to be more "feminine", more subservient.
...And then Wrong Number throws the player into the shoes of a completely different character, this time, a set of four playable characters called "The Fans". Wrong Number continues like this for a while, bouncing back and forth between several different characters, each with their own stories, all of which either a) serve to wrap up loose ends from the first Hotline Miami or b) intertwine with each other to form the larger narrative of Wrong Number.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number plays almost exactly like the first Hotline Miami. The player enters a floor, runs around the floor in an attempt to brutally murder everyone before the enemies get lucky and end the player's useless flaying.
Combat is simple. First, the unarmed player approaches an enemy. Then the player knocks out the enemy, which disarms the enemy and also leaves the enemy vulnerable to executions. Next, the player executes the downed enemy either with or without the weapon. Both are exceedingly violent, and will leave a large pool of blood. If the player is armed, then they can simply skip the knockdown/execution and simply straight-up dome 'em (or shoot them, the player could have a gun).
Every kill the player makes adds to their combo, which has been given an overhaul since Hotline Miami. Firstly, the player can now see their combo in the upper left corner of the screen, secondly, only kills earn more combo (knockdowns would earn more in the first game); and more importantly, the combo timeout window has been drastically increased. In Hotline Miami, players were given a 1-2 second window to get their next kill/knockdown. There was a mask which increased the timeout window to a more reasonable 5-ish seconds, which was almost essential for weaker players to earn higher scores. These changes have made for a more fluid, less frantic (though not by much) hunt to get those A+ or S ranks.
This all assumes that the player survives. Enemy AI is both incredibly dumb and aggressive, a combination which will result in many deaths, both the fault of the player (for forgetting about window placement), and the fault of the game (for the enemies who aren't on a set patrol route and who wander around aimlessly). Upon death, the player hits the "R" key, which brings them back to the beginning of the floor, primed to kill everyone all over again.
Also of note is a character who's "thing" is that he uses non-lethal means to take out enemies. He disarms guns, keeping those combos alive, and doesn't use weapons with blades. Instead, if he does grab a blunt weapon, he knocks out enemies instead of bashing their brains in. This doesn't require a change in tactics, as it more or less plays exactly like other Wrong Number levels.
Just like how Hotline Miami had an amazing soundtrack, Dennaton has done it again and compiled 49 amazing tracks that capture the world of 1991-era Miami. M|O|O|N, Jasper Byrne, Pertubator, Scattle, and El Huervo are all back from the first one with new tracks, with many others joining the fold for Wrong Number.
Fast, hard electro beats keep pushing the player through the action, while more mellow tunes calm the player down through the aftermath of all the carnage. Wrong Number's soundtrack is a wonder in itself.
Somehow Dennaton has managed to increase the amount of gore in Wrong Number. Even though the game is indeed all pixel art, it perfectly conveys the bright vibrant bloody mess that is Hotline Miami. Subtle changes, like decapitated heads rolling around, and more detailed art assets feel like they've been around since the beginning, but add to make a much more visceral experience.
Wrong Number is hard. The game isn't afraid to bash your face in at every given opportunity. Some of the difficulty lies within the new approach to level design (which I'll get into later), but for the most part, the difficulty comes from the enemy AI (which was already discussed in the Gameplay section).
But wait, there's more!
Once the player has finished the game once, they can attempt to take the game on again… in Hard mode. Hard mode differs from the regular difficulty by:
1) Vertically flipping the map (I.E. instead of entering from the bottom, the player enters from the top);
2) Adding more enemies (Usually a few more big brutes that can only be killed with guns);
3) Subtly changing level layouts (addition of windows where there may not have been any in normal);
4) Removal of lock-on (which helped the player keep track of faraway enemies);
5) Reduced initial ammo count for guns (pump shotgun reduced from 6 to 3 shells, certain SMGs reduced to 24 bullets, etc); and linked to this point
6) Guns the player throws away with spare ammo lose a percentage of ammo when picked back up again.
All of this adds up to pressure the player to play differently: more pressure to keep using guns until they're empty; being more aware of the player's surroundings; being more cautious in general. It's a nice change, and it adds a few extra moments to the game's ending to help clear up a few things.
One can't really talk about Wrong Number without talking about the drastic change in level design philosophy from the first game to the second.
The levels are big. Like really big. They're also really open. It's not unheard of to get killed by a guard with a gun patrolling offscreen. That level headlining this bit of the review? (it's been stitched together via a few screenshots) That's one "floor" of a level now. It's also the first level where being unaware of enemy positions starts to be the thing that kills the player.
The first time through, players will tend to resort to the "hide behind cover" strategy and slowly progress through levels instead of the "run in and kill everything systematically" approach to the first Hotline Miami's smaller levels. The look key (by default, it's the "Shift" key) is a godsend in this game. The look function and the lock-on help the player keep an eye on faraway enemies, so they can time when to pop out and kill the nearest guards.
The first time through the game, players can expect to barely scrape together a "C" grade. Subsequent playthroughs of the 24 levels will help the player formulate a more cohesive plan as they gain familiarity with them.
Even though this is in the "Terrible" portion of the review, the plot overall is quite enjoyable, a surreal, violent romp through Miami (and other locations).
That being said, the game assumes quite heavily that the player has played the first Hotline Miami and that they have read the Hotline Miami 2 digital comic (available for free on the Steam store page for Hotline Miami 2) and are super familiar with the events within.
The other knock against the plot/story is the controversial rape scene (WARNING: Youtube link to the scene in question) mentioned in the intro of the review. Right at the beginning of the game, the player is asked if they'd like to turn off any sexual content. I personally applaud Dennaton for giving the players the option to turn it off, there are far too many people hurt by rape directly and indirectly, but I digress. The option to turn it off is given, and it turns off… a small animation where the pants of the Pig Butcher (the character controlled during the intro sequence) fall and show a butt crack and he (the Pig Butcher) just kind of… hovers over the female lead. And that's it. That's the only sexual content. And whereas I'm glad it could be turned off, I have to wonder if it even needed to be included. I'm positive that's an article in and of itself, though, and I'm definitely not qualified enough to talk about rape and rape culture.
The reason the plot in general is in the "Terrible" section isn't solely because of the rape scene, it's not because the plot itself is bad (it's not), it's because it kinda drops the player within the plot and goes "Hope you know Hotline Miami, bucko. I'm not explaining anything that happened in the previous game at all to you!"
Hotline Miami 2:Wrong Number is a brutal game that expects nothing less than the most brutal killers-
Do you know who you are?
Do you even recognize yourself?
Who were those people you killed?
Three guards circle the room.
One of them, carrying a gun, the only one carrying a gun, is first. If you time this just right, if you're lucky, you can slam the door open and knock him out, and maybe scramble to the gun before the others notice you. If you can do that, you just might be lucky enough to be able to gun down the others. You might just get lucky enough to out of here alive. If you're lucky, the guards in the surrounding rooms might not hear you.
You're not lucky.
This is Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.
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