Is it too early to declare that this game has the best soundtrack of the year?
There’s a lot to consider when thinking about Hotline Miami and its sequel Wrong Number. So much can be said about the series’ crazy visuals, and piecing together the delicious chaos of its warped narrative. So much has already been said, including endless praise of its surprisingly unique soundtrack. And rightly so.
With Wrong Number, the soundtrack is very much an extension of the experience that the game delivers of throwing you head first into its brilliant madness that defies, exceeds and questions every single expectation.
“Bloodline” — Scattle
“Bloodline” stages a lot of the tone to Hotline’s grittiness set in the fictional 80s and early 90s Miami. It’s got that seediness to be sure. A little bit of that cheesy movie set piece sound for a scheming bad guy too, perhaps? There’s something inherently shady about it, and it’s not just in the name.
“Fahkeet” — Light Club
Within those choppy beats there’s a lot of personality. Lots of uncertainty, it’s directionless and makes me feel a little queasy. But it’s hypnotic too in how uneven yet steady the sound is designed. It’s a little bit dirty and definitely deviant—perfect for the Hotline series.
“She Swallowed Burning Coals” — El Tigr3
What’s not to love here? It builds then maintains momentum, settles temporarily but not satisfied, it then throws it all out the window by filtering in lots of interesting sounds all vying for attention, cancels them out and starts again.
“Around” — Modulogeek
Wrong Number is not just that game that’s about ultra-violence and that’s what was most surprising about this sequel. There’s some depth of character to a couple of its main protagonists which are complete reversals of their portrayals in the first game. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very much the horrible excuses for humans you’d expect. But like this quiet, relaxed, dreamy slow start to “Around” and its following reflective bass lines, there’s much more humanity to discover in unexpected points to its story, nestled beneath those pools of blood.
“Decade Dance” — Jasper Byrne
Sometimes in Wrong Number, extreme focus is required. Even to just set a pace going for that particular murderous frame of mind. It’s tense, and “Decade Dance” couldn’t have invoked that feeling any better. What’s around the corner? It makes studying enemy movements an enjoyable challenge while just as nerve-wracking.
“Run” — iamthekidyouknowwhatimean
I’m not even really sure what I feel when listening to this. It’s decidedly Hotline, which makes a whole lot of sense for anyone who has played the series. At least, it’s what Hotline has come to mean for me. Stylized, confusing, unsettling, and it reminds me of all the reflection I’ve done on the series since I finished. It’s different from the usual blood pumping sounds of tracks that detail lots of that over-the-top violence in gameplay like M.O.O.N.’s “Hydrogen” in the first game. This one… it’s an enigma.
“Hollywood Heights” — Mitch Murder
Hotline’s a lot of things, but it’s also a blast. At the end of May, the Kickstarter movie Kung Fury will capture our hearts. Look no further than David Hasselhoff’s “True Survivor” theme song to get a feel for just how ridiculous it’s going to be. Beneath his splits and all the Ninja skills the movie boasts are the sweet, rocking sounds of campy 80s synthesizers by Mitch Murder.
A couple of Mitch Murder’s tracks make an appearance in Wrong Number, and they’re just as awfully cheesy to represent every bad, over-the-top 80s movie and television show framed by a fun-loving, and deadly Miami sun.
“Le Perv” — Carpenter Brut
This song is something else. It plays during an intense prison break scene where I screwed up choosing weapons more than once; and lumbering, beastly prisoners clung to the walls for surprise attacks. It was terrifying but for every frustrating death doled out, the urge to keep going was strong. A part of it is accepting the torture the game dishes out, its beautiful colours, its brutality, its stylized magnetism that draws players in, that incredibly twisted vagueness, and the soundtrack, for sure. This song is the one that remains my favourite because it hits all those things that makes up Wrong Number. I listened to it on repeat for a couple of weeks after I finishing the game, each time marveling at how much it managed to misdirect by issuing a standard but good hook at the beginning only to branch into something completely unexpected.
The song’s much like the experience that is the game. So much to unravel. So much to enjoy. So much to puzzle over. Brilliant is not an overstatement for Wrong Number and Hotline, and its carefully integrated soundtrack.
From this small 8 track sampling of what the soundtrack offers, Wrong Number’s all those adjectives and more. But you’re probably wondering what’s truly so amazing about it when it sounds like the kind of thing you could tune into on a specialty station designed to host music of its kind. Songs with slightly off kilter tempo and surprising twists in a lot of its compositions which are reminiscent of a made-up or distant familiarity to a certain time and place.
For me, it’s not just the joy of discovering new bands and music, though that plays a role.
As fantastic as the music of Hotline Miami 2 is — some discovered in part from relatively obscure bands on Bandcamp; and lovingly fitted to match every mind trick, bizarre emotion, bloodied floor, wall and hand — it’s also unconventional.
I’m used to the orchestral masterpieces of the Zelda and Final Fantasy series. I’ll listen and enjoy the more mainstreamed licensed songs of Rock Band and Grand Theft Auto. I’ll live in the moment with the thematic pieces of the Uncharted series. Given these standards of video game music I am used to, Wrong Number should be a little bit harder to embrace. Particularly when its style is not what I listen to or seek out normally.
And like the game, that’s probably why I love it so unapologetically.
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