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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

By Doubleplus12-03-2015
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

The Defence

Dennaton Games
Devolver Digital
Action, Indie
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
2 GB
600 MB

The Case

Hello, you have reached the Pixel Judge hotline. For an in-depth analysis of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, please scroll down the page. For an introductory on Hotline Miami and its sequel please stay on the line and continue reading this section. For a creepy message from the developers, please call (786) 519-3708 ext 10.

The original Hotline Miami was a game about mass murder, building combos and twitch reflexes, with everything and everyone dying in a single hit, including yourself. It did an amazing job at creating this ultraviolent euphoria with its intense action and exciting electronic music in it's descent into the abyss of its own madness and insanity and made the player hold on for the ride. Will the sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, managed to pull off what the original did oh so well? Please hold, and a juror will be with you momentarily.

The Trial

It's a well known fact that there are three kinds of sequels. First off, there's the kind that just puts out more of the same, not really taking risks or venturing outside of its comfort zone. Secondly, sequel that change EVERYTHING, usually to the discontent of the fans of the previous game or games. Thirdly, there's the one that, in my opinion, is the best kind of sequel: the one that changes up the formula just enough to keep things interesting without changing so much it may as well of been a different game. It's a very thin line developers walk when making sequels and it's easy to end up falling into one of the two categories.

Fitting name.

Fitting name.

While many people might disagree with me, Hotline Miami 2 is the third kind. It may seem samey to some, but shakes things up enough to make it more than just a rehash. For instance, in the first one, you played a single character during the main game, and as you complete the levels and find secrets you unlock a series of animal masks, each with its own special ability. While each mask changed gameplay up a noticeable amount, most of them didn’t drastically change things. In Wrong Number, you instead play as a series of different and interesting characters, such as a group of vigilantes inspired from the acts of the first game, a shady detective, a writer, a soldier during an invasion of Hawaii by the Russians, and a whole slew of others.

Each character brings its own style to the mix. For instance, when playing as the fans, you can choose between the four of them and their unique playstyles. As Corey, who dons the Zebra mask, you are able to execute evasive rolls, allowing you to dodge enemy fire. When playing as Tony the Tiger (not the one you are thinking of), your fists kill enemies instead of simply stunning them, including dogs and fat enemies, though you are unable to use weapons. As Mark the Bear, you start off with dual submachine guns that can be reloaded once and if you right click, he will spread his arms apart, shooting to the sides of him. The Swans, Alex and Ash, are probably my favorite to play as. Alex uses her chainsaw while Ash follows behind carrying whatever guns you can find. On top of this, you also have the soldier with a gun that has to be reloaded by using ammo crates, as well as a knife he can quickly switch to on the fly. The writer is only trying to do research, so he won’t actually kill anyone, instead knocking mobsters out and disarming their guns. However if you accidentally kill two people using his “execution” you’ll play normally.

This is something you will be seeing a lot off.

This is something you will be seeing a lot off.

However, I have to say there is a place where it differentiates from its predecessor, which seems innocuous, but becomes more and more noticeable as the game goes on, and I'm not entirely sure it's a good thing. The levels in the sequel seem to be a lot bigger and more spread out than its predecessors, which may sound like a good thing, but it affects gameplay in the biggest ways. It causes gun-wielding enemies to become much, much more annoying and getting shot by an off-screen enemy becomes a somewhat common occurrence. It also cuts down on how much you’d like to take risks. In HM1, taking risks was like “Worst case scenario I start die and have to start the room over again” to “If I die, I have to do this whole room again” and generally makes the pace much slower in some areas.

The story is also heavily character based, each level being from that character’s perspective for events before, during and after the events of the first game. The majority of it takes place in the aftermath of Jacket’s rampage and delves into how it affected the world around him, as well as fleshing out the lives of various characters from the first game. It’s all really well presented and manages to hit that sweet spot between explaining everything and leaving too much ambiguous, giving a slew of information and “oh, that explains it!” moments while still leaving the player with plenty to interpret for themselves. I’d also be remiss if I went this review without giving special mention to the music. From the pulse-pounding intense to the calm surreal, Wrong Number follows in the footsteps of the previous game having an absolutely amazing soundtrack that really captures the feeling of whatever moment currently happening in game. It's the kind of game soundtrack that you will want to download and listen to over and over again.

‘I really have to sneeze but I'm in court.’

‘I really have to sneeze but I'm in court.’

Now onto the nitty-gritty. For those of you unaware, on launch, the first Hotline Miami ran on a dinky engine that was fairly rough around the edges due to its origin in Gamemaker. However, when it was ported to Vita, developer Abstraction made a new engine, as well as updated the PC version to this new one. Hotline Miami 2 seems to run on the new engine, but now seems to push it more than its previous version with a lot more animations and effects. Mobsters will flip their knives, police will twirl their batons, some characters will one-hand shotguns while the others two-hand them. Many of the gun sounds are a lot punchier, having a significant “oomf” to them that wasn’t present in the original. The only real problem I had with it was the AI having a tendency to walk in circles and get stuck in doors on occasion, but not enough to hurt the experience.

The Verdict

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a worthy sequel and is definitely worth a play (or several). The execution of its demands of quick reflexes and split-second decision making is done well enough to make it frustrating, but the good kind. The kind that makes you want to play more to overcome it, rather than stop playing and spare yourself the ulcer. Its cacophony of electronic music, ultraviolence, and intense keyboard smashing, blood-pressure raising, heart-stopping gameplay make it an absolute joy to behold.

Case Review

  • Hurts so Good: Just as fun and challenging as the first, if not more.
  • My Ears Have Died and Gone to Heaven: Great music.
  • I’m Not Sure What’s Going on, but I Like it: Well-executed story and interesting characters.
  • Score Attack: It will make you want to replay to top your scores and combos.
  • Can I get a Word With the Architect?: Level design is weaker than the original.
Score: 4.5/5
You’ll like to hurt people.


Hotline Miami 2 is what every sequel should be like. It is bigger and better in every possible way. The story is more present, the soundtrack is longer, there are more characters to both meet and play as, your arsenal is bigger and more varied, and the violence is amped up. And you’ll die more. But it also never goes overboard. It never tries too hard, risking to overwhelm players in the process. The simplicity of Hotline Miami was always its strong suit, and I’m glad to report that the developers still understand this. The sequel proves that the original game wasn’t just a fluke, a lucky accident.

However, there are quite a lot of problems with this seemingly perfect sequel too. Regularly, you’ll see the AI spazz out and get stuck in places. Sometimes, they don’t react to you firing a shotgun at their friends at extreme close range. Worse yet, I even found myself stuck in a wall as I was walking to my car after having completed one of the game’s decidedly toughest levels. Knowing that I’d have to restart the entire three-floor level (each gruellingly harder than the last) in order to move on, was enough for me to shut the game off and not want to start it up again in a while. The level design also isn’t always the greatest. Sure, it’ll induce semi-frustration that encourages you to try again, and again, and again. But it’ll also make you genuinely angry at times, due to the many cheap deaths you’ll encounter at the hands of ranged enemies spotting you from across the now much larger maps than what the original Hotline had to offer. Bigger maps should be a Yay, not a Nay. But it isn’t always executed in the best possible manner here.

Simply put, Hotline Miami 2 is a sequel made for the fans. If you found the first game too hard, too frustrating, too pixelated or - god forbid - too violent, then you won’t likely enjoy the sequel either. It doesn’t attempt to usher in more people by lowering the bar in order to sell more copies. This isn’t a Battlefield-sequel, but an indie game from a developer with a clear vision of what they wanted the game to be. And in most ways, they have succeeded. It isn’t revolutionary by any means, but ups the ante in significant enough ways for the trip to be worth taking for any fan of the previous instalment. I just wish the game could’ve been given another month to rid itself of some of the more frustrating bugs and glitches.

Score: 4/5
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