Version Tested: PS4
Also available on: Vita, PS3, PC
Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Indie Action
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the much anticipated follow-up to the 2012 smash hit Hotline Miami. The second and final installment in the series takes place both before and after the events of the original game. There is no main character like “Jacket” from the first game. Instead, the storyline weaves through multiple timelines and multiple playable characters. It’s a stark change from the vague meta-narrative of the first game, but it’s just as difficult to follow.
If you haven’t played Hotline Miami you won’t want to start with Wrong Number. Not only will the narrative be impenetrable, but the difficulty starts off where the first game ended. The stages are more open this time around. These layouts put more of an emphasis on gunplay and offscreen enemies will put an end to your life in seconds. Windows, although featured in the first game, are more prevalent than ever, granting enemies massive lines of sight. These design elements are used to increase the difficulty, but it’s overused and much of the game is spent baiting enemies and waiting for them around corners. These moments don’t feel like the Hotline Miami I fell in love with.
That isn’t to say that Wrong Number isn’t a bloody good time. The pulse-pounding soundtrack is bigger than ever and clearing rooms of Russian mobsters feels just as good as it did before. Each character has a different style of play. The writer is non-lethal until he launches into a state of fury. The soldier can switch between a gun and a knife, but has to pick up ammunition for his weapon. The “Fans” have abilities like rolling under bullets, killing punches, and even a controllable duo: one wields a chainsaw while the other fires weapons.
Although the narrative is confusing to follow, it allows the developers to take us to many locales and explosive set pieces. One mission will take place during a war in Hawaii and the next you will play a dirty cop at a crime scene. Characters from all over the Hotline Miami universe make appearances, sometimes for fan service and other times for something more.
That something more is what separates Wrong Number from being just an addictive violence simulator. The game shows us a post-“Jacket” world. In this world, wannabe fans wearing animal masks and kill random thugs to achieve the kind of fame “Jacket” achieved. There’s a slasher film being made about the events of the first game and a true crime novel being written as well. Richard, the rooster mask-wearing specter from the first game, interacts with all these characters and questions their violent tendencies. While the first game examined the “why” behind violence in a meta-fashion, Wrong Number examines the “why” within the world of the narrative. Violence breeds violence and to quote Richard, “You won’t like the way it ends.”
For all Wrong Number‘s strengths, none can excuse the amount of bugs present within the game. Enemies get stuck on doors constantly. Dogs spin in circles endlessly. Sometimes enemies leave the map entirely. I encountered many game breaking bugs within my playthrough, but the physics of the doors was the worst. In a game that takes a much precision as Hotline Miami these bugs are unacceptable and will often ruin your perfect run.
Those looking for closure on what it all means may have a difficult time following all of the story threads, however with some patience and mental dexterity Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will deliver you one of the most beautiful endings I’ve seen in a video game.