Buckle up and grab your animal masks, kids… Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is here to blow your damn kneecaps off.
It’s rare to pick up a sequel to one of your favourite games and be astounded all over again. For the last couple of years, most of the big titles we’ve been treated to are HD remakes and sub-par sequels, and it’s a blessed moment whenever something knocks the original off its pedestal and takes a place in the sun. Cue Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. After the release of the original in the later months of 2012, the world of indie gaming was painted in gruesome, fluorescent brilliance, and a few years later, we’re back in Florida, slipping back into the routine of blasting through the front door and murdering anything dumb enough to get in our way.
The team’s obviously taken an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the core gameplay… you’ll still die countless times and learn from your mistakes, but there’s a sprinkling of new additions to keep the experience interesting. Jumping between each character, there’s a lot to love about each of them. One refuses to use firearms, instead unloading his enemy’s shotgun or snapping their rifle in two (and I gotta tell you, the first time you watch an unarmed opponent backing away from you, vulnerable and defenceless, it’s a sublime moment of power) while another works in a two-part team, letting you run in and slash away with a chainsaw while your partner provides long-distance cover. No two missions are the same, be it before or after the events of the first game, and there’s never a dull moment between violent sprees of vengeance.
Hotline Miami 2 really shines when it comes to taking a game that was already a classic in its own right and expanding its story in every possible direction. Even the smallest of bit characters are lovingly fleshed out, and each relationship becomes a tangled spiderweb of connections. I can’t bring myself to give too much away, as the surprises keep piling up after every level, but you’ll be encountering some old friends from the original in ways you can’t possibly have imagined.
There’s more to this title than just a great story and some sharp gameplay, too. The visual style simply oozes with retro cool, with graphics so atmospheric you could almost feel the hot Miami winds coming in from the beach, and it’s complete with one of the most outstanding soundtracks I’ve heard in years, featuring the likes of Magna, Auto Delta Time and Chromacle. Even the pause menu’s just about the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while, sending a vertical hold along the screen with a VHS-style menu complete with “eject” rather than “quit.” It’s a perfectly polished game wrapped up with a heavenly style that’s sure to please anyone with even the faintest whisper of nostalgia in their hearts.
The game certainly isn’t without its criticism, either from its controversial opening that won a big red cross from the Australian government or from a few elements of gameplay that’s made a handful of players pull out their hair in frustration, but overall, I can’t find anything to complain about. Hotline Miami 2 has taken every ounce of greatness from the original and pushed the boundaries of retro indie gaming, pumping a soundtrack set to kill and wielding a story that’ll leave your hands shaking before the closing credits.