Hotline Miami has played like a dream since day one, so Hotline Miami 2 is giving the blood red spotlight over to story. Between multiple characters and scenarios, a running meta-commentary on the series’ fans, and ruminations on The End, Dennaton clearly wants to make a statement with this one. The blink-and-you’re-mincemeat murder masterstroke has never been a thing of restraint, however, and it may well have finally crossed a line. As Cara pointed out in a recent preview for PC Gamer, the game nearly depicts violent sexual assault and then casually moves on without giving the event context or meaning. For many, it was a deeply troubling moment in an otherwise excellent demo – one that prompted more horror and revulsion than contemplation. I spoke with Dennaton’s Dennis Wedin about the scene’s purpose, plans to retool it, and the possibility of scrapping it altogether.
RPS: Did you see Cara’s writeup of Hotline Miami 2 and other similar reactions to the bit where Pig Butcher throws a woman down and immediately drops his trousers? What are you doing about it?
[pullquote]I don’t think it’s right to say, ‘You’re just looking at it wrong.’ That’s not the way to go.[/pullquote]
Wedin: We were really sad that some people were so affected by it, because maybe they had been through something like that of their own. Maybe they had a terrible experience of their own that was triggered by the game. That was not intentional at all. We didn’t add the scene just to be controversial. There is a meaning to these two characters. There’s a lot more to them than just this scene.
We removed it for the demo. We’re going to work with it, see if we can fix it. You get a bigger picture when you play the whole game, which is lost in the demo of course.
RPS: I think another issue is that she was the only female character in the whole thing. She showed up, nearly got assaulted in a very graphic fashion, and all that came of it was a director telling her to be utterly horrified in a “more girly” way. It framed the scene as “fake”, sure, but the whole thing just felt icky.
Wedin: These characters come back later in the game and you learn more about them. There’s also gonna be playable female characters – a lot more of them in the final game. She’s the only one in this demo, so I understand why people got so upset. But there’s gonna be a lot more to these characters.
RPS: Why’d you opt to open with this, then? Why let these characters initially be defined by something that overshadows any nuance they might have?
Wedin: The idea for the opening Pig Butcher scene came from a friend who played the original Hotline Miami and saw it as a horror game. That isn’t really how we see it, but we thought it was pretty cool. We wanted to explore the idea that people can see the game different ways – what it’s all about.
So for this game, we thought it would be cool to examine that idea. Show how some other people saw the game, like if we gave them the ability to do a remake of the first game. That’s why we did the whole movie director [angle].
Also, it’s a bit of commentary to some people saying the first game was just exploitation. Adding violence because it sells. That was upsetting because we worked really hard with the story even if it’s really vague and unclear. We focused a lot on that and how it should support the violence. It should be something supporting it – not just selling it.
That’s also one of the ideas behind the opening. We wanted to make this first scene real exploitation. Make it into this horrible slasher movie. If we made Hotline Miami into actual exploitation, it’d look like this.
RPS: Sexual assault is a super touchy subject. Using it in large part for the purpose of criticizing your critics seems like kind of flimsy, inconsiderate rationale. Couldn’t you have just done the exploitation angle without it?
Wedin: Of course. I think sexuality is so much more intimate and personal than violence.
RPS: Yeah, and it’s something a lot of people experience without ever really recovering from. That’s not to say all-out gore-soaked violence is any better or worse, but they are very different subjects in modern culture.
Wedin: So of course, it resonates within you harder than violence. But our reasoning was, it’s been a trend in horror movies to do a remake of an old movie or maybe a sequel to an old movie, and they tend to take the next step up. Like, the first movie was really violent and bloody, and that was controversial. The next tries to [be equally controversial] with a big next step.
So almost doing that with the illusion of an assault but then having the game stop you, that’s us saying we’re not going to go the whole way [toward that exploitative next step]. That’s not Hotline Miami. Some might think that would be the way for us to do the sequel. Like, “OK, they did the violence. Now do sexual assault to be controversial.” That’s not what we’re about. So instead, it just stops.
RPS: But like you were saying, that didn’t really come across in the demo as well as it could’ve. It’s quite a bit of nuance to pack into a single, brief instance.
Wedin: Yeah. And like I was saying, we respect everyone’s opinion. We felt like we might have to have the whole game for that scene to work, or maybe we were doing it wrong. It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to. So that’s why we took it out.
RPS: Are you still ultimately planning to have that scene in the game’s opening?
Wedin: We’ll see. We’re gonna see how people react to it when we test the whole game. We’ll get opinions and stuff like that. We’ll see how we can present this in a good way. In a way that we want it to come across. Not just as provocative. That’s not our meaning at all.
I respect people’s comments and the fact that people voiced them. That’s how they feel. Our scene made them feel this way, so we have to think about why and if there’s something we can do to make it better. I don’t think it’s right to just say, “You’re wrong. You’re just looking at it wrong.” That’s not the way to go.
RPS: That’s really refreshing to hear, actually. Thank you very much for your time.