The RPS Verdict: Hotline Miami 2

Adam’s already run his review of Dennaton’s sequel to neon-hued tactical murder party Hotline Miami, but while he’s a big fan, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number hasn’t been met with universal praise. Alec, more cautious about the game, joins Adam to discuss what may and may not be deliberate about its design choices, its bewildering story and its bugs.

Alec: I’ve got a purring cat on my lap and I’m listening to quiet, nautical music. I couldn’t possibly be in a more appropriate state of mind for discussing hallucinogenic ultra-violence

Adam: In my experience, cats can tip into hallucinogenic ultra-violence with less than a minute’s notice. There is time.

I’m drinking herbal tea.

Alec: Oh, it’s not hallucinogenic for cats. Unlike half of Hotline Miami 2’s befuddled gonks, they know exactly what they’re doing when they decide to draw blood.

Adam: Hotline Miami 2! That’s what we’re here to discuss.

I’ve played through the whole thing twice now. Because I thought I might have got my thinking all wrong when I read other critiques after it launched. Not so. I’m not sure how much of an outlier I am – if at all – but I think it does so many things right.

While accepting that it goes about its business in a way that many people have found to be frustrating and limiting.

Alec: Be steadfast in your opinions. Unless of course they are incorrect. I don’t entirely know what to make of it yet, which is probably in part because I haven’t finished it. I’m at the bit where I’m the commando guy in the jungle – how far along is that?

Adam: There are several commando guy in the jungle bits – if it’s the first, you’re not particularly far at all. It’s much longer than the original.

Alec: Oh, blimey. Well, I’ve put quite a few hours in, but it’s hard as nails compared to the first, which has slowed me down.

Adam: One of the main criticisms seems to be that it goes against the fast flowing style of the original. It limits and directs, asking for perfect routes and decision-making rather than reactive play. And that’s tied into the difficulty.

For me, that was an excellent choice. It extends all of the individual parts of the first game but with a razor sharp focus on individual skills and techniques

Which seems like a weird but smart thing for a sequel to do.

Alec: Yeah, I presume it’s deliberate but it’s frustrating how often enemies with guns are off screen, further than you can pan, and you either need to take a blind chance or wait it out and lose your combo. This does effectively prevent players phoning it in, I suppose.

I’m finding I have to use guns much more than I’d like, which are less, I guess, creatively satisfying. (Because let’s be honest, HLM is about violence as creativity). But maybe more skilled players would find more ways around that

Adam: I think part of the design is to force players to see the entire ruleset and the edges of the individual parts of that ruleset. The utterly ridiculous way you can kill somebody in full view of their chums but nobody reacts unless you step into their line of sight while you’re doing it. The murder itself isn’t important, only their detection of the perpetrator is.

By pushing up against the edge of those simple rules, and exposing how unusual they are, it collapses on itself a little. But that seemed to be the point.

Alec: This reminds me of Dota a little, the way so much of it goes against conventional gaming wisdom then actively makes a feature out of it, and how you exploit it

Adam: True!

Alec: Of course, HLM2 has also got this great get-out clause for all that stuff, in that its internal reality is melting all the time anyway.

Adam: I think there’s a case to be made in that HLM 2 exploits its own rules at the player’s expense rather than letting the player exploit them for his/her benefit. That’s perhaps where some of the annoyance comes in. It punishes creativity in a way that the first game didn’t. In fact, that line about “violence as creativity” is interesting. Parts of HLM 2 seem to be a reaction against that idea. Violence as rote learning.

I wish the dialogue articulated some of those ideas better so that I could back them up with reference to the text – but I do think it can be seen in the level design.

Alec: Yes, I have noticed that there’s a great deal of incremental improvement each time I restart a failed level, having learned a little more of what’s likely to happen and honing exactly what I need to do. I’m finding my scores when I finally complete a level tend to be higher than in HLM, which is perhaps because it’s forced me to be more precise, to not miss a move

Adam: It’s a better teacher

Alec: but this does affect the sense of satisfaction too; completing a level feels (appropriately, given it grades you) like passing an exam now, not the rawer exhilaration of surviving a bloody great fight. Relief rather than thrill.

Adam: Yeah, that’s fair. I enjoyed that. And I enjoy the fact that there is a very different response to what looks like it might be exactly the same game.

Alec: Cynically, one could argue that this allowed them to make a new game while still making the same game. I really don’t know. I also don’t know if I like it or not. I certainly don’t hate it, and I’m certainly better at Hotline Miami than I was because of it. But I miss the party. It hasn’t felt like something to celebrate, you know? At best, something to nod at respectfully.

Adam: I said to somebody on twitter that Hotline Miami 2 feels like a game about the difficulty of making a sequel to Hotline Miami 1. I was probably joking (I don’t even know myself most of the time) but I thought there was a sense of approaching the difficult second album and deciding to burn the instruments. The first game kicked down the door and burst into the room with its awesome soundtrack – the sequel is already in the room, with the soundtrack, and it’s looking for the way out.

Alec: I’d go more with OK Computer to Kid A, to be honest. ‘Being popular isn’t good enough, we have to be elitist too.’

Adam: Ha – I definitely agree with that when it comes to the story. Or stories. Or non-story.

Alec: This is something I have wondered about: does Hotline Miami 2 *want* to exist? Or is there grudgingly? It’s certainly not phoning it in, but I don’t have to squint much to perceive a certain weariness

Adam: It’s a good question – I think it wants to shut itself down. Like, this is definitely it. The end. But not in a conclusive narrative fashion, more in that it pokes into every corner of its own structure until the walls come down

That’s what I find fascinating about it. The sense that it’s running through all of the possibilities of its design and seeing how hard it can push them.

Alec: Yeah, that’s my sense too, it’s deliberately re-exploring everything internal rather than looking outwards to new stuff – which I’m sure it could have done.

But against that, we have this garbled, choppy narrative and dialogue which seems impossible to defend, and it’s also riddled with bugs/ Which gives me some pause in agreeing to a master-crafted theory.

Adam: The bugs didn’t bother me – spinning dogs and all – apart from one level where I couldn’t go back through the first door after I’d woken the enemies up, but there was nothing that broke the flow other than that. And I quite like spinning dogs. But the narrative is a mess.

Alec: It’s sort of brave to dismiss bugs like that, however. They are in there and that is a failing.

Adam: Oh yes. But in terms of my experience, they were like glitches rather than game-breaking interruptions.

Alec: The Swan Twins, where you control two characters at once if you equip a certain mask in some sections, was badly bugged for me. One kept getting stuck on the other side of doors, and that’s a game-breaker. I can just choose not to play as those characters, but given it’s one of the more headline ‘new’ features that’s not a satisfactory choice, really.

Adam: Yeah, that’s fair. I mostly steered clear of the Swans because I found them so difficult to use the first time through. They do not play well with corridors.

Alec: I also had quite a few instances of not being able to kill a dude because he was stuck behind a door. It is too much of a mess at release, I think.

Adam: I didn’t find it particularly problematic at all – it felt far smoother than the original. But I think that may be in part because it hammered the idea of learning from what seem like unfair failures into me from an early stage – I perhaps forgave it too much that wasn’t intentional.

Alec: The narrative we can agree on, however. Obviously I haven’t got to the end (or particularly close to it – erk) but I feel like I need a wiki even to know who the characters I’m playing as are.

Adam: Imagine playing it before release and thinking that everybody else might immediately form a masterful flowchart in their heads and see some brilliant thematic plotting? I was almost certain I should have known what was happening. And who was doing what because of why.

Alec: With Hotline 1, I wondered a lot if often not quite grasping what it was trying to say was down to it being cleverly cryptic and my being lazy or stupid, but so far this is confirming my suspicions that it was freewheeling craziness rather than rich with careful subtext and statement

Adam: It doesn’t get any clearer. There are some great setpiece levels that have a story IN them but, as a whole, it’s not even interestingly weird.

The saddest thing is that even if it’s supposed to be hallucinatory, it’s not even a bad trip. It’s quite a dull one. A slight overdose of night nurse.

Alec: And even the controversial implied sexual assault scene (which you can choose to turn off, just to repeat that for the record) in practice just came across as one more pointless pellet from a mad scattergun blast of half-formed, disassociated ideas.

Yes, dull is the word, really. It’s like this wearying trudge through the intro sequences of 40 different forgotten newgrounds games.

Adam: If there is a point to it all – that scene included – I wonder if it’s doing the same as the actual level design. Exploring where an ultraviolent style explosion of a game can go next. Hence the film sets and war stories and seemingly pointless callbacks. Eating its own lore, downing some bad chemicals and then regurgitating the whole lot.

And I’m not saying that’s a good thing! I’m just trying to understand what it might be for, because it seems so baggy and disconnected that I can’t even get a handle on what it’s trying to do.

Alec: My sense was that it’s riffing on the archness and surreality of the HLM1’s last chapter but – again this wonder if it’s a sequel that didn’t entirely want to exist – it’s not naturalistic about it. It tries too hard to be cool, essentially, because it thinks that’s what’s expected of it. It’s Prometheus.

Adam: Ha. You can’t dodge the rolling ship because one of the Swan brothers is stuck on a door

The ending is very weird. There’s nothing to spoil, so don’t worry about that. It has a gorgeous song playing over all these scenes that conclude the characters’ stories, and it really is quite beautiful and sad. And then, when the music stopped, I snapped out of it and thought “BUT I DIDN’T EVEN CARE ABOUT THEIR STORIES I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEIR STORIES WERE ABOUT.”

Alec: Maybe that was a conscious thing. Maybe it was just fucking with us the whole time, seeing what it can do to our emotions, our confusion, our self-loathing or our bloodlust. But so far I’ve not seen anything to suggest the narrative’s anything more than a disordered jumble of post-it note scribbles.

I suspect you’re right about the level/learning design, however. There’s too much of that stuff – the off-screen snipers particularly – for it to be simply an accident, but it does seem willfully suicidal to turn off a whole bunch of people who loved the first game by doing that. It’s kind of the Evolve paradigm too, making itself too specialist for its own good.

Adam: When I was playing it, I thought – more windows, more guns, punishing levels, more dogs; it’s the ultra-difficult megawad that plays with all of the elements and then moves on.

Alec: Yeah, or the hardcore Stalker mods which prioritise hard graft over all else. That said, I’ve often found the windows to be a boon. As I get better with guns and enemy prediction I can safely snipe through them from great distances and at acute angles.

Adam: I think that’s one of the things it teaches. In the first game, they were horrid things that brought death raining down around you, or sprinting across a level toward you. Now, you have to learn to utilise them.

There’s a late level which is basically lots of small rooms, glass on every side, full of enemies with guns. It’s almost like a punchline. I loved that.

Alec: I think you’re broadly right, and I think a lot of the negative criticism hasn’t seen what HLM2 is essentially trying to do, but it does leave the question of whether we’re left with something that activates all the right thrill glands.

For you, clearly it worked. For others, it’s going to be disappointing that there’s this fiddly, exacting thing. I guess it’s brave of Dennaton to not give them that, and to prove that they can make something far more strategic than twitchy, rhythmic chaos.

For me, not sure. I think I’d be getting more out of it if my ‘reward’ for beating these big challenges wasn’t frothing, overlong lunacy about apparently nothing at all. I’d enjoy it more as something like The Lost Levels, just a collection of badass new challenges

Adam: Yes. Agreed. Part of my enjoyment of it might be that I get a buzz out of seeing the mechanics at play rather than actual playing with the mechanics. I think that’s certainly true actually. It’s one of the reasons I like simulations – which HLM 2 certainly isn’t. But it has some of the same qualities that I enjoy IN a simulation, in that it seems to be asking for an understanding of its machinery.

Alec: “superficially stupid game doesn’t want stupid audience after all”

Adam: The most pleasant surprise about the whole game for me was that the narrative didn’t matter in the end. I thought that’s where the attention and care would have gone. That it’d be an extension of the style and setting but not of the design. I was so glad to find all of the interesting developments were in the latter.

Alec: Yeah, I mean we never wanted HLM for its lore in the first place, it would be sad if the lore overwhelmed it now. Frankly, I think it almost does – I think there are people who are going to think character X is ultrocool and go make a DeviantArt painting about him. But at least it’s essentially ignorable/forgettable for the rest of us.

Adam: Final word – soundtrack as good as the first? I’ve been playing them side by side and can’t decide.

Alec: The first has meaning for me, so I call it better for that. If it’s playing I can close my eyes and feel what HLM made me feel. Because my associations for HLM2 are confusion and frustration more than exhilaration and escapism, the second doesn’t seem to have power. But there are some lovely pieces in there for sure.

Alec: Anyway. Let’s drive off into a peach sunset, say something random about Russians and call it a day.

Adam: Annnd I was trying to find the track that goes with the prison break level (my favourite part) and completely failed. Back to playing with the Benny Hill theme in the background it is.

Alec: And when are you ever not doing that, eh?

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is out now.

52 Comments

  1. pepperfez says:

    It sounds a lot like Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan)/Lost Levels, which has always been one of my favorite models of sequel-making: Extract all the fun/challenge/interesting consequences from the mechanics, toss aside the husk and move on. In a franchise-hungry industry, doing it that way is really refreshing.

    • Emeraude says:

      That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking while playing this game. And as far as gameplay is concerned I was thoroughly entertained for the six-seven or so hours it took me to finish all levels (hard included – reversed control on the last level was a bitch).

      Story-wise, I think the original worked better because it was mostly pushing you on a preverbal level (mimicking the game really, given you play it focusing on the reptilian part of your brain). But the new one still has its moments.

    • zaphod42 says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. Its Hotline Miami: The Lost Levels.

      And that’s sadly not as cool as the Hotline Miami 2 I wanted.

  2. Monggerel says:

    There’s a bit where one of the swans – the sister – is alone at home, and the Detective is hammering at their door. You have to get dressed. When you put on clothes, you get the sound effect indicating that you just picked up a weapon.
    Made me more uncomfotable than anything else in the game.

    There’s this running theme of sorts about consent (not exactly subtle, the first scene being what it is). The snuff film that ends with someone killing someone else without knowing. The mafiya boss and his assassin deliberating completely openly about the terms of the assassin’s leaving the organisation. Jake and the whole phone people conspiracy. The Detective barging into a suspect’s home or taking care business before official response arrives. The Journalist dragging his family through poverty and brutalizing others in chase of the story that will get them famous. The military folk who don’t even have the slightest clue what the fuck they are doing, but believe in it anyways.

    I don’t think it adds up to very much at all. Hotline Miami 2 doesn’t want to add up to anything. It never had anything to say and that was exactly what it’s been trying to convey since the first game and now it doesn’t want to continue but keeps on trying anyway. Like some crushed beetle dragging itself by one bent leg.
    I guess the ending’s appropriate for that, at least.

    Fuck this game. Sugar-coated nihilism is what someone called the first one. This one’s just a cyanide pill. Stupid shit.

    • Monggerel says:

      oh. uh.
      *Massive Spoilers*
      don’t read if you don’t want that
      sorry

    • zaphod42 says:

      Yeah, HM2 is such aggressive nihilism, it can’t be anything but dissatisfying in the end.

      To be fair, Richard does warn you at the beginning that you’re not going to like the ending. But damn.

    • daint46 says:

      I think you guys just don’t “get” the story, as in, the big picture.

      Let me help you.

      link to steamcommunity.com

      you’re welcome.

      Personally I thought the story of HLM2 was freaking awesome and I loved. It also helped that the soundtrack as amazing and really complemented the different levels and story.

    • Fnord73 says:

      “The Detective barging into a suspect’s home or taking care business before official response arrives. The Journalist dragging his family through poverty and brutalizing others in chase of the story that will get them famous. The military folk who don’t even have the slightest clue what the fuck they are doing, but believe in it anyways.”

      2 out of 3 aint bad.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      The Hotline Miami series are a reflex and action oriented puzzle game series. Just because you do not like their narrative embedding doesn’t change that some will like them for the challenge they represent.
      Computer games have always been spread in the spectrum between a more pure interaction orientation or a more pure story orientation, and I actually think neither HLM would lose anything if they simply stripped out ALL of the “story scenes” and made it purely level after level of “Kill everyone and survive”.
      Very early games never felt this urge to explain themselves very deeply, either(Smash TV is a nice example. Here’s a weird gameshow concept like running man with arenas, kill everyone, collect stuff, survive. GO!).
      And it still worked.

      TL;DR: There’s a game to be played in HLM 1+2 even if you don’t like the story “wrapper” at all.

  3. Michael Fogg says:

    I tried to play some HM1 recently but gave up after about an hour when my patience run out. I forced myself to try again the next day and beat a few more levels then got stuck again and I think it’s final this time. I absolutely detest the hyper-precise controls, twitchy speed, nano-second kills, meaningless repetition. Neither the ultra-violence nor the wannabe-Tarantino edginess does anything for me. It’s just one of these things where I just can’t see what the whole hubbub is about.

    • onionman says:

      So much this. I have started and stopped many many games but I don’t think I’ve ever bounced off of anything as hard as I bounced off of Hotline: Miami. And it’s not a problem with twitchiness, recently I went back and beat all the original Mega Man games for the NES.

    • Distec says:

      Same boat. I certainly did have fun initially, and I did find myself in that Zen mode of repetition despite multiple deaths. But after trying to get back into it after an extended hiatus, I think I’ve had my run. I got stuck on one level (that probably isn’t even far into the game) and quickly found myself frustrated with all the micro-second precision it seemed to require of me.

      I don’t consider it a bad purchase, especially on discount. It’s just not for me, I guess.

    • toshiro says:

      Apart from the music and the trailers, I don’t get it all either. In fact, I am appaled by it. Not the violence, but it’s glorified repetition and pattern seeking. It’s a puzzle game. I don’t do puzzle games.

    • iucounu says:

      I don’t generally think of myself as a twitch gamer or a rote-learning gamer, despite having grown up with games when few games were anything but that. Quite the opposite: I find RTS stressful and much prefer a good old TBS game.

      HM1 though really worked for me, much like Luftrausers did. There’s no fucking about when you inevitably cop it two seconds in to a new level; you just start again. There’s a little bit of looseness to the AI, so no two runs go exactly precisely the same, and you have to be ready to improvise. The controls are set up so that it’s tricky, but possible to operate purposefully when you’re in the zone. There’s enough latitude in the puzzles and variety in the masks that you can sandbox a bit if you want – a little 8-bit Hitman game where you can set your own goals to some extent.

      I feel a bit perturbed about the sound of HM2; everything I’m hearing about it reminds me of Hitman: Absolution, which I’ve recently given in and bought because Humble offered it to me for a dollar. I have put a lot of hours into Absolution and have clearly got my dollar’s worth out of it, but it’s clearly not as good as Blood Money; it’s a slicker version with about a third of as much creativity, freedom and lifespan as its predecessor. You’re enjoying the bits that remind you of the previous game, and almost every new idea is a bad one.

    • Wowbagger says:

      Try the game with a controller maybe? I find the keyboard controls very unintuitive.

    • Fnord73 says:

      I own it, but I got to level 4 and just couldnt bother. Too twitchy.

      RPS commuinty, are there mods that make it smoother, more Commando?

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Interestingly enough, I hate the shit out of Dark Souls, but played through Hotline Miami.
      The reason as I see it is that Dark Souls also makes a large point out of being as annoying and wasteful with your time as possible. A good level completion and restart rotation in HLM can be dealt with in less than a minute many a time, but the time wasted in DS between savepoints / retries is a huge slog and feels unnecessarily punishing. It also feels far less easily learnable and attainable with a plain “what you have” than in HLM, where you can beat a _lot_ of levels without firing a shot.

  4. Laurentius says:

    I think HM2 is better game overall and especially better game for me b/c I suck at these games. HM2 is kinda puzzleesque ultrviolence fun, I die bazzilon times on every level but I get better, I understand the layout, I develop the plan, master it and finally execute it to pass the level. In HM i don’t feel like I’m getting better I complete levels at random, failure and succes are almost out of my control.
    Ps. Soundtrack is even better in HM2.
    Ps.s. I also think that Portal 2 is better then Portal so…

    • SavageTech says:

      <cite=I think HM2 is better game overall and especially better game for me b/c I suck at these games. HM2 is kinda puzzleesque ultrviolence fun, I die bazzilon times on every level but I get better, I understand the layout, I develop the plan, master it and finally execute it to pass the level. In HM i don’t feel like I’m getting better I complete levels at random, failure and succes are almost out of my control.
      Ps. Soundtrack is even better in HM2.
      Ps.s. I also think that Portal 2 is better then Portal so…

      While I'm enjoying HM2 more than a lot of people seem to be, I was pretty disappointed that it has fewer puzzle aspects than HM1. Yes, fewer. Hotline Miami 1, whose subtitle should be “Correct Number,” gave you way more strategic options with its Masks. While some of their effects were basic, others could completely change the way you approached a level. On top of that, it had way more viable weapons and they worked differently enough that you were forced forced you to plan your route accordingly. Making sure that you’d be in the right place with the right sort of weapon at the right time with the right mask on was far more brain-bending than making sure you kill guys in the right order and don’t run out of bullets. I think the issue with guns in HM2 is not that so many enemies are able to shoot you, but rather that you’re able to shoot so many enemies. Guns were a trump card in the original game: enemies with guns forced you to plan your strategy around them, and when you had a gun you needed to make sure you chose the right time and way to use it. In HM2 you get so many guns that you can use one strategy for a huge number of situations: shoot once so that the enemies run towards you, shoot them when they’re in your line of sight, pick up their guns, repeat. It just feels shallow in comparison to the meticulous brutality of the first.

      That said, a lot of HM1’s puzzle aspects only start to surface once you get really good at the game, especially because you have to get high scores to unlock all the masks and weapons. When I went through the game the first time I felt the same way you do. Each time I completed a level I felt like I had just stumbled into a lucky configuration of enemies/weapons/glitches. Once I finally beat it I didn’t think I’d play it again, but I started another run because I wanted to figure out what was going on with those purple puzzle pieces. That’s when the game really clicked for me, as my mechanical skills were finally dialed in enough that I could consistently execute a plan (and analyze why it went wrong) instead of just focusing on frantic survival. So then I went through it again to get an A+ on all the levels (which adds even more to the strategy, since you have to make a plan that will sustain your combo for as long as possible). Then I did it again just for funsies. I expect I’ll continue to do it every once in a while until my reflexes don’t allow for it anymore, at which point I’ll probably teach a younger person to play it so I can enjoy it vicariously.

  5. CurseYouAll says:

    I am at Chapter 5 level 20 and am disappointed… the first part as I remember it was better

    In HM2 there are:

    – tons of bugs – just finished the jungle missions and there were some almost game-breaking bugs there – unable to pass again through doors sometimes, unable to enter the cut fence area of the power plant, etc.; lock-on targets often doesn’t work first time i start the game – have to remap the key to get it to work; spinning doors
    – too much emphasis on weapons
    – fewer melee weapons than HM1, it seems
    – off-screen snipers in almost all levels
    – damn windows
    – messy characters and story
    – music is .. meh – too many tracks dilute the quality material. I still remember 2-3 tracks from HM1 and can hum them. HM2 – nothing

  6. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Finished the game yesterday (and tried a couple of levels on the insane hard mode) and I’m with Adam on this one, it is brilliant, everything a sequel should be. It expands in every direction and while it does lose some of HM1’s focused brilliance because of it, there are some superb levels in there. Completely understand people getting frustrated by enforced characters (the swans are infuriating) but that peaks mid game and the feeling of freedom you get going back to more normal characters is improved because of it. The last 3rd of the game is by far the best, so persevere if you’re struggling. Agree about the story too, its just too normal, its not even that trippy just pulls a “oh, it was a film/dream/trip all along” every other level, and the symbolism that is there just doesn’t seem to stand for anything of interest. Chicken mask = death/apocalypse? Hardly a crazy new idea.

    Whole thing just feels a little rushed, in need of some editing, but even that makes it feel like a live album, rather than a slickly produced studio effort.

  7. DrScuttles says:

    The prison level music is Carpenter Brut – Le Perv

    Hotline Miami 2 left me feeling conflicted. Like how Southland Tales made me realise that Richard Kelly wasn’t actually that great (well, actually the Donnie Darko director’s cut maybe already proved that years ago). Probably need to go back and play Hotline Miami 1, but I don’t recall the same sense of frustration in that game.
    Some levels took me a ridiculously long time, each and every death just pissing me off more and more. A sequel giving just more of the same old HM1 would be uninspired, but I do miss the feral rush of adrenaline that game gave me compared to HM2.
    And yet I’ve spent 15 hours with it. So there’s obviously an appeal to me there. But it’s just buried somewhere under annoyance and frustration.

    The ending was great though. Bleak and nihilistic. I’d like more games to do that.

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      Southland Tales is an AMAZING movie that I get everyone to watch.

      It’s just not a GOOD movie.

  8. Bull0 says:

    It’s certainly much more puzzley than the first one, which to an extent I like, but unfortunately the puzzley design makes the bugs all the more frustrating. And yeah, I really want to like the story but it’s more a series of vignettes, of which only a handful are all that interesting.

  9. twaitsfan says:

    After some of his admissions, I’m not quite sure why Adam writes so glowingly about it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Which ones? I’m genuinely interested! I think it’s absolutely fantastic but I’ve read a lot of other opinions since it came out and can understand at least some of the criticisms.

      I’m always much more likely to take other opinions on board and try to appreciate them than to be loud and defensive about something I like. The ‘Wot I Think’ is wot I think – here, I’m less excitable about what I enjoyed because I’m interested in picking at it from various angles.

  10. Jakkar says:

    Don’t try to make sense of the plot until you reach the end. Don’t try to understand the plot until you’ve played Hard mode, too, I think.

    I adored this game. It lost some of the easy escapist madness of the original game, the instant repetition to perfection and survival that could leave my hands shaking and a huge grin on my face before the music cut out and I traced my own path of carnage back out of the building.

    It’s worth it, though. This feels like a truly professionally made game, bugs regardless. It all… comes together. The art (remarkably detailed, so many tiny little subtle things; look for the roses on the bed and think about what they mean), the music, the animation, the symbolism from one story to another, and how it links back to the ‘real ending’ of the original game.

    I’m thoroughly impressed. I’ve beaten it twice, but on two different computer, so hard mode still waits for me, only just re-unlocked…

    • LogicalDash says:

      The plot changes in Hard mode?

    • BisonHero says:

      What? Hard mode doesn’t expand on the plot at all. It’s just Richard cheekily breaking the 4th wall and acknowledging that you’ve already played these levels before. It honestly adds nothing of meaning to the story.

  11. the meme says:

    The story in HLM was never particularly straightforward, comprehensive, or simple in it’s own right. HLM2 certainly nailed that point once again. It’s convoluted and if you didn’t pay very close attention in nearly all levels there was plenty of things you could miss. *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS*

    Did you see that, that means that I’m going to spoil some stuff. Got it? Okay.

    There were numerous things i had to return to just to understand at most points, but everything connects fairly well. We start with the Pig Butcher in midnight animal, a psychedelic killer who becomes too self absorbed with his own role, theoretically killing quite a lot of people. The last bit of his level implies that he was actually killed, further backed up by the fact that the director of the film is visible in the prison level later, locked up. This is one of the ‘loose ends’ or not quite important stories. The ones with the most significance are the Hawaiian group, Richter (baldy), and Jake (snakes). The Hawaiians simply because it finally gives us Jacket’s backstory. He is the silent member of the group, who takes a photo with beard in that ‘arc’s beginning, the same photo Jacket releases at HM1’s ending. Richter gives us a bit more insight on 50 blessings, the anti-russian organization that biker, jacket, Richter, and to an extent Jake work for. His experiences are interesting, and link back to HLM1, closure for his character is nice. Jake is a devoted american with a penchant for violence and an obsession with discovering 50 blessings secrets and hatred for communism. If you do one of his levels right, a 50 blessings representative kills him, rather than the original method. This means that his methods and opinions were worthless apparently. Interesting and relative to the story to an extent. But then there’s the Fans, Manny, The Writer, the murder of the presidents, the nuke, the Son, etc. It goes on, everything connects fairly well, and left me satisfied. Basically, a summary of the last bit, the Fans took after Jacket, who was convicted in the trial the Writer sat in, before instigating the Richter levels. Manny, an insane detective who thinks he is on a move set, hence his hallucinations, is jealous of the fans stealing his fame, and seeks revenge on them, trying to one up them constantly before triumphing and killing the last of them. The Son, or the child of the mob boss of the Russians, carries out his father’s legacy by triumphing over the Colombians and destroying the murderers that so savagely killed his organization, before he himself dies. The rampant deaths of the Russians, combined with the assassination of the Presidents, instigates a full circuit rebound back to the war that the Ghost Wolves managed to fight back. Everyone dies, the ties are closed, 50 blessings remains an enigma, and HLM2 achieves exactly what it wants to. To leave you excited, angry, and confused. Just like old times.

    I might’be (most likely) missed a bunch of other connections, this story is just like that. anyway. wall of text so tldr HLM2 has a decent story but only if you devote an entire playthrough to figuring it out.

  12. Wret says:

    From a narrative standpoint, I think they wanted you to regret every step forward. The first game egged you on recklessly (“Don’t be a coward”) and HM2 is basically Windows-To-Death everywhere, all angles, and a slight sick feeling in your stomach as to what a character is going to do next

  13. studebakerhawk says:

    WELL worth the read: an op-ed in an Australian publication about the banning of the game there. Also contextualises the plot in detail. link to junkee.com

    • drewski says:

      Paul’s a good writer, and that’s an interesting read, but his problem is that he completely fails to understand Australia’s classification regime.

      Now, if he’d argued that Australia’s classification regime should ban sexual violence in videogames he might have a point. But it does, so HLM2 was refused classification.

      • drewski says:

        *Australia’s classification regime SHOULDN’T ban sexual violence in videogames, obviously

        Curse you lack of edit function.

    • ikbenbeter says:

      Thanks, was a great read.

  14. Banks says:

    I found It to be very childish and #edgy wannabe and I simply couldn’t have fun with It.

  15. Radiant says:

    The aesthetics/story really do get in the way of what is a very basic and fun game.
    But it’s the aesthetics that elevate it from being a fun but basic game.

    I can’t wait for Hotline Miami Infinite with seed generated levels and online high score tables.
    Reduce the game to it’s core mechanics

    Sharing scores and generated levels with your friends testing out different masks and abilities to try and push your score higher and higher.

    No need to repeat the same game three times just reduce the game to it’s now perfected core and set it loose to the score whores.

    Hotline Miami Infinite.

    Do it. Do it now.

  16. zaphod42 says:

    Alec hits on all my own thoughts. Its an okay game with a great, GREAT soundtrack, but it is worse than HM1 in every way. Its too hard, too buggy, and too demanding of exact perfectness. HM1 let you really go hog-wild and get into the slaughter and lose yourself. HM2 you can’t. You’ll just die and get frustrated. HM2 is about learning the map perfectly so you don’t miss anything and don’t get shot from some corner you can’t see.

    Some of the levels were fun, but some of the levels were such unbelievable difficulty spikes they have to be considered failures of level design. Too many fat guys that have to be killed with guns, too many guys who duck who have to be killed with melee, too many damn dogs which are too hard to kill with melee, especially on that damn level where the lighting keeps changing colors and you can’t see the dogs half the time.

    The story was interesting but the ending just kinda invalidates any feelings you had the whole time, and actually destroys what little meaning HM1 had.

    HM2 ultimately tells you that nothing matters. Jokes on you! Maybe for some people that’s a revelation, but to me it was just hollow. I would have liked some kind of statement, some kind of message or commentary. HM1 felt like it had a message, but now I’m wondering if that was on accident.

    • BisonHero says:

      I agree about HM2 having really no connecting theme or message. HM1 was good about making you question why you’re even going where the phone messages tell you, especially with the sequences where you imagine the 3 masked guys talking to you, asking if you just enjoy hurting people. It was an interesting commentary on how so many video games require you to kill hundreds of guys without a second thought. And the main character, Jacket, never even finds out why he was being told to do it all.
      HM2 just seems to be violence in a bunch of difference contexts. Violence as part of a slasher film (the pig butcher sequences). Violence as part of a vigilante group (the fans). Violence committed by an authority figure overstepping their bounds (Detective Pardo). Nonlethal violence committed by a writer trying to finish a book (that one and those levels just made no sense). Authorized violence due to conflict between different nations (the Soldier missions in Hawaii). Violence as a criminal fighting for territory (the missions as The Son fighting the Columbians). And then you still got some “violence as directed by mysterious phone messages” when you play as Jake and Richter (and Richter gets some good old fashioned prison violence). But I don’t think any of it meant anything, and I don’t get the point of Richard in HM2 other than to appear and remind characters of their impending mortality.

      • Xzi says:

        It’d be just as easy to claim that none of the violence in HM1 meant anything, honestly. The meaning is somewhat left up to interpretation in both games, but at the same time, why is it that we have to search for a meaning at all? Most violence in the real world is indeed meaningless. Most violence in Miami, from the 80s to now, has been meaningless. Makes the setting all the more appropriate.

        In any case, I’m having just as much fun as I did with the original. I feel like the PC audience was expecting HM2 to be something it was never going to be, and so they’re overly critical of it. It got higher marks on the PS4, seemingly because those individuals are more starved for good games, and so they are able to simply enjoy it for what it is.

        So many of the lower scores come from reviewers who simply had to restart on one level or another too many times. So for them it was “too hard and too repetitive.” Since when do we let the skill level of others determine how highly we value a game?

    • daint46 says:

      I accept your valid opinion, however I would have to disagree with you. It definitely has message. Several actually. You just have to dig a little deeper.

      Also, with regards to the actual story, you need to piece all the little things together, including the first game, and it all end up making sense. Its actually a great story and makes you realise that all the actions of the first game was consequential in the events in HLM2 ESPECIALLY the ending!

  17. Shakes999 says:

    *Spoilers*

    I enjoyed the hell out of it, I loved the story even more too. It touched on every single scenario of the kind of people obsessed with violence. The fans, the son following in his fathers footsteps, the emulating cop, the writer who doesn’t kill (Unless you force him) but wants to profit and become famous from violence. The guy who wants out. It goes on and on. Richard is the one voice of reason but no one listens. Then ends on the final fuck you. Its meant to piss you off, It ASKED YOU in the first game “Do you like to hurt people?”. This is what YOU wanted, I thought you liked to hurt people? It’s the ultimate culmination of what you’ve been working for.

    Without giving the player the agency to be the one nuking the planet it feels like a gutpunch and random–which is exactly what the player has been doing to NPCs for the entire game. The missions where the fans go to “rescue” the little sister illustrates this perfectly.

    I suspect most of the people who were unhappy with the ending is more of a case of wanting to eat their cake and have it too. Wanting clouser for a group of utterly irredeemable shitbag murderers. The writer is the only one who can be redeemed and even he was willing to put his family through poverty for his own ambition. Let em burn.

  18. Fuligin says:

    This article has fallen off the first page, new comments get dropped to the bottom, so no one will probably read this, and there are already several effort posts defending Wrong Number, but I disagree so enormously with Alec and Adam on the relative worth of the story that I felt compelled to register just so I could express why I think this game’s narrative is so well executed, and in what way I disagree or think that other’s defending game have it wrong. Also, needless to say, spoilers lie ahead.

    I’m just going to run with some ideas and hope they come out more or less coherent for folks. First, I have to take issue with criticisms of Dennaton’s dialogue. It’s not that I disagree that it sounds “clunky” or forced. Although, actually I do. I think what people are really reacting to is the apparent naivety of the character’s speech and the stereotyped quality inherent to it: most of the time, what you hear in HL2 is something you heard elsewhere, and executed more authentically: a crime procedural, a gritty war film set in Vietnam, the crumbling homelife of a journalist obsessed with a series of homicides (see Zodiac). But the tin-eared dialogue is perfectly consonant with a videogame that consists primarily of ludicrous eruptions of scored violence linked by ruminative interludes, and the pseudo-reality of it forms one axis of the game’s affect.

    In Hotline Miami 2, things have gone very wrong, as the title would suggest. That our actions are set in an alternative to our Miami, our United States, is made very clear in the sequel in a way that was only hinted at in the first. And the characters themselves appear to be aware of this uncanny point of difference. The apparitional Richard (the rooster mask) that appears to each one of them is always alluding to a fundamental misunderstanding of themselves and their situation that of course they can’t act upon because its a gesture towards the exterior of the narrative. In the end the impossibility of coming to grips with the essential unreality of their position is made concrete in a nuclear holocaust that is visualized not as a stylized mushroom cloud but as actual film catching fire, a visual metaphor that is deployed on every level of the game, from the menus, to the cutscenes (see the constant rewinding and fast forwarding) to the character’s own confused misperceptions (although in this case they might be more accurately defined as brief moments of true perception).

    To a degree, I have to concur that Wrong Number is a sequel about sequels, but in no way do I think it is being arch or distancing itself with an ironic perspective. In comparison with the first, it actually puts itself considerably more at risk of being misread or criticized on the grounds of its narrative (as Alec and Adam, and many other reviewers have done). I think its fruitful at this point to look at the first game’s influences, or at least the one most often cited by Dennaton and others: Drive. Drive is a great movie. It’s also a movie in which the protagonist, a walking embodiment of cool, is shown graphically curbstomping a man’s head. When Nicolas Winding Refn made his next film, Only God Forgives, many critics and ordinary viewers hated it. It seemed to take the cool guy hyper-violence archetype (still played by Ryan Gosling) and utterly waste it with a meandering and incoherently boring plot. I’m not going to write a full defense of that movie here, but I think people tended to miss that it was actually a serious examination of the film that preceded it: why and when is gratuitous violence acceptably depicted to us? Why is a murderous drifter so compelling as a character?

    Wrong Number is somewhat akin in its relationship to HL1. In fact, as a sequel I’m not sure I can think of any other game (maybe Majora’s Mask?) as deeply in dialogue with both the mechanics and the narrative questions raised by its parent. Mechanically, it takes Hotline Miami and stretches it to the point where for many it loses its satisfaction and becomes a grueling slog. Narratively, it takes the most basic structure of HL1 (guy goes into room against incredible odds and slaughters everyone for questionable reasons) and permutates it again and again to try and glean what is pleasurable, taboo, and ultimately compelling about being an active participant in gratuitous violence in videogames. To make this point absolutely clear would rob it of its efficacy: see “gamers” and their absolute distaste for being interrogated as players in games. So instead Dennaton cloaks the game (quite effectively) in an encompassing “VHS film” aesthetic that still asks the same questions but at a distance.

    Okay I could say more but I gotta go. If you read this far then you must be some kind of mega nerd anyway.

    • daint46 says:

      Well done sir! I totally agree on your view of what HLM2 story and the game itself was trying to do in the context of the first game and it’s reception.

      I’ve posted a link to the explanation of the story of both games as a whole in a separate post. Hopefully SOMEONE who has dismissed the story will read it and realise what a great narrative it was.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Great post! I think you hit it right on the head (with a bat). I also believe HM2 drives the point of sadism much, much better than HM1 because it actively castigates the player with its difficulty. The first game was pleasurable, even when a big part of its content had to do with questioning why such pleasure is possible; this one often goes out of its way to punish you, making you your own object of violence. Make a bad move, repeat, get angry, repeat, get a C- because you took like 5 minutes more than “necessary” – but even when it’s not worth the emotions, we keep doing it, whether for the score, to get to the end, or more deeply, because not only do we ‘like to hurt other people’, we primarily like hurting ourselves.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Just really, really want to mention “Valhalla Rising” as a tremendous movie despite the oddly low 6 rating on IMDB since you brought up Refn.
      So worth seeing, especially on something that displays the visual power of that movie well(i.e. not great to watch on a smartphone or laptop..).

  19. daint46 says:

    OK in case people didn’t get the story or are intrigued

    SPOILER WARNING!

    link to steamcommunity.com