Developer: Dennation Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Vita
ESRB: M for Mature
A few years ago, the ultra violent pixel art game Hotline Miami accumulated a considerable cult following. As any other business savvy developer would do, Devolver Digital sought to capitalize on its success by churning out a derivative sequel. Is it ethical for a reviewer to mimic a Developers regurgitated efforts likewise with a similar review? Let’s find out together!
Violence: From the Geeks Under Grace review of the first game, “The nature of the violence in Hotline Miami, however, is macabre to the degree that I am not sure if I should be impressed or concerned that someone would animate low-res sprites to perform fatal eye-gouges, curb stomps, and choke outs for unarmed assaults. Depending upon the melee weapon presently in hand, the player-character adds throat-slits, skull-bludgeoning, and brain stabbing to the execution variety. Guns litter every stage, and no matter the lethal methodology, one can be sure that every floor of every stage will be lousy with mutilated bodies.”
All of this applies with Hotline Miami 2. Not even the dogs are spared. There is also a character who delights in the usage of a chainsaw.
Language: The foul language has been magnified in this sequel. The dialogue is akin to middle schoolers learning for the first time that they can cuss without God immediately striking them with a lighting bolt.
Drug/Alcohol Use: The Son (of the druglord from the first game) is tragically addicted to pills. This is such a central plot device, that an entire level involves him rampaging while tripping, complete with blurry, hazy effects throughout.
Sexuality: Pre-release, Hotline Miami 2 experienced some controversy concerning a scene depicting a sexual assault. I do not believe the animation is explicit, as one character simply leans over another and drops his pants before a director cuts the “scene.”
On the other hand, every stage in the game is represented by a VHS tape icon on the level select screen. One tape, “Seizure,” features a nude woman on the cover that is crystal clear despite the pixel art.
The lengths that Hotline Miami 2 takes to transcend its predecessor in its plot devices results in not a triumph, but a tumultuous plummet into the dark grave that is post-modernism. Theorycrafting was a pastime for fans of the first game, yet despite their efforts, its story still lacked coherence. Hotline Miami 2 amplifies the dissonance, and result is a story that suffers from chronic discombobulation.
Jacket, the anti-hero from the first game has achieved the zenith of notoriety. While he is in jail, a Hollywood studio hires an actor to create a “based upon a true story” kind of movie, replicating his…achievements…on film. Elsewhere, a group of vigilantes out of sheer boredom stalk locations of dubious description and carry out their own sense of fatal justice upon drug traffickers and the like. Meanwhile, a detective on the trail of a serial killer called the “Miami Mutilator” carries out his frustrations of this case upon the criminal underworld under the premise of self-defense. Elsewhere, the son of the drug lord from the first Hotline Miami tries to reinvigorate his father’s Empire, but makes the mistake of becoming addicted to his own goods. Finally, Hotline Miami 2 flashbacks to Vietnam with a forlorn commando squad that must repeatedly carry out its orders that are intended to be suicide missions so that the secrets of the atrocities that they had committed throughout the war would die with them.
These characters are intersectional, but I am unable to coalese their relevance upon the fractured nature of the story. It actively resists linearity in pursuit of non-sequitur. I dislike this in the novels that I read; I certainly dislike broken narratives in my video games. Even after reading wikis, I remain confused.
The gameplay in Hotline Miami 2 remains largely unchanged from the first game. Every character is represented by a mask, and every mask grants different abilities. Zebra performs what appears to be a flip, granting invulnerability frames (but they cannot be chained, so watch out); Bear (screenshot begins this section) begins any level with submachine guns akimbo with radial aiming; Tiger’s name is Tony, and unlike the child-friendly cereal version, cannot use weapons but instead relishes OHKOs, even on “heavy” enemies who normally have to be shot rather than fought with fists; the
Ducks Swans consist of an awkward pistol/chainsaw duo.
When missions do not call for masked individuals, the focus shifts to a few specific “stars.” I have already mentioned the Son, and he benefits from three loadouts: the bodyguard, which plays like the Zebra; dirty hands, which plays like the Tiger; and bloodline, which plays like the Bear. Detective Manny Pardo is simply balanced. Only the Writer strives to use non-lethal force, but will “snap” after a couple of fatalities and will thence forth rampage like everyone else. If I were to pick a favorite, it would be Soldier (Beard) due to the massive injection of nostalgia. The layout of his levels resemble those from the original Metal Gear on NES, and he even can swap between his primary weapon and a knife for CQC like Snake.
If the gameplay had remained completely unchanged from its predecessor, Hotline Miami 2 would at least be an average, albeit uninspired, sequel. Unfortunately, the map design in Hotline Miami 2 does not allow for casual Hotline Miami players such as myself to excel at clearing maps, for not only does each floor contain twice as many enemies as seen in the first game, but also, they can see the player from off-screen before the player can see them. This would not be so problematic if the majority of bad guys did not have ranged weapons, an inversion of the first game. The abundance of glass that enemies can see through combined with the number of long halls and pathways renders Hotline Miami 2 a frustrating exercise in futility, for players will find themselves dead far too often due to the dead-eye accuracy of enemies that cannot be seen.
The tricks players will have to implement in their strategies for survival completely strip the game of its claim to fame—rampages at breakneck speed are only possible for those with eidetic memories twitch reflexes. For everyone else, Hotline Miami 2 is a sluggish creep through legions of foes and rivers of blood. I personally found myself averaging upwards of forty-five minutes on a single stage due to my dozens of deaths; in the first game, 15-20 minutes was considered excessive. Because of the regression in the quality of the gameplay alongside the unconvincing justification for the violence via the story, I struggle to find valid reasons for anyone to play this unnecessarily difficult, and just plain mean game.
The Bottom Line
Those playing Hotline Miami 2 may find themselves engaging in a litmus test for masochistic tendencies.