2012's Hotline Miami was one of the games of the year, and one of the toughest. Does Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number live up to its predecessor? The simple answer is yes, but there are some small reservations.
It's a sin
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number tells a broader story than the first, and is slightly less mysterious for that. It also feels less cohesive, telling the story of groups of people, rather than the unnamed jacket wearing anti-hero of the first game. The basics are the same, but there's more variety.
Like the first, each level of the game sees a character dispatched to a location in Miami, full of enemies to kill. The levels still play out like ultra-violent puzzles, it's still disturbing, and it's still uncommonly difficult. Enemies patrol levels mostly in a predictable fashion unless disturbed, allowing you to plan your violent route through each. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number's gameplay is superlative; tight and seriously addictive, once the controls become second nature to you (and they'll have to). You will die a lot, but the instant level restart makes this painless, and allows you to use trial and error to hone your tactics.
Each character you control in the game makes you play a little differently. One may have lethal throws, for example, or be unwilling to kill at all - forcing you to play the game differently (just as the optional masks did in the first). The variety is good, but it gives you less choice in how you play the game.
Going gets tough
While it still looks like Hotline Miami, there are some improvements to the retro graphics. Environments are more interactive, with smashable TVs, rotating carousels, and things to knock over. The grainy VHS effects have been improved and expanded, with the excellent pause menu being a great example. The music is fantastic again, with a great mix of 80s-style chip tune tracks that really add to the atmosphere.
There are some reservations. The first game seemed to criticize the player for enjoying violence, or at least make you think about violence, which is unusual in videogames. This sequel builds on the events of the first game, but it seems to revel in its gore more than question it.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is also tougher than the original. Maps are often bigger, with more open space, and while they still require meticulous planning combined with accurate and speedy execution, you'll have to use the look around feature much more. However, these are minor criticisms, as it's still an excellent game.
I want more
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number takes the first game, and gives you more. More violence, more 80s, more twisted storylines. It's not as focused or fresh as the original, but to be honest, how could it be? For anyone new to Hotline Miami, I'd recommend picking up the original game first, but in any case, this is another excellent slice of brutal retro-gaming for the 21st century.