Friday, April 10, 2015

Pocket Review - Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Unlike my experience with the original Hotline Miami where I went in expecting something along the lines of a 2D Grant Theft Auto, but instead got a crazy, violent, puzzle action game, I knew what to expect from Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. The formula doesn't deviate from the first game much, but that's fine since it ramps up the challenge, the variety, and the crazy in just the right amounts.

 I'd love to go in depth about the story in Hotline Miami 2, but these games are so trippy that I'd have a hard time explaining if even if I fully understood every aspect. Based around the investigation of mass murders in the Miami area, the game jumps around in chronology and swaps characters frequently (often too frequently to keep track of who's who). One minute you'll be a cop looking investigating the murders, the next a writer seeking the bigger story, and the next a group of mercenaries battling through jungles. While the story is really out there, it fits perfectly within the game's murderous and violent setting. As someone who enjoys a real mind-screw of a story, it worked well for me.

Story aside, the real hook to Hotline Miami 2 is its gameplay. What on the surface appears to be a simple action game is actually a very strategic, almost puzzle-like experience. Stages generally consist of multiple areas or floors to shoot or smash your way through, with you having to start over in that area if killed. Players often have to use their fists to start, but quickly find melee weapons or guns to use. Working through an area requires you get the enemies before they get you. This can mean moving stealthily to catch foes unaware or finding ways to lure victims to you. You'll be using bats, guns, saws, and sometimes a mix of both as there's even an option to control two characters at once. If you die, you can quickly press X to restart and you're right back in the action.

Finding the right method for getting through each area is often a bit of trial and error due to pesky enemy placements. Thankfully, there are methods to mitigate some of these issues such as auto-targeting enemies with the press of a button and being able to view more of the map by using the front touch screen to see a little further away. You can't move the screen all the way across the map, so there will almost always be a guard or a dog just out of view to keep you on your toes. The auto-target feature is handy, but doesn't always respond as you'd want it to, especially when needing to quickly aim at a charging enemy. Outside of having to start an area over, there's no real penalty to dying. It affects your grade at the end of the stage, but that's all. There's nothing quite like struggling through an area and then finally finding your groove to gracefully move through it cutting through enemies like butter.

Hotline Miami 2 is one of the few games lately that I've finished and immediately wanted more. The brutal, over-the-top violence is simply a backdrop for the strategic gameplay that keeps you going back for more. While the story might leave you thinking you've accidentally taken illegal narcotics, it feels right at home with the fast and often nerve-wracking levels. I greatly enjoyed the original Hotline Miami, and this latest installment gave me more of what I wanted by offering more variety in characters, weapons, and stages. As solid of a follow up as this was, I truly hope there is more for this series, because I can't get enough.

TLDR A fantastic, strategic action game that ramps up the crazy of the original.
Enjoyed By? If you enjoy a good challenge and don't mind a crazy story and lots of violence, this one's for you.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

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