Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Cover art featuring "Beard", drawn by Niklas Åkerblad
Developer(s)
  • Dennaton Games
  • Abstraction Games
Publisher(s)Devolver Digital
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)Jonatan Söderström
Artist(s)Dennis Wedin
Writer(s)
  • Jonatan Söderström
  • Dennis Wedin
Platform(s)
Release
10 March 2015
  • Lin, OSX, PS3, PS4, Vita, Win
  • 10 March 2015
  • Android
  • 4 August 2015
  • Nintendo Switch
  • 19 August 2019
  • Xbox One
  • 7 April 2020
  • Stadia
  • 22 September 2020
  • PS5, Xbox Series X/S
  • 23 October 2023
Genre(s)Top-down shooter
Mode(s)Single-player

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a 2015 top-down shooter video game co-developed by Dennaton Games and Abstraction Games, and published by Devolver Digital. The game takes place before, during, and after the events of Hotline Miami, with the majority of it focusing on the aftermath of the massacres committed against the Russian mafia in Miami by the previous game's protagonist, Jacket. The player takes on the role of several different characters throughout the game, witnessing the events from different perspectives across the United States. In each level of the game, the player is tasked with defeating every enemy through any means possible. In the version of the game released on Steam, the player has access to a level editor, allowing them to create their own levels and share them.

The game was originally conceived as downloadable content for the previous game, with the project being converted into a standalone sequel after the length of it surpassed the base game. The game was first announced to be in development in December 2012 through Jonatan Söderström's Twitter. The game was developed to be the last in the series, with Dennaton incorporating all concepts they had had from the development of the first game into the sequel. It was formally announced at E3 2013, and after a few delays, released worldwide on 10 March 2015 for Linux, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Windows. A localized version released in Japan on June 25 as part of Hotline Miami: Collected Edition. An Android port was released on August 4.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number received generally positive reviews from critics, with reviewers generally praising the soundtrack and gameplay, but having divisive opinions on the level design and ending. A scene depicting sexual assault triggered a mostly negative response from media outlets, and resulted in the game being refused classification in Australia. The game was ported onto Nintendo Switch alongside the first game in the Hotline Miami Collection in 2019, which was later ported onto the Xbox One and Stadia in 2020 and the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S in 2023.

Gameplay[edit]

Presented from a top-down angle, a woman wearing a zebra mask shoots a pistol at members of the Russian mafia, dressed up in white suits. Their blood covers the floor and their corpses lie across the area. The points the player has acquired (playing as the zebra mask wearing woman) is presented in the top-right.
A gameplay screenshot showing the player playing as "Corey", while engaging in combat with the Russian mafia, with the current score visible in the top right

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a top-down shooter game.[1][2] It is divided into several chapters (such as a building), each of which is further broken down into several stages (such as the floors of the aforementioned building). In each chapter, the player is tasked with defeating every enemy with a variety of melee and ranged attacks. Additional methods available to the player include knocking out enemies with a door or kicking them against the wall, as well as finishing moves. Each stage has a varied design, composed of large, open rooms with many different ways for enemies to approach the player.[2] Most chapters have the player take control of a different character, with the game having thirteen playable characters in total. Each character behaves differently, possessing unique abilities such as dodging, dual wielding machine guns, or defeating opponents non-lethally.[2] Some characters have the ability to choose from a selection of weapons or masks, the latter of which will modify the player character's abilities depending on the mask chosen.[2][3]

Both the player and enemies can be felled from a single attack. To compensate, the player is able to quickly restart the current stage after death, allowing the player to rethink their strategy.[2] As the game progresses, different types of enemies will appear, such as guard dogs immune to melee attacks and thugs that are immune to everything except bullets.[3][2] Additionally, enemy AI is inconsistent, with enemy reactions towards player action being varied and enemies being able to get stuck in place.[4][5] Upon completion of the game, "Hard Mode" is unlocked for levels in which the player achieved a rank of C+ or higher. In Hard Mode, enemies are more difficult to take down and abilities such as locking on enemies are removed.[6]

Exclusively for the version of the game released on Steam, a level editor is included, allowing players to create their own levels.[7] Additional tools allow the players to create their own cutscenes and dialog, making it possible for players to create their own campaigns. These creations can then be shared onto the Steam Workshop service, where other players are able to download and play them.[8]

Synopsis[edit]

Characters and setting[edit]

The plot of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is told out of order: before, during, and after the events of the original, focusing on events in 1985, 1989, and 1991 respectively. Following the events of Hotline Miami, the player character, "Jacket",[a] has been arrested after being manipulated into killing off the leadership of the Russian mafia by 50 Blessings, a neo-nationalist terror cell that masquerades as a peaceful activist group, gaining nationwide infamy.

The game follows several playable characters in a series of intersecting plotlines exploring both the background and the aftermath of Jacket's rampage: Martin Brown, a sadistic actor who uses his role in the film Midnight Animal to live out his violent fantasies; The Fans, a group of copycat killers seeking to emulate Jacket; Evan Wright, a journalist who seeks to write a book about the killings; Manny Pardo, a detective who mainly uses violence to dispatch criminals; "Beard", the basis of the shopkeeper from Jacket's hallucinations in the first game who was part of a commando squad with Jacket in Hawaii; the Son of the Russian Mafia boss of the first game, who seeks to return the Russians to power against the Colombian Cartel; The Henchman, who seeks to retire from the Mafia; Jake, a nativist member of 50 Blessings; and Richter, a reluctant operative of 50 Blessings who was threatened into committing the murders, both of whom were active alongside Jacket in 1989.

Furthermore, "Richard", a mysterious figure in a rooster mask that occasionally appeared to Jacket in the original game, appears at different points to most of the game's playable characters, taunting and criticizing them for their actions.

Plot[edit]

In 1985, the United States and the Soviet Union are at war, and Soviet forces have invaded and occupied Hawaii. To repel the invasion, Beard and his squad conduct a series of special operations against the Soviets. As the war proceeds, their psychologically troubled Colonel begins losing his grip on reality, volunteering them for increasingly desperate and dangerous missions while ruminating on their impending deaths and the loss of the war. For their last assignment, they besiege a heavily guarded Soviet-occupied power plant. As they make their way through the building, the Soviet Colonel - in an act of desparation - murders the plant's technicians and causes a reactor meltdown before committing suicide. As the unit escape, a booby trap explodes and severely injures two of its members, including Jacket, but Beard manages to carry him to safety and save his life. After the event, the two are sent home and a year later a nuclear missile is fired at San Francisco, killing Beard and winning the war for the Soviets.

In 1989, Jake and Richter are sent on missions parallel to Jacket's. Jake realizes the officially-peaceful 50 Blessings organization has been the one ordering him to commit massacres when he meets with one of their representatives, who denies everything. Afterwards, Jake is sent on a suicide mission, but is captured and eventually killed by the Russian Mafia. Richter is reluctant to work with 50 Blessings until they threaten his ailing mother. He is eventually captured and imprisoned, but manages to escape during a prison riot orchestrated by the organization to kill him to prevent him from corroborating Jacket's testimony.

In 1991, Jacket undergoes trial for the mass murders he perpetrated. The trials are widely publicized, resulting in the creation of a film depicting Jacket as "The Pig Butcher", as well as journalist Evan Wright writing a book on the killings while trying to learn more about the events as his marriage and finances are strained. Evan is given leads by his friend Manny Pardo, a police detective who uses his position to go on killing sprees during stakeout operations, justifying them as self-defense. Richter also shares his story with Evan in exchange for plane tickets for his mother to come to Hawaii. The aforementioned film's star, Martin Brown, dies when he is accidentally shot by an actress with live ammunition on set of the film's final scene. Inspired by Jacket's killings, the Fans carry out a string of murders against petty crooks and drug dealers, unaware of the larger context of Jacket's campaign of violence. Eventually they kill a former henchman of the Russian mafia, and when his boss (the Son) attempts to reconnect with him, the Fans track down the call's origins and assault the mafia's headquarters; they are all killed except for Tony. Tony is personally killed by Pardo afterwards for attempting to surrender. Following this, Pardo has a nightmare wherein he is outed as the "Miami Mutilator", a serial killer he has seemingly been after to attain fame similar to Jacket, and barricades himself in his home.

Meanwhile, the Son is trying to reclaim his father's empire from Colombian gangsters who filled the power vacuum left by his father's death. After the Colombians are defeated, he invites his old henchman to visit their new hideout, inadvertently giving away his location to the Fans and triggering the attack depicted earlier. Under the influence of his own designer drugs, the Son goes on a rampage, killing his own men in addition to the otherworldly monsters he interprets the Fans as before walking off the roof on a rainbow bridge to his death. After the attacks, Richter and his mother in Hawaii hear news of the assassination of the American and Soviet presidents in an attempted coup d'état. Due to the attack allegedly being committed by an American general, the Soviets declare war on the United States, launching several nuclear attacks that obliterate Miami and Hawaii. In their final moments, Manny Pardo points a gun at his barricaded door while drunk, Evan either works on his book or eats with his family depending on the player's actions, the actress from Midnight Animal drinks in her bedroom, and finally Jacket sits alone in a prison cell - before being obliterated by the bombs. Starting a new game afterwards adds a new introductory cutscene wherein Richard berates the playable characters for, once again, starting down a path that can only end in their deaths.

Development[edit]

A 25 year old Swedish man in a grey jacket, black pants, and green hat speaking at a conference.
Designer and programmer Jonatan Söderström at the Game Developers Conference in 2010

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was developed by Dennaton Games,[10] a team composed of designer and programmer Jonatan Söderström and artist Dennis Wedin.[11] Shortly after the release and success of the first game, Dennaton began developing downloadable content, while also stating that the game was financially successful enough to fund a new game.[12] This downloadable content was set to be as long as the base game, and would feature new playable characters and a level editor.[12] As the downloadable content's proposed length surpassed that of the base game, the project was converted into a sequel. On 26 November 2012, ten days after Dennaton stated plans to release downloadable content, Söderström announced Hotline Miami 2 to be in development via Twitter. However, the developers were still focused on fixing bugs in this original game.[10][13] The game was made in Game Maker 7, the same engine used for the first game. Additionally, Abstraction Games ported the game to their own SilverWare engine using their Game Maker conversion program GameBaker. This replaced the need for PhyreEngine, which was used for ports of the first game.[14][15]

The game was designed to be the last in the series, with Dennaton focusing on including ideas they were unable to use in the first game and developing a more fleshed out universe. Dennaton prioritized developing the game specifically for the fans of the original, comparing their development strategy to that of the Mega Man series. Unconcerned with trying to attract a larger audience, they described that they would "give people that like the first game another game that they will enjoy." A primary focus of the team was to expand the universe of Hotline Miami, and design new characters for it that were each given their own personality. Söderström described that giving characters more personality was a necessity, or else they would have turned out to be "bland".[9][16]

Music[edit]

The success of Hotline Miami was noted to lead to the success of the artists behind the game's soundtrack. This success led several artists to send their music to Dennaton Games to try and get their music in the sequel. By the time the soundtrack of Hotline Miami 2 was finalized, roughly 200 songs from various artists were sent to Dennaton, only of which a few were used alongside tracks they found themselves, resulting in a final soundtrack of around fifty total pieces.[9][18] Music from artists such as M.O.O.N. and Jasper Byrne, whom had tracks in the first game, were included alongside music from newcomers such as Carpenter Brut and Castanets, whose song "You Are The Blood" was used in the game's ending cutscene.[3][19]

Marketing and release[edit]

A man with red hair, a black shirt, and cargo shorts plays a demo of Hotline Miami 2 with a video game controller. Several other people are in the background, and promotional material for the game sits next to him.
A demo of Hotline Miami 2 being played at RTX 2014

The game was formally announced at E3 2013 under the title Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number with a planned release date of later that year.[20] It was announced at E3 2013 that the game would be the last in the series,[20] and a trailer across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center hosted a gameplay showcase shortly afterwards.[20][16] The game received numerous delays and failed to release that year, with the release date being pushed to Q3 2014.[21] A trailer at E3 2014 demonstrated the game's level editor.[22] In August of that year, roughly 80 minutes of footage from an early version of the game leaked and was uploaded to YouTube,[23] and in October it was stated that the game may be delayed once again to an unspecified time.[24]

In January 2015, a showcase track was unveiled from Magic Sword, titled "The Way Home" as a promotion for the game.[25] A month later, the game was given an official release date slated for March.[26] Swedish artist Niklas Åkerblad created the cover art for the game featuring Beard, a character that was noted to be directly inspired by the artist.[27][28] As a promotion, Jacket was added to the video game Payday 2 as a playable character, included as a bonus for purchasing the digital special edition of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number on Steam.[29] Additionally, a mask pack was included in Payday 2 for both the standard and digital special editions of Hotline Miami 2.[29] A collector's edition of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was also announced, which included a digital download code for the game, as well the game's soundtrack on vinyl.[30]

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number released on 10 March 2015 for Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.[26] A community made patch gave the game Windows XP support shortly after release.[31] A Japan-localized compilation featuring the game alongside the original Hotline Miami, titled Hotline Miami: Collected Edition, was released in June.[32] After previously being in alpha since release of the base game, a level editor released on 22 June 2016 exclusively on computer platforms.[8][7] Around seven hundred levels and one hundred campaigns were published on the Steam Workshop on the day of the level editor's release.[33] On 19 August 2019, Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2 were rereleased as part of the Hotline Miami Collection for Nintendo Switch.[34] The Hotline Miami Collection was later ported to Xbox One and Stadia on 7 April and 22 September 2020 respectively,[35][36] and PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on 23 October 2023.[37]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number received generally positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, it holds an aggregated score of 74 per cent based on 67 reviews for the PC version,[39] 75 per cent based on 18 reviews for the PlayStation 4 Version,[38] and 66 per cent based on four reviews for the PlayStation Vita version.[40]

The gameplay received a mixed response from critics, with it being considered that the ambition of the narrative had also impacted gameplay, resulting in generally larger and more challenging levels. Alex Carlson of Hardcore Gamer described this making levels feel more realistic and diverse in their design. Steven Burns of VideoGamer felt that the game's ambition fell to the "bigger is better" trope, criticizing it for not granting as much freedom to the player and gameplay instead being reliant on the character being used.[45] These unique different characters were however praised by Chloi Rad of IGN, who liked the unique ideas of each character, and considered a pacifist character as a "shocking twist" for the series. They furthermore described the unique aspects of characters and more gameplay restraints as a trade-off between "arcade-like aspects" and a more expanded story.[43] Contrarily, Maddy Myers of Paste said that the gameplay made him feel "disgusted and angry", believing the level design to not have a smooth difficulty curve and placing the player in difficult scenarios, describing the game as a "pathetic cash-in on an idea that only worked once and couldn’t possibly work again". He furthermore referred to it as a "glorified DLC pack of new levels" specifically made for people who "like rape and torture."[46]

The game's narrative was noted for being far more elaborate than in the first game, and was divisive. Burns of VideoGamer and Rad of IGN praised the narrative, with Burns praising Dennaton's world design and Rad praising the variety in character motivations.[45][43] Dave Cook of Vice praised the narrative for being a "smart story that many people simply didn't understand", and praising the ending.[47] On the contrary, Chris Thurster of PC Gamer and Tony Coles of Eurogamer were conflicted on the game's narrative and its ending. Both questioned if the series needed lore, or if the events leading up to the first game needed to be explained.[3][48] The games story was found difficult to follow by Myers of Paste and Alec Meer of Rock Paper Shotgun, with the former criticizing the constant swapping between characters and the latter describing the story as a "disordered jumble of post-it note scribbles".[46][49]

The game's soundtrack was acclaimed by critics, being considered just as good as the first game's.[2] Several critics considered the soundtrack one of the best aspects of the game;[2][45][3][44] Chris Carter of Destructoid considered it one of his favorite video game soundtracks.[41] The soundtrack was additionally praised for its combination with gameplay by Thurster of PC Gamer and Burns of VideoGamer.[45][3] Some tracks received additional praise for their specific uses in the game, with "Roller Mobster" being praised by Thurster of PC Gamer,[3] and "You Are The Blood" being praised by Caty McCarthy of VG247 post-release in 2018, describing the usage of the song in the ending sequence to be harrowing.[19]

Sexual assault scene[edit]

A man, known as the Pig Butcher, laying on top of a struggling woman with his pants pulled down as he attempts to sexually assault her. The image lighting prioritizes the act of sexual assault currently being portrayed, with a red light highlighting the act.
A screenshot of the scene where the Pig Butcher assaults a woman sexually in the game's controversial opening

In the game's opening tutorial where the player plays as the Pig Butcher, after clearing out all other enemies, the game guides the player towards a girl and instructs them to "finish her". Control of the Pig Butcher is taken away from the player and a cutscene plays in which he attempts to sexually assault her whilst she struggles to escape. Before anything further can be done, the scene is interrupted by the director of the in-universe movie Midnight Animal, revealing the tutorial and its events to have been a film shoot.[50][51] This scene was demonstrated for the first time during the gameplay demo shown at a Rezzed exposition.[50] Many viewed it as what Nathan Grayson described as a "deeply troubling moment in an otherwise excellent demo".[52] Cara Ellison of PC Gamer wrote that the scene made her feel "betrayed by something she loved", uncomfortable with being placed into the role of the Pig Butcher and having to identify with him. She also criticized the little to no agency that was given to the victim.[50] The scene was shortly afterwards removed from the demo, with its inclusion in the final game being reconsidered. Wedin affirmed that the team chose to cut the scene short to demonstrate that "[sexual violence] was not what the Hotline Miami series is about".[52]

In January 2015, it was reported that due to the scene, the game had received a R18+ rating in Australia, meaning that it had been refused classification. As a result, the game was effectively banned, and sale of the game was prohibited. In the report written by the Australian Classification Board, they described that red light over a black background was used during the scene to emphasize the sexual violence, while the victims legs are "viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him".[51] In an official statement from Devolver Digital, they mentioned a cut and uncut option for the scene had been added. Dennaton stated that they were "concerned and disappointed" by the actions of the Australian Classification Board, stating it "stretched the facts" in its judgment of the game. The statement concluded with Dennaton confirming that they will not challenge the ruling,[53] though later on suggested that fans in Australia should pirate it.[54][55] In August 2019, Devolver applied for a rating for the Hotline Miami Collection via the International Age Rating Coalition in order to publish the collection on Switch. After being given a rating of MA15+, the game became briefly available in Australia via the Nintendo eShop,[56] though it was removed from the platform there within a few hours.[57]

Upon release of the game, the scene's inclusion was widely criticized. Burns of VideoGamer described the scene as "merely existing for throwaway shock value", calling it a "grave mistake" in the game that didn't feature into the narrative.[45] Thurster of PC Gamer questioned the inclusion of the scene for the same reasons as Burns, further describing it as "artless and alienating" and believing the option to skip it demonstrated a "lack of confidence in the entire idea".[3] Myers of Paste was indifferent, criticizing the scene for giving "no narrative pay-off" and further mocking it for being in an in-universe movie.[46] In contrast to other critics, Astrid Budgor of Kill Screen positively viewed the scene, describing it as "[existing] to set up a schism between reality and fiction as one of the game’s major themes" and "the psychosis of [the Pig Butcher]," though additionally criticized the option to skip it as devaluing the concept.[58]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jacket is a fan-assigned name to an otherwise unnamed protagonist. The name was adopted by Dennaton themselves afterwards.[9]

References[edit]

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