“Kill or Be Killed.”

Hotline Miami is a drug and I’m addicted.

Daring in almost every way a video game can present itself, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, is a brutally unforgiving and endlessly fascinating display of true artistry. Superior to its 2012 predecessor in nearly every right, Wrong Number, is a magnificent sequel, to a great game. More ambitious in both the mechanics and narrative approach, Hotline Miami 2, is murder infused madness that demands full focus.

Comfort zones don’t exist in this hyper-violent, stylistic compilation of killing. In fact, playing with what players are comfortable with, is the first thing Wrong Number does. Pushing player pallets for both brutality and needed level of context to justify the infinite amount of violence, is tested time and time again. In a society so compelled to point fingers at video game violence, Hotline Miami doesn’t care, rather stomps on the heads of those with opposing views. There’s no reason to hide behind the fact it’s extraordinary violent, but to revel in it’s mature action too long would be a disservice to the bigger picture Wrong Number composes so well.Hotline-Miami-2Murdering my way through the over ten hour campaign, I was placed into the role of nine separate characters, spread over various time periods. Taking place before and after the events of the original cast of characters, all have some connection to the harrowing happenings of the first game.

Wrong Number’s narrative is far grander than the original. Twisted both structurally and morally, Hotline Miami 2 isn’t afraid to ramp up the intensity. The world in which this nightmarish alternate history has unfolded, is well-realized thanks to the game showcasing it’s main components. Masked maniacs, drugs, war, mafia and mayhem, all play prominent parts in the insane world of Hotline Miami.

For a game so clearly retro-inspired, it’s crazy just how gory and unsettling it can feel. Set in the 80s and 90s, the time periods are impeccably matched to the returning top-down, pixel aesthetic.

Set to an outstanding, heart pounding, electronic score, getting Wrong Number out of your head poses a challenge just as tedious as tackling it’s larger levels. Hotline Miami 2 is not just hard, it’s punishingly cruel at every turn. Wrong Number, is ferociously eager to beat you down, yet pick you up in the same swift motion. Killing is quick and dying is even quicker. Coming to grips with the constant penalty of death might be hard for newcomers, while veterans of the series know what they’re getting into.

Death from outside regions of the screen are now viable threats that need to be taken into consideration when traversing the many maps. Putting a good 15 minutes into clearing a room just to be eliminated by gunfire out of the line of sight happened too many times.

A more cautious approach is needed if looking to clear rooms efficiently. Busting down doors guns a blazin’, may have worked to decimate foes in the original, but here, areas are simply too large to tackle with haphazardness. Knowing all progress can be lost by taking a stray bullet, successfully ingrains a constant sense of fear into players.HLM2_Screen_6-noscaleTo alleviate ripping your hair out in defeat, new features are implemented to assist you in your defenses. Stopping the heart of your enemy can be done numerous ways. Various new weapons range from tasers to double machine guns to broken glass. Also, a helpful lock-on feature reduced the number of times I stomped my feet like a little kid.

The story-heavy approach to each mission sightly detracts from the replay ability the first game paraded. Aside from a handful of levels, when revisiting Wrong Number’s many acts, players are given no option to choose what character they want to play as. This didn’t bother me, for the importance each played in the overarching narrative was far more critical than the ability to choose what mask to wear.

It’s a wonder Dennaton Games was able to improve upon the original in so many ways, while taking on new risks and tackling fresh, controversial ideas. The way Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, walks a fine line between fun and frustration so frequently, was nothing short of astonishing.

Summary: Riding the roller coaster of fatal trial and error has never been as viciously entertaining. Thanks to character specific motives, the story is able to delve head-first into bloodbaths. A dark, yet vibrant, story overflowing with crime, corruption and murder, proposed challenges only conquerable with the most dedicated mindset. An unforgettable retro-aesthetic, enchanting soundtrack and plenty of memorable, stomach turning moments, make Wrong Number a fully fleshed out experience in both size and scope. Death or unmeasurable satisfaction lay around every corner, this is Hotline Miami.

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8.5