For all the outcry about gratuitous violence in video games, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number revels in its crimson-soaked glories without an apologetic gesture in sight. For those unaware, or those who haven’t played the first installment that kicked off this series back in late 2012, this series is a chronological mess tied in between a story that doesn’t make sense of itself until you’ve beaten it; with tons of pixelated violence. Mostly it’s notorious for the unforgiving difficulty, which forces its players to get better by way of increasingly harsh enemy placement and tougher scenarios.

While the first felt like a romp through the mind of a deranged psychopath, this sequel feels more like a case study. It’s calculated, brutal and totally unhinged. Right from the off the first act sets the overall tone for the rest of the following missions, which, if you didn’t guess, is incredibly dark. The first few missions follow a host of new characters, all with unique abilities and varying levels of involvement with the MK-ultra style brainwashing which enthralled Jacket in the previous title. Most interestingly is the way that masks from the previous game make such a prominent appearance. Jake, Richter and Richard all feature as characters, and at least make it into the hallucination-fuelled cut scenes.

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Thankfully nothing about the formula has altered all too much. The controls, gun fighting, and executions all remained true to their heritage. Only with certain aspects added as what feels like an afterthought. If anything the control feels tighter. Deaths feel less like random nonsense that are beyond the player’s control, instead further balancing a table that leaned ever-so-slightly toward the enemies previously. Hotline Miami 2 is a rare instance when a game gets better in the second addition, without losing what made it so good in the first place.

The first act is all well and good, as it sets the stage for the conclusion to Jacket’s original terrifying acts and draws you in as the Butcher takes centre. However the second act, with the introduction of the Fans – is where the game truly comes to life. Acting as some sort of twisted anti-hero unit, the Fans are four (five if you include Alex) unknown people who saw Jacket’s work not as evil, but instead as a godsend. They act as hitmen against gangsters, druggies, thugs and other lowlifes who they see as targets to be killed, without fear for their own safety.

The Fans missions are the living, breathing heart of Hotline Miami 2 and act as some of the focal points at which the player can really feeling the blood pumping through their veins. Without saying too much, the final act of the game is truly an ending befitting of the visceral nature of Hotline Miami 2. It builds to an explosive climax that leaves the player broken, but in the best way possible.

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Thankfully the music selection from this title is just as golden as the last. Each track jolts and jumps with energy, empowering the sick kills, and gun toting mayhem at every turn. Some even go for a more mellow tone, changing up the atmosphere by keeping the player nodding along to the deep basslines. It’s electric and fuelled by the 80s scene, with nods back at the original game. Notable songs such as ‘Roller Mobster’ and ‘Meet Matt Stryker’ are by the talented Carpenter Brut, and feature all throughout the Fans’ missions.

Replete with intense action, impossibly fun combos, and a story that will blow your mind in the end: Hotline Miami 2 doesn’t disappoint the player. It managed to take everything that made the first game good, then run with it. No part of this production is lacking, and is worth every single penny you pay for it.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – 93/100

Written by Matt Dawson

Developer – Dennaton Games
Publisher – Devolver Digital
Genre – Shooter, Hack and slash, Action, Psychedelic
Release date – 10th Match 2015
Website – http://www.hotlinemiami.com

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