Death of the Critic

The Backlog - Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

The first Hotline Miami game is one of those rare titles that is almost universally liked. It is an ultra-smooth, ultra-violent hack-and-slash crime game. Each level functions almost like a puzzle. You have a defined toolset, and you have to make it through the gauntlet of vicious enemies without dying. In many ways, Wrong Number is a very similar game. You choose your mask, and with it a special ability, and then you have to clear out the level, dodging bullets and stabbing dogs.

If they had stopped here, they could have just made a basic sequel, and it would have been a very good game. It wouldn’t have the originality of the first, but it would still be satisfying to have a whole new set of deadly problems to solve while that fantastic electronic soundtrack thumped along in the background.

The problem that we run into is that they were not content for more of the same. They wanted to mix it up, to change the formula and make a
better game. And this is a commendable attitude that I wish we saw in more games. To always strive to be better. Here, it just did not work in the way that they wanted it to.

The core feeling of the gameplay remains untouched (thankfully). Melee weapons hit with a meaty crash, and you rarely feel held back by your controls, instead empowered by the abilities you have in the environment. You crash through doors and swing machetes with wild abandon, and you are rewarded with satisfying sprays of blood and scores quickly rising even as you mount a fallen enemy to finish them off.


What they did change was how the combat was structured. Your goal in both games is to clear levels as quickly as possible using as wide of a variety of tools as you can. You get more points for switching weapons and playstyles to prevent you from falling into a habit.

It’s easy to kill in certain ways, knocking people over with doors for a quick finish or taking them out at range with a gun. You don’t want to do these too much because they get
boring. The melee combat stays fun the whole time because it is challenging, requiring quick reactions and precise controls. Guns, you just point and shoot and things die.

For some reason,
Wrong Number wants you to use guns way more. Certain encounters basically require it, and it at once strips away all variety while simultaneously making the game much easier. You’d try each section a few times, but you quickly find your solution, and then it is just a matter of shooting at long ranges before enemies fire back.

It is just not as much fun.

Which is hugely disappointing to say, because of how much I loved the first game.
Wrong Number is still good (and the soundtrack is downright great), but it starts to feel repetitive all too quickly, and the story seems to lean harder on shock than actual substance (including the much talked about sexual assault by the player character at the beginning of the game, which feels crass, even if it is just acted out for a movie in the game). It is stuck firmly in the shadow of the first, and no matter how hard it tries, it can’t break out.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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Images courtesy of Devolver Digital

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