“Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number” review

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Synth-80s-house music was not my thing for a long time, but it became my thing while killing droves of faceless foes in a neon haze while it pumped in the background.

“Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number” is exactly what you’d expect it to be: Brutal violence layered within a top-down shooter that is fast-paced and punishing. A game that says, “Don’t worry. If you die enough times you’ll figure out how to do this level and you’ll move on.” And you’re okay with that.

I’ve come to appreciate games that don’t have difficulty selection at the outset. It really makes you see just how the developers intended their game to be played and challenges you to take a step you might not have otherwise taken had you seen the words “Hard Mode” or “Insanity Mode” or what have you.

I was very interested in seeing how they would change the gameplay following the first “Hotline Miami,” or improve upon it to make a worthwhile sequel and not just an expansion pack. I’ll tell you, for the price of this game on Steam and PlayStation Network, it’s very much worth it.

New maps, new characters, new weapons, new enemies and a new story. A true sequel. The game maintains its brutally vibrant roots while also trying to grow the tree taller.

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This bear likes to dual-wield.

While there is still some mask selection for certain characters, selecting a different mask might also mean you pick a different character with a different attribute or play style, rather than being The Jacket from the first game with different skills.

For instance, the Tony mask means you have lethal punches but can’t pick up guns. My personal favorite (and probably the hardest to play with) is Ash and Andy. A duo team, one with a chainsaw and the other with a gun. This puts way more focus on map awareness as you can shoot while also performing melee takedowns. Just be aware that the Ash and Andy duo is more likely to cause a ruckus that will get you mobbed than any of the others.

Duel-wielding is also a thing this time around, with the ability to do a nice little 360 degree turn while firing. Very John Woo for those of you looking for that particular cinematic thrill.

The plot is far more complicated this time around. Time hopping between the mid 80s and the early 90s, you play as a variety of characters, some masked and some not. From a writer researching a book, to a mobster, to one of a group of animal-mask-wearing vigilantes, the game keeps you guessing for the entire wild ride.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else can be said about the game. It’s fun. It’s worth the money. It’s a worthy successor to the game that got people talking about how weirdly fun it was to slaughter Russians in Miami during the 80s. It doesn’t disappoint, and it will certainly be a challenge for those looking for a thrilling game that requires skill.

If you’ve got the cash to spare for this beauty, I highly recommend it. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what with it’s top-down perspective and fast-paced, unforgiving gameplay, but it is certainly something to treasure in your library. Sure, the movement controls can get a little frustrating when trying to get into the cars, or getting blocked by a wall when you are trying to duck behind it for cover. Yes, it does get repetitive, and some of the levels feel quite long (if you’re like me and keep dying you’ll spend a long time in just one of them). But this is not meant to be a ground-breaking, industry-changing game. Nor does it want to be anything more than what it is: A $15 game that gives you some good bang for your buck.

Have some extra cash to burn? Splurge for the $20 version on Steam that’ll give you the soundtrack to the game, as well as some “Payday 2” downloadable content. Because what’s better than playing a neon-colored bloodbath? Robbing banks right afterwards.

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The Zebra’s tired of being prey. He’ll roll out of the way, but he’s on the offensive now.