Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the second and final game in the Hotline Miami series and a direct follow-up to the first game, serving as a sequel, a sidequel and a prequel. This time the narrative is centered around a bigger cast of characters who each have their own point of view regarding the events of the series. Most of the gameplay mechanics are intact and players get to experiment with new weapons, new and more gory finishing moves and a complete story arc that concludes the series.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number currently costs $14.99. A collector's edition was also released for $60 at iam8bit.com, and includes the game, its soundtrack on three 180 gram vinyls and digital format, and a "Phone Hom" telephone card with a code to unlock the game. Another collector's edition of the game featured an art book, unique box art and some cassette tapes.
The gameplay, barring tweaked movement and tighter firearm mechanics, is mostly identical to that of the first game. Several of the original masks make a return in the form of full characters:
- A damaged Tony Mask is worn by Tony.
- The Aubrey Mask returns, being worn by The Pig Butcher.
- The Jake Mask is now worn by Jake.
- The Richter Mask is again worn by Richter.
Five new masks also mix up the gameplay:
- Corey has the ability to Roll Dodge
- Alex & Ash are two characters, one melee and one ranged, controlled in tandem
- Mark starts his missions dual wielding MP5s.
- Jake's Irvin Mask starts him with a 20 "round" nail gun.
- Jake's Dallas Mask starts him with nunchucks.
New tweaks and variations to normal gameplay have been added, including Manny Pardo's ability to execute with guns, and Evan's ability to take levels without killing and carry combos by unloading guns. Wrong Number features several new weapons, and largely (but not entirely) removes Hotline Miami's rarely-used throwing-exclusive weapons. Emphasis on firearms is greatly increased by characters like Pardo and the Soldier.
The difficulty has increased dramatically as well, and the game features a Hard Mode for players looking to boost the challenge further, which can only be unlocked when the player beats the game. On Hard, enemies are faster and more reactive, enemy-locking is removed, gun ammo is halved upon player pick up (rounded down if uneven), and the level is inverted, with increased enemies and windows, and fewer doors. Hard Mode also features a greatly increased amount of Thugs as well as Dodgers, a new enemy class in Wrong Number.
The Level Editor is now out of Beta, and currently available upon purchase of the normal and deluxe editions of the game for free.
Settings and Protagonists
Hotline Miami 2 takes place before, during and after the events of the original game. It focuses mostly on the latter, between October 25th and December 28th in the year 1991, around two and a half years after the events of the first game. Jacket is on trial after being unwittingly manipulated into killing off the leadership of the Russian Mafia by a neo-nationalist organization known as 50 Blessings. Jacket's exploits have achieved national infamy and have directly and indirectly impacted the lives of several individuals Wrong Number follows. The 1991 characters (except Manny Pardo) are all visited by Richard. The 1991 sequel setting consists of:
- Martin Brown is the lead actor in Rouven Blankenfeld's Jacket-inspired slasher film Midnight Animal. He has had a very calm film career up to this point but now secretly revels in the permission to "commit" violence.
- The Fans are a group of masked vigilantes dedicated to recreating the conditions of Hotline Miami for various reasons. The Fans consist of Tony (Tiger Mask), Mark (Bear Mask), siblings Alex and Ash (Swan Masks), and Corey (Zebra Mask). Notably, Alex and Corey are the first and only female playable characters in the series. Each Fans' arc portrays them as they fall deeper into the depravity and violence of the world around them, with Mark and Corey becoming the more worried and disillusioned with the group. With no Russian mobsters to kill, the group slaughters various anonymous Gangs of in hopes of gaining attention.
- Manny Pardo is a police detective who is slightly knowledgeable on Jacket's case but is now mostly investigating the 'Miami Mutilator' with Johnson. He is close friends with Evan and reluctantly risks his job to give Evan leads on Jacket's story. Manny spends the game killing various gangs and Colombian drug smugglers by the dozen, using his badge to wash his hands of it. He also is shown to follow leads on the Fans. He is named after a Florida cop who went on a three month killing spree in 1986 in which he killed drug dealers exclusively.
- Evan Wright is a writer who has quit his job as a journalist to write a book about the events of Hotline Miami. His playstyle revolves around trying not to get people hurt, but if he crosses a two-execution threshold, he will remove his jacket and use deadly force. His levels all involve him willingly going into dangerous locations in search of leads for his book.
- The Henchman is a aged Russian mobster who seems to be held in high regards by the The Son, but wants to get out of the game at the outset of the Colombian-Mafia War. He has a girlfriend, Mary, who he hopes to have a future with after his last job.
- The Son is the son of The Father, the grandson of the Grandfather and a possible romantic interest of the Bodyguard, all of which Jacket murdered in Showdown at the end of the first game. He is the acting head of the Russian Mafia in 1991. He works to rebuild his family's criminal empire by attacking the now-dominant Colombian cartel in the Colombian-Mafia War.
A new prequel setting expands upon the series' alternate history and gives further context to later events:
- The Soldier is a special forces Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii in 1985 alongside Jacket, Barnes, and Daniels. The Colonel commands them through several assaults on Soviet bases as the group hopes for a future outside of war they're increasingly certain they'll never live to see.
Returns to the original 1989 setting follow two other masked killers that never got Jacket's reputation:
- Jake is an obese nationalist and an unwitting member of 50 Blessings. As he carries out his jobs he becomes increasingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic toward their cause.
- Richter is the rat-masked killer from the first game who murdered Girlfriend and sent Jacket into a coma by shooting him in the head. Flashbacks reveal that he's an unemployed loner performing the killings in response to 50 Blessings issuing death threats to him and his either chronically or terminally ill mother.
The ending to each act of the game serves as a finale to one or more protagonists.
- Act One: Martin Brown is killed on set by a prop gun, apparently riddling the actress responsible, Rachael Ward, with guilt and plunging her into alcoholism.
- Act Two: The Henchman is robbed and dumped by Mary after he leaves the Mafia. He overdoses on psychoactive drugs in a drug den before being brutally beaten to death by the Fans.
- Act Three: The Fans, following a lead from the Henchman's cell phone, assault the newly acquired Russian Mafia headquarters. Every Fan except Tony is killed in the assault. Tony, held up with the corpses of his friends by a SWAT team, is shot dead in cold blood by Manny Pardo.
- Act Four (Withdrawal): Jake uncovers the nature of 50 Blessings, verbally putting two and two together in front of the 50 Blessings Manager. He then either succeeds or fails to clear out a Russian meth lab. If he succeeds, he's tricked and killed by the 50 Blessings Manager for knowing too much. If he fails, he's taken to Downtown Relaxation where he's fruitlessly interrogated and executed by Petrov and the VIP Guard.
- Act Four (Casualties): The Soldier's unit is tasked with a suicidal four man assault on a power plant fortress. Cracking under pressure, the Colonel delivers the foundational speech for 50 Blessings while wearing a bloody panther skin mask. The assault goes miraculously well until the defeated Russian General shoots the plant's engineers and sends the plant into meltdown before committing suicide. An elevator explosion mortally wounds Barnes and incapacitates Jacket. Daniels stays behind with Barnes while Jacket is carried through the underground caverns by Soldier. Rendezvousing with local forces, Soldier hands Jacket a picture of the two of them and tells him it's "on the house," revealing Soldier to be Beard from the first game. Months later in 1986, Beard consoles Jacket on the loss of a girlfriend over the phone from his shop in San Fransisco. Hearing some people outside his shop, he ends the conversation to take a look. Exiting the shop he is killed in a massive explosion.
- Act Five: An imprisoned Richter desperately tries to survive a 50 Blessings instigated prison riot. He fights his way through guards before donning one of their uniforms to escape. He relays this story to Evan in an effort to get his mom out of Miami with a plane ticket to Hawaii. Evan is immensely grateful to Richter, but his dedication to his book has caused his wife to leave him and take the kids. Evan can choose to either continue writing the book or reconnect with his family.
- Act Six (Caught): Manny Pardo investigates a Miami Mutilator crime scene that has left behind a shell casing and a finger print. He returns home and has a nightmare in which a ventriloquist dummy headed Phantom has stolen his gun and taken it to an abandoned crime scene. Phantom attacks Pardo, and Pardo kills him. The setting then becomes a movie set, and the Police Chief accuses Pardo of being the Miami Mutilator. Pardo denies this and tries to leave the station, being forced to kill the hostile policemen staffing it. At the exit he tries to get through a police barricade by flashing his badge, but is killed. Waking up, he gets a call that he's needed at the station. He nervously calls in sick and retrieves his gun from his night stand.
- Act Six and Apocalypse's main level: The Son assaults the Colombian headquarters in a borderline suicidal move. He is miraculously successful, killing around 80 gangsters before his men take care of the Colombian Boss. Afterward, a visibly bored Son attempts to call the now-deceased Henchman in hopes of bringing him back to the mafia. Ash, having stolen Henchman's phone, receives the call giving the address of the new Russian Mafia headquarters. The Son, frustrated by the lack of response, takes four hand fulls of pills and begins to experience time slips. A nervous mobster tries to explain the Fans assault and is apparently shot by the Son. The Son is then attacked by his own monstrously malformed men who he is forced to kill. He begins to encounter monstrous animal creatures who he must defeat as bosses: a Bear, a Zebra, a Tiger, and finally a warped two-headed Swan monster on the roof. After defeating the Swan monster, golden gates to an infinite rainbow bridge open to him off the side of the building. He steps off the roof and walks across the bridge, disappearing into the rainbow void as the credits roll.
- Apocalypse outro: Richter and his mother are reunited in Hawaii, watching TV in a small home on the beach. Depending on the player's chosen ending to Act Five, the TV is airing either an interview with Evan about his upcoming book (if the player chose the type writer), or a posthumous interview with Martin Brown (if the player chose to call Evan's family and stop writing the book). In either case, the interview is interrupted by an emergency report that a group of armed men have assassinated both the US and Russian presidents at an RAC conference, and that the ringleader seems to be a US Army General. This event spins the world into nuclear war.
- Richter's mother dons Richard and they discuss the ephemeral nature of life and "good times." Richter wonders if the authorities are onto him, before realizing that the situation is much worse. He realizes there's no need to fight and that "leaving this world is not as scary as it sounds," before he's obliterated by a nuke.
- Evan is shown either reunited with his family eating dinner or typing in his study before a nuke consumes his house.
- Manny Pardo is heavily drinking and barricaded in his apartment with his revolver pointed at the door before he's destroyed from behind by a nuclear detonation.
- Rachael Ward is drinking alone in her apartment watching TV before she's killed by a nuke.
- Jacket is playing with a green stress ball in his sparse prison cell as the cell is wiped away by a nuclear explosion.
After the final credits, the screen turns completely black before displaying Hotline Miami 3. The game is then stopped and rewound back to the Hotline Miami 2 main menu.
Beginning a new game after completion starts the Table Sequence in which Richard speaks to each of the dead characters in a dirty room; each are replaced by their dead body when done talking. When finished, Richard turns on a film projector showing "Midnight Animal", starting the events of the game over again.
Completion of the game on Hard Mode displays the lyrics to the American Civil War song "For the Dear Old Flag, I Die" at the end of the credits.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number represents a massive shift in tone from the original game. The colors have shifted from hazy neon pastels to stark dark purples lacking any kind of visual blur to them. Sun Araw's psychedelic music is completely omitted, replaced with tracks such as a melancholy untitled menu song by The Green Kingdom, calm remorseful songs like Modulogeek's Around, and exhausted on-the-job beats like Old Fox Future Gang's Guided Meditation. The characters, in stark contrast to Jacket and Biker, are largely identified by their job titles or actual names instead of their possessions. Dialogue, while unanimously terse and filled with natural awkward silences, is more prevalent and each character uses it slightly differently.
This variety of expanded and diversified characteristics and focus on a wide array of lifestyles creates a sobering effect next to the original game. This parallels the shift in primary setting from 1980's to the much culturally calmer 1990's. Violence in 1991 feels aimless: the Russian mob is gone (similar to how the Cold War was basically over by this point in history), and the Fans often note that the people they target prior to Death Wish are disturbingly similar to themselves ("Kinda like this place, huh?"), even having similar colored and decorated hang outs (Down Under) and a shared interest in exercise and recreational marijuana.
Drugs are touched on much more soberly in Hotline Miami 2, focusing more on the kinds of people who use, transport, and attempt to control them. Alex is a recreational user of marijuana and her technician brother Ash frequently bashes people on the basis of being junkies. Police Detective Pardo (based on a real MDPD officer who declared himself a soldier and murdered six people) is shown cracking down excessively hard on Colombian drug smuggling (Dead Ahead) and this is later revealed to be a function of his own personal self righteous power fantasies. Pardo tries to have a meeting with the Russian mob immediately afterward, implying he did the job to earn their trust, or is perhaps angling to take them down too just as brutally.
Flashback missions to a fully fictional Hawaii warzone perhaps most analogous historically to America's involvement in Nicaragua trace the source of violence acceptability in the other direction: here even Barnes and Daniels, wholly likable people with friendly personalities, also are expected to and do enjoy executing and beating prisoners (Ambush outro).
The over exaggerated Hawaiian jungle -- complete with panthers as a triple origin story for 50 Blessings, the Brandon mask, and the Father's pet panthers -- is heavily used to give context to events in the subsequent settings, but also to draw an analogy between humans and the animal conditions that created them. When the Russian Henchman asks to go home in Execution, he also mentions he wants to go to the jungle. The absorption of humans into animal traits is a theme that's been with Hotline Miami since the first game's tutorial, and the endgame for Hotline Miami 2 naturally builds this to a head where characters become the animals they pretend to be.
Throughout all of this the player's impulse to catalog it manifests in the character of Evan Wright, who is also based on a real Miami writer who writes about real Miami criminals. Due to the focus on lifestyle, however, the writer is entirely defined on his sinking unhealthy amounts of time into retrieving overlooked information. Exposing schemes with his information isn't so much his concern as much as the fact that he could write a popular book with that socially trending information and make money to support his family. The exact gigantic scale of the impending disaster is never made clear to the Writer or the player until the last minute of the game and by then choice to abandon the investigation or quickly publish his narrow view of events has already been made; in fact, even choosing to continue to investigate isn't done so with the urgency required to stop the ending from happening anyway. The emphasis here is on natural personal blind spots. Similar to Biker in the password ending to Hotline Miami people are shown to have limits on what they care about and things like the global and political rarely factor in.
Writer's perspective on other characters is noticeably limited: he has a close friendship with Pardo due to a mutual interest in garnering fame, Manny fears that Evan knows too much (Caught), but it only ever amounts to Evan calling him a douchebag. In the Bar of Broken Heroes, Evan refuses to press Biker for details as it would require giving the extremely unhealthy looking Biker 200 dollars of booze money, and Evan determines this would be wrong.
Flashes to the 1989 setting from the first game detail the lives of Jake and Richter, both of which play up different aspects of the original game's Jacket. Jake is the patriotic pizza eater who hates his job loves his car and can't hold a steady relationship, and Richter is the torn man backed into a corner with everything to lose. These characters allow for much more distilled tones than Jacket and have vastly different soundtracks and feels. Jake is summed up by the fact that one of his songs is named Quixotic: he's a naive idealist whose comical detachment from reality is ultimately his own downfall.
Richter on the other hand is a story of personal growth and maturity as he progressively cools to his extremely dangerous jobs and earns the happiness of himself and his mother. Richter relies on pity and chance to survive his prison whacking (the pipe drop in Release), but his abilities and quick reactions under stress are what really make him win the day. His levels are cramped fast moving frenzies which train in him the jumpiness that got Jacket's girlfriend killed in the original game. This sympathy building emotional conflict is compounded by his dying mother for whom he is the sole caretaker. The spectre of some long gone "loner" father hangs above the large house and Richter himself is unemployed. Inadequacy issues and fatalism hang over all of his scenes, levels like House Call mark a somberly playful transition into the purple shades of the 90's, a depressing transition foreshadowing an ending that he'll be the first to see.
As Richter finally fully trades in his innocence for competence in Release the game transitions to the Son, who also has inadequacy issues surrounding his dead kingpin Father but has few qualms wresting the drug throne back from the Colombians, at least until the ultimate futility of trying to please a dead man dawns on him (Blood Money); however, he continues onward seeing no other path for himself.
He confides in his one friend, the Henchman, that "as soon as you let yourself get attached to anyone, you're fucked." The Henchman, who wears a tan similar to the Hawaiian soldiers indicating his middle age, is made increasingly nervous by the Son's dangerous aspirations to alter the balance of criminal power in Miami, and asks to be allowed to leave. The Son very reluctantly gives him one final mission, but is already advertising the prospects of coming back as he gives him a free sample of a new product (which are pills, rolling with the increasing pharmaceutical usage in the nineties). Henchman leaves, and must pass a much more expensive car to get to his own. Henchman is reclaiming a recently defecting chop shop that happens to help fix the Fans' van.
Subtly conveyed themes of poor people striving for material gains, and of the older generation fearing to be swept up completely by the new, abound as the aging Henchman murders a dozen teenagers with a skateboard surrounded by impossibly expensive cars and older cars being scrapped for their good parts, just as the Henchman says he feels he'll get killed any day now and rejects the more youthful aspirations of the Son; he then dreams of a new car instead of his girlfriend. He awakes to find that his final pay and his car have been stolen by her and that the Son was right. Dejected he takes the pills and attempts to call either Mary or the Son but in his disoriented state dials a completely wrong number.
The Son plays out his war alone and after a climactic assault on the Colombian headquarters he has finally brought about a return to the monolithic multicolored drug fortresses of old, and in doing so attracts the same anti-Russian Cold War sentiments, desperately looking for ground in the confused and barren 1990's. There is now nothing to distract him from his aimless inadequacies and like his grandfather he feels he's grown into the throne like a wheelchair. He tries to find solace in the friendship of Henchman but he's already been taken by this new setting. Everything unique has been bled out of it and all that remains are his monotonous army of faceless goons. In this mindset he turns to hallucinogens and hits them hard.
As the Fans attack looking for some kind of vindication of their own feelings a confused Son does the only thing he knows how to do: kill everything until he wins. Reality seems to rewind back to that warzone where all was accepted but the camaraderie is no longer there, only the jungle (office plants warping into full blown jungle foliage) and the wild animals that took his friend, glimpses of empty Russian rituals and piles of money destroyed and consumed instantly without thought. As he kills each animal one could easily recall Richter's father's room, decked out in pelts and heads as decoration and personal trophies.
The sudden killing of every character pans over near still images of their final moments, most unaware entirely that they're about to die. The contrast in how each character goes out ironically generates an extremely distilled value of lifestyles and happiness in the face of oblivion. The characters who die with loved ones are the characters with the ability to form them, and the characters who die alone would have never reached out anyway.
Parallels in Other Media
- The Fans and their van are very similar to the characters from Contra Hard Corps.
- The Hotline Miami 2 poster strongly resembles the poster to Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.
- Themes of the ambiguity between media and reality are explored in David Cronenberg's Videodrome, which is also the title of the ambiance after a level is cleared.
- Martin Brown's solid pink phones are references to the solid colors of surreal items in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, and surreal phone calls in David Lynch's Lost Highway.
- Surreal phone calls and an escape to Hawaii are featured in Punch-Drunk Love.
- The alternating focus between vast areas and detailed often ugly faces, as well as sparse brief dialogue, is a style often used in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns such as The Man With No Name Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West.
- The tracks over Homicide and First Blood are both direct references to James Cameron's The Terminator.
- First Blood is a reference to the original Rambo movie First Blood.
- The organization and goals of 50 Blessings are very analogous to the fight club from David Fincher's Fight Club.
- The idea of cycling through a vast array of characters and criminals in a city with themes of violent media is present in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
- The Son's blaring white suit during Apocalypse is similar to John Woo protagonists such as Ah John / "Shrimp Head" from The Killer.
- The Colonel is a double reference to Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and Lt. General Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove: or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
- The bags of money acquired by the Russian Henchman and Richter are both references to the 2011 movie Drive, as is the fact that both these characters are on the run with a woman to lose.
- The idea of different characters all meeting a surrealistic entity, reacting differently to it, and dying is present in The Seventh Seal.
- Manny Pardo, while based on a real person, has parallels to Dirty Harry from Dirty Harry and Cobra Cobretti from the movie Cobra, the latter of which subsequently inspired the Driver from Drive.
- Evan Wright is based on the writer of Generation Kill and American Desperado, the latter of which's cover seems to be the source of his appearance.
- The idea of extremely violent outlaws dying in a climactic suicide mission can be found in The Wild Bunch.
- The Son has a scar on his face, does cocaine and is a mafia head in Miami with animosity toward South Americans, similar to Tony Montana from Scarface.
- The concept of using both a gun and a chainsaw and a character named Ash is found in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy.
- Ash is also the name of the condescending techie scientist from Alien.
- The concept of a writer who alienates his family writing about killers is found in the David Fincher drama Zodiac.
The game received generally positive reviews from critics. It received an aggregated score of 75.90% on GameRankings based on 40 reviews and 76/100 on Metacritic based on 61 reviews.
Danny O'Dwyer from GameSpot gave the game a 9/10, praising its techno and intense soundtrack, entertaining, engaging and challenging gameplay, well-designed controls, striking and vibrant visuals, improved enemy placement, lengthy story, as well as the huge variety of characters, levels and locations. He also praised the game for allowing players to use multiple approaches towards a single objective. However, he criticized the lack of weapon customization. He summarized the game by saying that "This is a confident follow-up which improves upon the original in almost every way. This is a tremendously stylish game which entertains throughout, and delights in forcing you out of your comfort zone.
Chris Carter from Destructoid also awarded the game a 9/10, praising the open-ended gameplay, engrossing story, accessible interface and level-creator, as well as the game for allowing players to utilize creativity and strategy in every level. However, he criticized the poor AI. He summarized the game by saying that "Hotline Miami 2 may not be as "profound" as its predecessor, but it's still a bloody good time."
Chloi Rad from IGN gave the game a 8.8/10, praising its high replay value, engaging story, sizable maps, rich characters' backstory, character-specific abilities, the improved lock-on system as well as the level-design, which demands players a new and more cautious approach towards dangers. However, she criticized the occasionally frustrating levels. She summarized the review by saying that "Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a great game and a worthy sequel. It’s more confident in its style, storytelling ability, and level design than the first game."
Steven Burns from VideoGamer.com gave the game a 7/10, while praising the narrative as well as the brutal violence featured in the game, which he stated "has tread a fine, sophisticated line between titillation, power, and reflection, an integral part of both narrative and mechanics.", he criticized the over-sized maps, as well as the game for being overly difficult, frustrating as enemy attack players where they can't be seen from the camera angle. and restrictive as the game enforced players to play on certain way very often.
Chris Thursten from PC Gamer gave the game a 57/100, criticizing the meaningless characters, alienating rape scene, rigid playstyle restriction, inconsistent AI, frustrating and unavoidable death as well as technical issues. He summarized the review by saying that "Restrictive design decisions sap the energy from a series that revels in it, and technical issues deal the killing blow."