Hot­line Miami 2: Wrong Num­ber

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher De­volver Dig­i­tal De­vel­oper Den­na­ton Games For­mat PC (ver­sion tested), PS3, PS4, Vita Re­lease Out now

Hot­line Miami was an ac­tion game dis­guised as an art game dis­guised as an ac­tion game. It was about mood as much as hair-trig­ger score chas­ing, and it made the two work to­gether in a way that few games man­age. For the adept, able to clear each stage with a half-in­grained, half-im­pro­vised run of deadly plays, it was about the frag­ile thrill of raw power. For those who strug­gled through each stage over the course of a thou­sand deaths – of­ten the same per­son, just at an ear­lier stage of their devel­op­ment – it was about pun­ish­ment: the cathar­sis of vi­o­lence be­ing met with sud­den vi­o­lence. To the ex­tent that it stum­bled, it stum­bled when it tried to pin a spe­cific point to that gen­eral feel­ing. On the whole, it was a pow­er­ful suc­cess.

Hot­line Miami 2 lacks that power and falls a long way short of the same suc­cess. It has noth­ing else to say. The ac­tion game part of the equa­tion is present and largely un­changed, although the tweaks Den­na­ton does make are to the detri­ment of the whole, while the art game is sub­stan­tially weaker. An ap­pro­pri­ate suc­ces­sor to the orig­i­nal would share its ur­gent dis­re­gard for what­ever came be­fore it, but Hot­line Miami 2 is ut­terly rooted in the past. This is the type of se­quel that we tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ciate with the lum­ber­ing main­stream: the by-the-num­bers ex­pan­sion on the same ideas, the bolt­ing on of more that makes the whole weaker. Much is the same. There’s the same hazy neon, the same sun­set over the same score screen, the same par­al­lax-scrolling sky­line fad­ing from or­ange to pur­ple. On pa­per, the game it­self is the same. You en­ter a level with a man­date to in­ca­pac­i­tate ev­ery per­son in a given build­ing. Your toolset be­gins with punches that send foes sprawl­ing, open­ing them up for bru­tal fin­ish­ing moves. You can take the fallen’s weapons and use them, and the toolset is familiar: pipes, knives, shot­guns, ma­chine guns, and so on. Any­thing can be thrown to knock down or some­times kill, while guns run out of ammo and are dis­carded. When you load a stage, the po­si­tion and gear of enemies is sub­tly ran­domised, re­quir­ing you to im­pro­vise a deadly so­lu­tion us­ing the tools to hand. Any dam­age from any source kills you in­stantly. You tap R, you restart, you try it all again.

Although this for­mula re­mains un­changed, here it is un­der­mined by weak level de­sign and a prob­lem­atic over­all struc­ture. Good Hot­line Miami lev­els pro­vided you with lat­eral free­dom – if one ap­proach wasn’t work­ing, you could try some­thing else. You could at­tempt some­thing dramatically dif­fer­ent or some­thing more cau­tious, or you could se­lect a dif­fer­ent mask, which placed one of sev­eral mod­i­fiers on your char­ac­ter, and use that to open up new op­tions. Here, that free­dom is sti­fled. While a num­ber of lev­els of­fer mul­ti­ple routes, the ma­jor­ity are fairly lin­ear, more like puzzles than stages for im­pro­vi­sa­tion. Static snipers, durable roam­ing enemies that more or less man­date the use of guns, and other block­ades all act as fun­nels.

It’s a far more gun-heavy game than its pre­de­ces­sor as a re­sult. It feels less fluid, with com­par­a­tively few in­stances of knife-fight dex­ter­ity or bru­tal melee com­bat. Then there are the weak­nesses in Hot­line Miami’s AI, which be­come ap­par­ent at long range. There’s a lit­tle of the stealth game in Hot­line’s DNA, but here there are enemies that might snipe you from half a map away in one en­counter and to­tally ig­nore you in the next. Dis­tant enemies get stuck in doors. Dogs can be found spin­ning on the spot in the area where they spawned. Le­gacy col­li­sion is­sues have not been re­solved, ei­ther – doors and bul­lets will still pass through enemies they should harm, and so on.

It is here that the mood, the mu­sic and the scor­ing sys­tem should step in to fill in the cracks. Only one of th­ese is suc­cess­ful. The first game ex­per­i­mented with diver­gent nar­ra­tives in its sec­ond half – the mo­ment you shifted from one char­ac­ter to an­other was strik­ing, care­fully pre­med­i­tated, and played an im­por­tant role in bring­ing the game to a close. In Hot­line Miami 2, you switch char­ac­ters, playstyles, eras and even re­al­i­ties on a mission-by-mission ba­sis. The plot jumps be­tween 1985, 1989 and 1991, be­tween dream­scapes, movies that might be dream­scapes, re­al­ity, and re­al­ity that might be a movie and might be a dream­scape. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not opaque in the way the orig­i­nal was. It’s not enig­matic, just all over the place.

This lack of fo­cus wounds the game it­self. Only a sub­set of the char­ac­ters use masks at all, and th­ese are akin to func­tion­ally dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Your moveset is sub­stan­tially limited by who you are con­trol­ling, then: one char­ac­ter has ac­cess to a gun and a knife and can’t pick up items at all; one be­gins ev­ery level with two guns and has to use them be­fore he can pick up any­thing else; one char­ac­ter is, in fact, two, a killer with a chain­saw and a killer with a gun. One of the char­ac­ters re­fuses to kill and will throw away any lethal weapon you at­tempt to pick up. Some of th­ese ideas are novel, but they work against the way Hot­line Miami plays be­cause they limit the room for im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

Hot­line Miami 2’ s sin­gu­lar, stand­out suc­cess is its sound­track. Den­na­ton has as­sem­bled a phe­nom­e­nal col­lec­tion of at­mo­spheric ’80s elec­tron­ica by artists such as Car­pen­ter Brut, Jasper Byrne, and Per­tur­ba­tor. Where the spirit of the orig­i­nal re­mains, it re­mains in the mu­sic, in the mo­ments when the synths, the ac­tion and the puls­ing neon all click to­gether. Hot­line Miami 2 con­tains th­ese el­e­ments, as its pre­de­ces­sor did, and it is ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing an anal­o­gous de­gree of suc­cess from time to time. But the for­mula is off – many of the new ad­di­tions do not work – and so the odds of that suc­cess have de­creased. You’ll gain faster ac­cess to that feel­ing if you just play the orig­i­nal again.

The mood, the mu­sic and the scor­ing sys­tem should step in to fill in the cracks. Only one of th­ese is suc­cess­ful

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.