Hotline Miami: Forever remembered as an absolute gem of a game, an absolute must-have in your Steam collection. Devolver advanced their name in a big way after its release. A thumping soundtrack and fiendish gameplay which allows for flexibility of completion that doesn’t shy away from 8 bit brains, blood and gore. It would be safe to say that when I caught wind of a sequel, I registered my interest to review it pretty much instantly. Upon boot up I was not disappointed at all.
The soundtrack is another level of brilliant. Primal, resonating music assaults your ears as you start the first ”tutorial”. The tracks are instantly addictive ear candy, even if you have no particular love of the genres. Combined with the already existing game mechanics, (albeit with a few tweaks) makes the game feel immediately familiar if you have played the first game.
For those of you that skipped the stunning original, expect nastiness, short brutal frustrating puzzles in which you basically have to slaughter your way through levels of NPC goons. This happens across several locations and across several flashbacks; which include drug induced trances, and even a snuff movie set. Utilising a masked character, wherein the masks convey a special ”bonus”, the quotations being used in this case to show that not all of the mask choices are good for level completion, and often there is only one choice of mask. Examples being that one mask will allow you to kill with a single punch, but stop you from picking up any of the weaponry on that level. This can hamper you severely when facing a multitude of ranged opponents.
The gameplay is simple. Steer your masked avenger through a series of rooms using doorways, cover, and quick manoeuvres to sneak up and eliminate the bad guys in the shortest and nastiest way possible. Use an ever increasing amount of close combat weapons (bars, bats, knives and chains) to one hit kill most opponents, or throw them to stun your opponent, this will allow you to run in and finish them by either bashing their head into the floor, or stomping their skull flat.
Oh and did I mention the gratuitous gore? These executions cause severed limbs, exposed entrails, decapitations and more blood than a shark attack film. Completing a level looks like Christmas in an abattoir. Yet somehow it feels detached, perhaps because of the 8 bit nature of the graphics nothing seems quite as messy as it should. The alternative is to go loud and start blasting your opponents with guns, shotguns, assault rifles and submachine guns. The inherent risk in this is that very few weapons allow you to reload; they are noisy, which means attracting additional attention. Which is never good. Guns are not your best friend, they can help you in taking down melee immune soldiers (I know right?) but most of the time your ammo will run out before the sheer number of goons threatens to overwhelm you.
Now for the negatives. This game suffers in comparison to its predecessor, not hugely, but certainly noticeably. Enemies are prone to becoming stuck in doorways, when stunned, they can get back up and be stunned again. They glitch horrendously, meaning an enemy you thought was defeated stands up and blasts you in the spine more times than you care to love. There is one irritating glitch or bug; sometimes kicking in a door will not allow you to fire your weapon immediately upon crossing the threshold of the doorframe. This will have you hitting restart a LOT if you rely on this strategy to get to the next room. Not only firing your weapon, but throwing whatever is in your hand also doesn’t work in the same scenario. It’s not game breaking, but it does deny you one option for getting a decent grade for the level.
Other than that this game is huge fun, it’s bigger than the last game, the story is both scary and confusing and the music is sublime. Devolver have done themselves proud yet again.