PAX East 2014: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is all about the masks

At first glance, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is nearly indistinguishable from the original game. Not that that’s a bad thing — HM2 could literally be a level pack for the original game and I’d still probably eat it up — it’s just that it would be nice to see something fresh from Dennaton Games’ highly anticipated sequel. Thankfully, it seems the freshness is in there, but it’s mostly hidden within the new mask choices.

For the uninitiated, Hotline Miami is, at its core, a game about running into an area and quickly killing all the enemies before they kill you. Everything happens at incredibly high speed, making death a constant occurrence and multiple retries an important part of learning your way around the game. Oh, and you’re a masked killer, and every mission is a hyper-violent 2D blood bath that ends with the floors and walls splattered in red.

In the original game, the mask you chose would give you a small bonus. It was something helpful and noticeable enough, but it wasn’t necessarily a game-changer. In Hotline Miami 2, the masks have been expanded into full-fledged characters with their own unique mechanics. Corey, a Zebra-masked character, offers up the stock Hotline mechanics with a new roll dodge added in. Tony, a Tiger-masked character, can’t pick up any weapons, but his fists kill in one hit, making him perfect for melee-focused runs.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

From there things get a bit crazy. The twins, two swan-masked killers, give you access to both a gun and a chainsaw in one character. You control the chainsaw-wielding twin while the other follows automatically. These characters have their own weapons, so they can’t swap weapons as they find them, but they can at least collect ammo along the way. The downside to having two weapons is that you’re also two targets, and if one dies it’s game over for both.

The demo I played also offered a mask featuring dual-wielded uzis. This gives you the ability to adjust your weapon spread, from firing directly in front of you with both weapons to firing completely at your sides in two directions. I can’t even imagine the action movie-fueled madness skilled players will be able to create with this character.

The point is that Hotline Miami 2 is shaping up to be even more replayable than the original, since it offers several very different ways to play. If the game gets anywhere near the number of masks as the first game while offering these interesting differences in mechanics, it will be a really impressive showing.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Still, if you stick with the starting mask, HM2 is quite similar to the original. If you didn’t like that game, or had your fill, I’m not sure the sequel is going to sway you. I’ll be interested to see how the game evolves from level to level. I didn’t notice any new enemies in the new game, though they have been mentioned, so I can only hope some other variations find their way into the final game.

And if it doesn’t change things drastically, I know there are plenty of you who will be more than thrilled with new levels and masks to play with. The gameplay is as sharp and fun as ever, and yeah, that music is still phenomenal.

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