Hotline Miami 2 Preview: The Same, But Better

Using the Tiger Mask had the effect of completely changing how I went about surviving the round. Instead of trying to kill someone and take their weapon, I had, essentially, to sneak around, luring enemies near me and killing them as close to one at a time as I could, much harder than when the issue is just that you can’t yet find a gun. (I next played using the zebra mask which functioned much as we’re used to from Hotline Miami, and I was able to shoot a bit.) I was told this diversity of effect was typical, and though the Dennaton wouldn’t discuss plot points, they did explain that the Fans are using the original masks from the first game, now horribly tattered likely due to previous wear and tear and, possibly, to being stolen from evidence lockers. Perhaps that explains the change in-universe, but we’ll have to wait and see for ourselves.

As I said, story details were scant, but it was confirmed that the game will play around with narrative and continuity even more than the original, taking place before, and after the events of the original. Meanwhile, controls appear much smoother as well, though this may simply be the natural result of tweaks and improvements made during the first couple of months after the launch of Hotline Miami. In any event I felt that I had much more control over the character even with WASD (which, as regular readers should know, I have always struggled with.) The demo lasted a mere 20 minutes, so it wasn’t possible to get a full understanding of even part of the game, but I can report it was exactly as I remember, but better.

Last but not least is the soundtrack. The nicest surprise from Hotline Miami is that it had a soundtrack that was mindblowingly good, and would have been even if it had been a full-on AAA. An instant classic evocative of soundtrack from Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive, it perfectly captured the tone of the Scarface version of Miami, Florida, and every track from that game has been on my iPod on heavy rotation ever since. I heard 4 tracks during the demo – two loading/title screen tracks, and two from within levels – but if they’re any indication, Hotline Miami 2 will top the music in the first game.

Alas, they wouldn’t provide any advance copies of the soundtrack for me to listen and TOTALLY NOT DUPLICATE FOR MY FRIENDS I SWEAR, so I can only say that if you like Kavinsky, Giorgio and Jupiter, or the previous game’s music, you’ll be hi-fiving your ears. But I fully anticipate that Hotline Miami 2′s soundtrack is going to be the year’s best: unless it turns out Fez 2 is due in 2013.

And that’s basically it. 20 minutes with Hotline Miami 2 flew by like seconds, and I left the demo convinced Dennaton has managed the unlikely task of capturing lightning in a bottle twice. Better still, it was confirmed in the demo (and now, everywhere) that there will not be a Hotline Miami 3, a nice change from the endless iterating dominating the gaming industry. Whether it lives up to the expectations instilled by the brief hands-on remains to be seen, but with the exception of Grand Theft Auto V and Total War: Rome II, there’s no game I’m looking more forward to playing.

Hotline Miami 2 is due out on PC and “other platforms” TBD later this year.

Read more of Ross Lincoln’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.

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