While I gave a 4/5 to Hotline Miami and enjoyed the puzzle-esque ultra-violent psycho trip, the second game didn't catch my attention as much and I found it much more difficult and frustrating than the first one. It is still the same shooter/puzzle, pitting you against horde of enemies and you always need to kill them all to proceed. With a weird story and a large cast of character this game could've been pretty amazing and I really tried to like it, but it just didn't compare.

This time, the game tries to create a story surrounding the events of the first game. You jump through different points in time and you play certain characters (or crews) to accomplish objectives that more or less always involve murdering rooms after rooms of people. All of these characters have their particularities - one, for instance, can't kill enemies and won't use guns, only opting to render them unconscious - others will have special weapons and powers. In the first game, you only had one character and he could use masks to get different abilities, so you chose the one that matched the way you play. In this one, you are pretty much forced to use the character it gives you. You have a few choices of masks here and there, but most of the time, you're stuck.

The characters that can't use guns are the worst. Since everything more or less dies in one hit - except big bruiser enemies - you have to play so carefully when you use them that it's not even funny. The enemy AI is kinda weird since it's not consistent. To defeat armed enemies as a melee character, I mostly just edged around in their line of sight and then they followed me around a corner so I could jump them, sometimes characters will not see you, sometimes they'll spot you from across the screen and snipe you. Fire a bullet and it will aggro enemies seemingly randomly but an NPC that hits a trashcan will bring the whole map on you. They also don't react much to corpses or melee kills so it's not a stealth game.

Other characters are just weird, the duo of chainsaw/gun characters is pretty unreliable since the gun wielder is loosely tethered to you and get stuck in walls and probably won't line his shots just right. The characters with weapons you can reload have you stay in a room with the infinite ammo crate to just keep on firing - they should have infinite ammo or something. And the special masks that grant you some weapons - nail gun, dual miniguns - are almost useless because after the ammo is empty, the gun isn't usable anymore. The map design is a bit more different than in the first game, but some maps just aren't well thought, like one where an enemy with a knife charges you when you're off-screen, not even visible yet.

And like in the last game, the point system is a bit impenetrable, but that's not why I was frustrated by HM2:WN, it's because of the sheer luck - and part skill, I'll admit - that you have to pull of in order to beat some levels. Enemies that usually just walk in circles will leave a room and kill you. Enemies that you thought at the other end of the map will randomly snipe you from outside your field of view. A single guy you've been trying to lure around a corner in order to punch to death will just shoot you the second you move on him. All of that, done thousands of times, with no way to checkpoint in a level, with no easy way out. HM2 is tougher than the first one, and I almost thought the original was too tough for me. Do the math!

AuthorJérémie Tessier