Hotline Miami 2’s journey from DLC to bloody swansong

By Phil Owen
17 July 2013 14:20 GMT

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number started life as DLC to Dennaton’s violent debut. Phil Owen speaks with the team to understand why its ballet of carnage has been fully fleshed out.

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”Hotline Miami 2 is giving the duo the chance to say things they weren’t able to fit into the first game, but they aren’t leaving anything out this time. The Hotline Miami saga will end here.”

When a developer takes what was supposed to be downloadable content for a game and turn in into a sequel, what are you expecting to get out of it? Well, it depends, I guess.

On one hand, you have Saints Row 4, which was spawned from the Enter the Dominatrix DLC for Saints Row: The Third that never happened, and that game is not really anything like its predecessors, as it grants you super powers and dubstep guns.

Hotline Miami 2, however, is more or less the same experience we received in the original game last year, but with some tweaks. At its heart it’s still that same game where you go into houses full of thugs and murder them to death while leaving large bloodstains all over the damn place. However, Hotline Miami remains a unique, identifiable experience.

It has a new story, naturally, that jumps between characters and takes place before, during and after the original, and the plot that Dennaton has set up here is pretty inspired. As you might expect, your bout of mass murder in the first game kinda made the news. You did, after all, kill lots of dudes and leave blood all over the place.

It can be hard for us to keep in mind that ending lots of digital lives can have a real impact on a place, because we’re so desensitized to it by now, but Hotline Miami 2 shows us that lots of people being killed in a small area in a short amount of time will draw attention.

So the game contains a group of folks who view the original protagonist as a sort of legendary hero, and in a twist that might sound familiar to fans of Tom Six’s Human Centipede franchise, they eventually seek to emulate his actions. Which is probably a bad idea, but it makes for a compelling plot.

But in Hotline Miami 2 there are multiple playable characters and factions, and who you are will have a bigger impact on how the game plays than the various masks did in the first game. For example, Tiger man can’t pick up any of his enemies’ weapons, but he can one-hit-melee kill everyone. But not being able to use a gun is a genuine game changer.

And then you’ve got the Pig Butcher, who is actually the villain in a slasher movie version of the events of the first game, which adds this whole weird meta element to the proceedings.

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The live-action trailer for the first game featured a dude in a pig mask, and Dennis Wedin – one half of the Dennaton team that is producing the game – told me it was actually a trailer for this in-game movie, which explains the “based on a true story” note at the start.

Dennaton is also including an all-new soundtrack this time with some artists returning but also some new names, some of which are actually fans, but more or less Hotline Miami 2 is not really a new experience. It handles a bit smoother, but otherwise you know what you’re getting into here, at least in terms of gameplay.

Wedin promises more emphasis on storytelling and a grander scope than the original. It’s the same sort of gameplay, but with much different presentation, and from talking with Wedin I kinda got the impression this is pretty much where they wanted to go from the beginning.

Hotline Miami 2 is Dennaton pulling back the camera so you can get a better look at the big picture, providing new context for the first game. What we have here is an almost organic extension of the original game such that when you put the two together it could be seen as one complete vision.

But when you wrap this one up, it’s over for good. Hotline Miami 2 is giving the duo the chance to say things they weren’t able to fit into the first game, but they aren’t leaving anything out this time. The Hotline Miami saga will end here. And that’s fitting. They are completing the work they set out to do when they first started creating Hotline Miami, and they’re going to leave it at that.

That’s kinda ballsy for a pair of indie developers who really made their name with this series, but we should count ourselves lucky that the indie scene isn’t so obsessed with sequels as the big boys are. It’s admirable, really.

So far, they’ve sold more than 300,000 copies of the game against what has to be a very small production budget. They have freedom, and they have some cash, and they have a very supportive publisher in Devolver Digital. They can do what they want, and they will.

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