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    Hotline Miami 2: Dial's For Slaughter

    As a critic, there’s an unwritten law against calling a game ‘perfect’. When you got in the zone though, and the music, the visuals, and the horrifying experience of laying down pain all came together, it felt like Hotline Miami was the exact game the developers wanted it to be. ‘Perfect’ was the word that came to mind.

    So where do you go from there? Judging by what I managed to play of Hotline Miami 2 at E3, you don’t go far… because you don’t need to. The basics of the gameplay burst in, kill everyone, maintain a combo, become entranced by the violence that will later sicken you on reflection are the same, but there are little flourishes and changes that make the game feel fresh. While the visual style hasn’t changed, the second level had a few neat environmental details.


    A round clothing rack to the left of the level’s entrance spun when shot, and on one attempt at the section a hoodie came flying off a shelf (I suppose I was in a clothing store when you’re focused on killing in Hotline Miami, you’re not always so aware of where you are beyond where the walls and doors begin and end). The soundtrack remains a highlight, but the music seemed even more intense than in the first pulsating, aggressive, ever so slightly nauseating. Exactly what you'd expect and want, in other words.
    BURST IN, KILL EVERYONE, MAINTAIN A COMBO, BECOME ENTRANCED BY THE VIOLENCE
    BOOM! SHAKE THE ROOM
    It’s hard to say just how much was being shown on the floor beyond the two levels I played, because Hotline Miami 2 isn’t an ideal game to play in a crowded area showing in both the indie and Playstation sections, it was the only Vita game that actually attracted a crowd, and having onlookers patiently wait for you to give up after dying over and over and over again can be a humiliating experience. The first mission gave me a choice of four masks; I managed to try out two of them. The zebra mask allows you to roll around with a tap of the X button, which is a real game-changer I perfected a motion in which I shot a target, rolled into another room before backup arrived, killed the armed man in this room with another forward roll, and quickly beat down his two friends.

    Hotline Miami 2 is still a game about being confident about barging through a door and knowing exactly what to do on the other side of it and the roll ability really accentuates this. The other mask I tried, the bear, gave me access to dual machine guns. When I held L1, the character slowly arced their arms sideways, pointing in different directions so that they could effectively cover two directions at once a move that didn't really come in handy in this early level, but which looked so cool that I kept trying for it anyway. The second level gave me no choice in my mask, and felt very vintage Hotline Miami the same great level design, the same practiced brutality, the same finesse and confidence.

    Hotline Miami 2 is as horrifying and twisted and gratuitously blood-soaked as its predecessor and, hopefully, just as near to perfection.

    BEHIND THE MASK
    Masks are definitely going to change the game more fundamentally than they did in the first. The Tiger mask will still give you immediately lethal punches, but it will also prevent you from picking up weapons no more throwing or shooting. Pick the swan and you’ll control two characters, one with a gun, one with a chainsaw. Classic Hotline Miami.

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