HM2 Wrong Number Notes

May 13, 2022

This one's pretty fugly, sorry about that. I use a lot of special formatting in my notes. give me more money and I'll make the markdown-->HTML converter better ;) Note to the reader: I'm not gonna publish Hotline's source code. You'll have to take my word for what I put in the script or find the code yourself.

Script To-Do

Edit To-Do

[x] Gungeon footage, focus on rolls. [ ] Adjust the website CSS so h3 doesn't look like shit. [x] Rerecord "like putting a table together" part [x] Rerecord "on par with forgettable Phone Hom level" part

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Context, tutorial, general introductory stuff.


ACT 1: Exposition

1. Down Under (Fans) 2. Homicide (Pardo) 3. Hard News (Jake) 4. Final Cut (Pig Butcher)

Vertical slice, """phenomenological critique."""


ACT 2: Rising

5. First Trial (Evan) 6. Moving Up (Fans) 7. No Mercy (Henchman) 8. Execution (Fans)

Story and themes, sketch.


ACT 3: Climax

9. Ambush (Beard) 10. Into the Pit (Fans) 11. Dead Ahead (Pardo) 12. Death Wish (Fans)

Character mechanics


ACT 4: Falling

13. Subway (Evan) 13b The Abyss (Evan) 14. Stronghold (Beard) 15. Withdrawal (Jake) 16. Casualties (Beard)

A nuke??????!!!!! Hawaii, significance of the war as nexus of the violence in the present.


ACT 5: Intermission

17. First Blood (Richter) 18. Demolition (Richter) 19. House Call (Richter) 20. Release (Richter)

Level design


ACT 6: Catastrophe

21. Seizure (Son) 22. Blood Money (Son) 23. Caught (Pardo) 24. Take Over (Son)




Replayability S-ranks, the difficult combo in level 2. Does the game succeed?

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A rough outline, sometimes followed sometimes not.


- Establish the critical reception of HM2 It was seen as a disappointment in 2015 BUT has been "critically rehabilitated" more recently.

- Much of Hotline 1 and its appeal carry over
HM2 is bigger in practically every way. Hard to say it's "more refined" overall but it is in many small ways.

- Establish the "critical task" the video aims to perform

- The aesthetic is very similar but presented more somberly: "hangover"


Act 1 ("Vertical Slice")

- Wholistic critique of the first four levels.
Detail-packed cutscenes Character mechanics are a good idea executed so-so. Music choices fit each character Mismatch of new design and old design—combos, character mechs...

- The game's first impressions gameplay-wise are bad
Level design issues are immediately apparent. The first few levels introduce the game's weakest characters. It's good to dole out the cool stuff over the course of a playthrough, but it gives us little to start with. - The technical issues Stress that these grate on you for the entire game.


Act 2 (Themes and Plot)

- What does Wrong Number say thematically & how does it differ from HM1?
HM1 was straightforwardly about the catharsis and animal joy of killing. HM2 tasks itself with digging at the roots of violence. - Get into the characters we've seen so far. HM2 is also self-consciously a sequel. - Plot-wise, HM2 is much more complex than the original Introduce the three timelines, the characters in each with a graphic.

- HM2 actually has a very complex story and an ambitious goal for a game.
Is this why it's been rehabilitated?


Act 3 (New Systems, New Problems, the Critical Response)

- (Lead in from previous section): HM1 had a simple plot that was reinforced by compelling, simple combat and an overwhelming aesthetic. Since HM2 is attempting something new in terms of its plot and themes, the game design needs to be changed to reflect these new themes. HM2 tries to diversify the experience, and bring us into the new characters by twisting the mechanics in various ways.

- Specific issue with Hawaii: When Beard switches weapons there's a delay before you can switch back. That's OK but it feels like a glitch, an interruptable weapon switching animation would fix.

- Good and bad with the character system
When it works it's very compelling. Many of the characters are just worse versions of Jacket. - Test footage goes here.

- Homogenization of new-player playstyles
Differences between low and high level play Issues with the ground kill and combo interactions - Important because combos are the only way to get S ranks - Combos are stressed in HM2; the counter is always on screen. Lack of communication/incentive to play the game "properly"

{— - Why the critical response? Initially: stands in the shadow of HM1, people play it like the first game Now: played on its own merits, 'fresh' - OR: The content mill revitalizing it because it's a "hidden gem" with a "complicated story" - Could spin this into a critique of the YouTube content machine more generally. —}

- THE PROBLEM: Severe, constant technical issues Almost all of HM2's mechanics has some kind of grating little problem that makes the game immensely frustrating.


Act 4 (Level Design, Good Story Ideas in Hawaii)

- THE PROBLEM: Level design issues
Some examples from previous levels & progress the video to a new level The Hawaii levels are generally examples of the worst of HM2's level design, in its coolest setting. {== Important point: levels are so big there's sometimes no way to tell if you've killed an enemy. ==} Hawaii levels sport extremely ugly, harsh textures at times. Realism was an aim of the game's level design. Often for the worse. - It "interrupts" the hyperreal synthwave aesthetic - Many of the levels turn out bland-looking (parking garages, Hawaii barracks level...)

- The plot-thematic significance of the Hawaii levels It's nice to go over the good ideas in HM2, and in terms of contextualizing the first game the Hawaii levels are a great success. Explain the conflict, cf. the first review. The Hawaiian conflict is the nexus and origin point for the events of both games: - Jacket is on Beard's team, gets the photo from HM1 ending. - The Fans can be seen at the bar - Evan working as a journalist - The idea for Fifty Blessings Shades of ambiguity: Beard's commander is not a bad person but he seems to succumb to a kind of nihilistic worldview in his monologue. On its face, it makes sense that a war would trigger all of this horrific violence. {== might be a good spot to comment on the mental and physical horrors of war and of being a soldier ==} [^1] - Do the gameplay, plot, themes harmonize in any meaningful way? Succesful characters give some depth to the plot Game's themes are too complex to really tie in with the gameplay - Thematically, Wrong Number digs at the roots and manifestations of violence. The best it can hope for is to break violence down into species... the good characters try to do this but it's hampered by the simple gameplay of HM and the Homogeneous Strategy.


Act 5 (Structure and Structural Issues)

- Richter's story... HM2 answering questions nobody asked.

- Structure of the story
The game basically has no steam at this point. Act 4 ends with a nuke ffs. Half-way through the game the Fans are all dead. They were the closest thing we had to a throughline in the plot, so we're left with a whole bunch of little story strands. It feels like the end, but HM2 subverts our expectations for no particular reason: the game's not even half over. Does the game do this on purpose? It relays that this is all ultimately a pointless procedure. Does this tie in with Richard-as-Fate? The second half of the game has the same feel as a second playthrough in most other games. The experience appears to us as something complete which we're revisiting. The game blows its load and never manages to re-establish whatever tension it had. - Pacing issues, comparing both games HM1 and HM2 strike the same balance of combat and story. They even have similar ratios between time spent dying in levels and time spent winning in levels. BUT in absolute terms HM2 is significantly larger than HM1. - Auxiliary effects of HM2's size: All level-based games have a set cycle of tension and release. In a Hotline Miami level, dying resets all of your progress on a given screen. Once you beat a level, your progress is saved and this is sort of a break from the high-intensity stuff. HM1 was built around very short, compact levels. This incentivized playing experimentally and just barging into every encounter to see what the game would allow. HM2 has much longer levels and much longer screens within those levels. Progress is saved relatively rarely. The more frustrating nature of HM2's levels combined with their length again pushes the player toward bait-and-clear more and more as each level progresses. If HM2 had more short screens it might incentivize players to be a little more adventurous. Also, HM1 is a fun game to blast through in a few hours. HM2 is built up as something more substantial and serious, but it takes the first game's scoring and combo systems whole cloth. - Replaying levels fucking sucks (tie into last point above) Why can't I pick any character to replay a level with? - Leaderboard issue: only count vanilla characters for leaderboards. - Sprite issue: I don't buy it, surely they could use the existing enemy & weapon matches for each character and just slot them into the level. Why does every single menu option move so incredibly slowly? - Speedrunners have to just memorize the level select menu.

Act 6 (What Hotline Miami 2 Meant)

- HM2 is not a misunderstood masterpiece.

- More lore: The Son
blah blah - Pardo

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General Notes


maybe comment on the general hypnagogic quality of it too

Random stuff

Evan's Berserk mode puts the Hawaii filter over the screen (at least I think it's the same one.)

More on Evan: NG+ cutscene he asks who Richard is, he replies "I am the opposite of why you are writing your book. I'm something you will never understand"

While the emotional range of the music is bigger this time around, the only significant division is between gameplay and cutscene—gameplay music is still universally "action-y" but curated for each character. If the game did enough to differentiate characters in other ways it would be a pretty awesome detail.

HM Website: Selling Points

Hotline Miami Website

HM2 Selling Points:

RELENTLESS HOSTILITIES Adjust combat techniques as the narrative shifts between factions and brings unique variations to a familiar approach along with new weapons, movements, and melee attacks.

ENTHRALLING SOUNDTRACK Over forty pounding tracks from dozens of artists punctuate the savage conflict and bring the larger scale of your actions into focus. New artists join returning favorites like M|O|O|N, Perturbator, Jasper Byrne, Scattle, and El Huervo for an incredible audio massacre.

CUSTOM LEVEL EDITOR Design custom levels using characters, enemies, weapons and music tracks from the game and share your creations with others online via Steam Workshop.

HM1 Selling Points:

REVEL IN VIOLENCE Breakneck gunplay in bloodstained neon corridors. Wield 35 different weapons - from shotguns and assault rifles to katanas and lead pipes - everything is at your disposal.

SURREAL & GRITTY STORYLINE Set in an alternative 1989 Miami, you will assume the role of a mysterious antihero on a murderous rampage against the shady underworld at the behest of voices on your answering machine.

DISTINCTIVE STYLE Hotline Miami’s unmistakable visual style, a driving soundtrack, and a surreal chain of events will have you question your own thirst for blood while pushing you to the limits with a brutally unforgiving challenge.


Music: ambiguous — something dark bubbles up. Pardo is difficult to get a read on—Richard agrees. It seems like his levels are a mixture of violent fantasies and actual murders. His final level is explicitly a dream. Pardo yearns for attention, not clear to me if he imagines himself as an actor or if the game is making some kind of statement. In his dream sequence he meets himself in the form of a puppet. Pardo believes that he is "forced" to do many of the things he does, and the puppet represents this.

He is the Miami Mutilator who he's investigating.

Review in the Escapist

Escapist review of HM2 Stew Shearer
Bottom Line: Not as good as the original, Hotline Miami 2 delivers a flawed dose of the
high speed ultra violence that’s fun but not essential.

Technical Problems

White cursor white floor Weapons near walls Dog clips into fountain in last level and is inaccessible (might not be recorded) - Highlights general jankiness of the AI Enemies in doorways sometimes can't be hit Enemies stacked on top of player can't be hit Did they redo the enemy AI? Feels very inorganic, buglike, but it could be that we're just exposed to more of it in HM2. - Don't know how to test it, probably shouldn't talk about it.


Evan as an interpreter of HM1? The Fans, duh. Pig Butcher expresses the direction HM2 will not go, as discussed in the Wedin talk. Film motif

Concluding Point

Too many levels, too many characters. Should have tightened up the story with more strongly developed characters and spent the extra time on fixing the myriad technical issues and maybe making the level editor better.

Amnesia Rebirth Review Quote

Before we move on, I have to mention another new mechanic. After the fetus cutscene, Tasi discovers that she is pregnant. This was a bold and ultimately successful choice for her character. We aren’t expected to empathize with Tasi because she talks about being pregnant, but because we interact with the baby. Mechanically, it’s quite simple: you can press x to rub your stomach, but it endears you to the baby because interacting with it rewards you with some sanity.

Although reducing a character to their function may seem insensitive and crass, successful storytelling in games has to be built on the actual systems that undergird the game. In the same way an effective movie is bound by its visuals, games ultimately succeed or fail based on the unity of gameplay with everything else. Everything ‘flows through’ gameplay, so to speak. Elements that don’t enhance the game as a game are superfluous, though this doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Tasi succeeds as a character because her struggles are built into the game; her illness contextualizes death and gives it some continuity. These are simplistic mechanics, but they work without disrupting the game’s momentum.

Russian Mafia

Indicative of HM2's "hangover:" the Russian Mafia is a syndicate in decline. Columbians stole their territory.

Hawaii Dialogue (14, Stronghold)

Dialogue at wiki

The Colonel's monologue (16, Casualties)

Do you see this? ... Can you see my face? This is my true nature! You see, don't you? This is who I am! This is who we all are. We're animals! ... There's no denying it! A bunch of goddamn animals! They're sending us out to slaughter or be slaughtered... And here we sit until they tell us what to do, and how to do it! No will of our own, just mindless obedience! We don't even know why we're fighting now, do we? All we know is that deep down, somewhere in there, we enjoy it. Destruction and violence... it's just part of our nature.

Weapon Pickups

HM1 Weapon Pickups

Usually, first thrown gets picked back up. Fresh weapons are prioritized over thrown ones. Thrown weapons are very bouncy, they don't tend to clump up. Enemies' weapons get thrown a little bit when they're hit or killed.

HM2 Weapon Pickups

First thrown is picked back up Fresh weapons are prioritized over thrown ones. Thrown weapons barely bounce and have a tendency to clump up. Enemies' weapons drop at their feet when they're hit or killed. * More enemies means more weapons overall.



Does he speak to the player?


Does Wrong Number Depart too Much or Not Enough?

It never manages to communicate that it is substantially different from HM1. The gameplay languishes beneath the weight of the original, because it looks and feels the same. It has piles of mechanics that are only there because of HM1, mechanics that are not useful if you're any good at the game.

The character-specific music choices all feel like flavours of the same synthwave thing (with some notable exceptions: Hawaii, Evan lvl 2). Its gameplay maintains the flat nonstructure of HM1 except for Death Wish, Hawaii lvls, and Apocalypse. It is framed like a fast-paced score attack murder-em-up but it exists completely at odds with its story.

Jacket killed because it gave him a rush, so the leaderboard itself can be construed as a thematic element in that game—Jacket is someone imagining themselves as the Driver, he is himself gamifying and glorifying murder. We take on this role which is "concretized" for us through scores/combos/leaderboards/game elements in general.

In HM2 people kill because they hate each other, or they want attention, or they want to consolidate power, or the government makes them. The leaderboards, the combos, the glorification of killing is completely at odds with the nuance that HM2 insists it has. For HM2 to communicate its story effectively it has to stop being fun, and I suppose it half-succeeds. (It doesn't have to stop being fun, rhetorical device.)


NG+ Cutscene Notes

Once we hit New Game there’s a short opening cutscene with a few returning characters and some new ones. There are twelve in all, and we’ll get to know them over the course of the game. This cutscene doesn’t seem to exist in a real space or to come from anyone’s perspective, so it’s more deeply unreal than Hotline 1, which took place specifically in Jacket’s head. This is more like the prologue of an old play {== kind of reminds me of Pathologic ==}, and gives us a glimpse of the characters and a vague sketch of the game’s plotline. Richard is back, but he acts as more of a general symbol this time around, rather than something specific to Jacket.

{== NOTE: Richard is NOT Jacket—see what he says to rat man. Only the guy who fought in a war has “met” Richard before (but Richter hasn’t met him) so Richard symbolizes violence||fate somehow. Flesh this out. ==}

There’s a lot going on here, but all we know for now is that all twelve of these people died and Richard is watching a movie—presumably a movie about them. Starting the game with this cutscene gives the whole plot an air of inevitability, and so does framing the game as a movie—it’s something that can only play out one way.


Release (Richter 4) Transcript

Evan: "Hold on a second, gotta fetch another notepad."

After getting the notepad, he returns to his seat.

Evan: "Alright, I'm back. Continue."

Richter: "So, I'm in there, just waiting for the trial to start... And I can tell you, Time moves slow when you're locked up.

This one day, I get a visit."

Cut to Richter in the visitation area. Dennis and Jonatan enter the building. Jonatan picks up the phone.

Jonatan: "Good Afternoon."

Richter: "Who are you guys?"

Dennis: "I told you he wouldn't recognize us."

Richter: "Why are you here?"

Jonatan: "Tying up some loose ends. Just a little precaution. Seems like it wasn't really necessary."

Richter: "I'm afraid I don't understand."

Dennis: "Oh, we didn't expect you to. While we're here, we might as well say our goodbyes."

Richter: "Goodbyes?"

Jonatan: "Yes, after all you served us well. But it looks like your time's up now."

Richter: "What are you talking about?"

Jonatan: "You'll figure it out, I'm sure."

Dennis: "It was nice seeing you again, but I'm afraid it's time for us to leave. You take care now!"

Both leave.

Richter gets up, leaves the visitation area, and enters the basketball court, where he meets the Prison Boss.

Prison Boss: Say your prayers, asshole."

Does this imply that J&D set up the events of Release? To do what? Scrub out evidence of Fifty Blessings? Perhaps they just know Richter is going to talk?


Theme Music

Score screen music "Dust" from HM2 echoes "Miami" the score screen theme from HM1.



The story is fighting itself to both depict personal tragedy and comment on society/violence/games. At times it plays at being very human, but is stopped by its head-up-assedness

It has the tone of a critique of society but most of the time it fumbles. Richter is poor but he becomes a vigilante because somebody threatens him, and the Pig Butcher basically gets Alec Baldwin'd just because he wants to make a violent movie, which is a genuinely good thing to do instead of kill a bunch of people.

It succeeds more in its depiction of war; the Hawaiian conflict is explicitly the nexus of all the violence in the series. Every character's motivations are somehow tied to the war, either directly or through Fifty Blessings.


Wedin AMA


The Impossible Combo

Problem isn't that the impossible combo is hard to execute. The timing is so tight that it feels like a glitch, I think very few people would ever figure out how to get the S rank without looking up a video of it.


Less Bad & More Good

Wrong Number has more good, but it also has more bad with technical shit. It also never twists HM1 far enough to match its new, somberer plot—the score system is kind of inappropriate.

HM2 also never revisits the disempowerment of the hospital level in HM1, except for the tepid maze with Beard and Jacket in the last Hawaii level.

Thematic analysis by that guy on the wiki

Preparatory Essay: Why Doesn't Wrong Number Cohere?

Hotline Miami's levels
designed themselves.

HM is a gesamtkunstwerk {== is it? ==}, this is what I was trying to say less-pretentiously with the phrase "sublime violence," the experience of it overflows the screen and makes the player feel as Jacket feels.

Games are unique works of art because they convey experiences AND they are experiences. Cf. Tolstoy, art transfers the feeling of the artist to the receptor.

HM is flawed because it can merely depict what the violence does to Jacket over time—the hospital level tries to communicate but fails (in my opinion). It relates to us through the same mechanical palette as the main levels and so appears as over against them rather than contiguous with them and a necessary consequence of them. It is merely an unfun level rather than the culmination of previous actions, context is given merely through story rather than the gestaltic experience.

The end-of-level reversal is better, but shallow. It is shocking once, and easy for the player to swallow thereafter. That Susan Sontag book might be a good reference for the innefectuality of violence
merely_ depicted. 9/11 was "like a movie:" violence as confusing and abstracted rather than seen in its concrete/immediate form where it remains impossible to rationalize but this only makes it more horrifying.

Though it's worth pointing out that the US social mind was producing disaster movies about terrorists blowing up skyscrapers for years, so that could have something to do with the perceived movieness.

I have to admit to myself that the critical line that HM is a critique of video game violence may just be wrong. It is violence-negative in a certain sense but clearly respects violence as a game design tool and understands that it is fun to kill virtual nonpeople. The tension is unresolved, which I suppose is a success at conveying Jacket's view. cf. the masks, the puking at the very beginning, his inner self-judges.

In a sense Wrong Number is a movement that unifies the fun and the not fun into one big pile of mud.

Are games dumb? Is there a world where Wrong Number could communicate the things it intends to, or does it ask too much of the medium?

If it were fun, that would be a good first step. One of the game's incoherences manifests itself in moment-to-moment gameplay. The core is still compelling, still Hotline Miami, but bogged down with the glitches and weapon pickup bullshit—constant oscillation between great and not.

HM is built for speed—fast music, combos, neon pulses, guns and violence with fast deaths and instant restarts. But HM2 levels are longer: go slow, more to lose. More lines of sight: go slow, consider your path carefully. Weapon pickup: go slow, stop and try to get the weapon you want. Offscreen enemies: go slow, backtrack and check for threats. An expert player can almost find the core appeal of the game, but reception at the time proves that most players couldn't.

So: Contradiction: the game tells you to go fast but you can't. Immensely frustrating.

Contradiction: trying to communicate diverse characters with extremely homogenous mechanics.

{++ POINT ++} Authorial intent, and who even is the author? Is the developer's intent right, or is the player's experience right?

The idea is to bring those things into harmony, this is game design.

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Video Timestamps

Levels (First Playthrough)

file time name lvl# rank notes? HM2-00 05:50 Down Under 1 A+ HM2-00 11:26 Homicide 2 B+ HM2-00 17:40 Hard News 3 B+ HM2-00 26:40 Final Cut 4 B

HM2-02 01:57 Down Under 1 A+ HM2-02 07:06 Homicide 2 A HM2-02 11:46 Hard News 3 A- HM2-02 17:55 Final Cut 4 B+

HM2-03 02:09 First Trial 5 C HM2-03 11:20 Moving Up 6 A-

HM2-04 01:00 No Mercy 7 B- HM2-04 11:44 Execution 8 A+

HM2-05 3:20 Ambush 9 B+ HM2-05 11:21 Into the Pit 10 A+

HM2-06 00:58 Dead Ahead 11 A-

HM2-07 02:29 Death Wish 12 B HM2-07 26:47 Subway 13 B+

HM2-08 01:52 Stronghold 14 B+ rank shows up in HM2-09

HM2-09 03:42 Withdrawal 15 B- failed the last screen HM2-09 17:03 Casualties 16 C

HM2-10 02:38 First Blood 17 A- HM2-10 07:42 Demolition 18 B HM2-10 16:14 House Call 19 S

HM2-11 01:04 Release 20 C

HM2-12 02:50 Seizure 21 A+ HM2-12 27:30 Blood Money 22 B HM2-12 40:17 Caught 23 B-

HM2-13 00:57 Take Over 24 B+ hit rewind. Mistake? HM2-13 48:07 Apocalypse na na


Levels (Other Playthroughs)

file time lvl# rank HM2-sGrind-07-bikerBar 11:10 14 S



time description(s) 1:06:40 psychedelic well 1:13:40 pan over waterlogged ??? 1:18:08 looks like intestines in the water 1:20:18 something in water 1:25:06 long pan over question-mark water (THIS ONE'S GOOD) 2:21:00 it's raining!!



file time description(s) HM2-00 01:06 The Table HM2-00 41:51 Jacket's Trial HM2-02 15:33 Pig Butcher meets Richard HM2-09 14:58 Colonel's monologue HM2-11 00:00 Dennaton guys talk to Richter in jail HM2-11 15:57 Richter & Evan after Richter escapes jail Evan promises to get plane ticket for Richter's mom Evan reads letter from his wife HM2-11 17:02 The Son & Henchman talk about job at Columbian club HM2-12 37:43 The Son talks to Richard HM2-12 38:29 Pardo cutscene with the doll HM2-sGrind-07-bikerBar 00:00 Evan sets up for post-Subway secret HM2-sGrind-07-bikerBar 05:46 Bar of Broken Heroes HM2-13 57:15 Ending sequence


Glitches, Engine Quirks

HM2-10 16:30 Enemy clips into me or the corner, can't hit each other. HM2-10 18:42 My bullets disappear when shooting through a doorway. HM2-12 47:40 Pardo combo expires during a crit. HM2-techIssuesWithKB,JakeStory Dead Ahead with doorway pickup problems and on-screen keyboard. Jake's final level with onscreen keyboard (A+ grade), Jake's hidden cutscene, Getting the hidden level with Jake/Evan. A little bit of final Hawaii level with flamethrower. Gave up @ screen 2. HM2-sGrind-07-bikerBar 23:10 Dancing glitch & some noises HM2-13 30:26 Dog stuck in the fountain


id time note Jerma CYOA rewind 6:30


[^1]: Interesting point: Jake's final level, where he has potential to learn about the "real" Fifty Blessings is sandwiched between the final two Hawaii levels.