In fact, it has everything that made Hotline Miami so brilliantly bloody – and then it adds more. More characters, more emphasis on narrative, more enemies, more weapons, more underground electronica bands, more masks and more ladies. Playable ladies.
In a demo at E3, one half of Dennaton Games, Denis Wedin, showed off two new, playable characters in Wrong Number: the Pig Butcher and the Fans. The Pig Butcher starred in an early trailer for Hotline Miami, and he's a throwback to the mass murderers of classic '90s slasher movies. That trailer begins with the disclaimer, "Based on true events," because it's for a horror film within the Hotline Miami universe, where these vigilante rampages truly did go down.
The Fans really are the fans, Wedin said.
"They symbolize the players that want Hotline Miami 2 to be exactly like Hotline Miami 1," he said. "They collect masks and get phone calls – and that will be in there, but we don't want to make the same game one more time. We're trying to work with different storylines and what motivates the characters to actually go inside a building and start killing people."
After the demo concludes, Wrong Number makes it clear that "more emotion" doesn't equate "less violence."
Wedin admits the Hotline Miami tutorial was "pretty shitty," so the Wrong Number demo opens up with a fresh tutorial that Dennaton integrates directly into the storyline. It stars the Pig Butcher, on an easy rampage through standard Hotline Miami levels – a top-down view through multi-colored, neon rooms, smacking enemies upside the head with a bat and watching the blood pool around them. The Pig Butcher travels down a set of stairs and finds a girl, alone, scared and at his mercy. He moves to do unspeakable, gruesome things to her and then – "Cut!"
The Pig Butcher is more than a throwback to Hollywood gore – he's an actual actor playing the twisted villain in a '90s horror movie. The director jumps on set to praise the Butcher, and encourages him to be rougher, more violent, more menacing. Then he tells him to find a way to stay in character during breaks in filming. Surely that won't go wrong.
The game picks back up with the Fans enjoying a Hotline Miami-themed party. Everyone wears animal masks, but the leader claims he has the actual mask from the first round of murders, and as he talks it's highlighted on the right side of the screen, torn up and bloodied. As the party heats up, it gets out of hand, and the Fans hop in a van, hoping to catch some real-life Hotline Miami action. Spoilers: They find some. Rather, they create some.
They infiltrate the headquarters of a local bad man and, playing as one of the Fans, our demo-er (Wedin's younger brother, Rasmus) starts taking out bodyguards and roaming houseguests with his bat. And then he dies, and starts again. And again. And again. He restarts this particular area a dozen times, each one with a slightly different strategy of hiding around corners, taking out unsuspecting people, and dodging sprays of bullets. He kills a few enemies in one hit, while others take a second blow, but mostly he just comes close to finishing the level. And this isn't the only stage he has to restart.
Watching someone near the development of Wrong Number fail these levels over and over is intense in the most wonderful way. I'm on the edge of my seat with each run-through, wondering if, this time, he'll move through that doorway at the right moment, or if he'll pick up that guard's gun, or if he should try killing that guy from the other side. Wrong Number, it appears, is trickier than Hotline Miami.
The Fans eventually find the crime boss, drugged out of his mind and babbling nonsense, slouched over on a couch. One Fan hits him upside the head and he partially comes to his senses, mumbling phrases a child might after realizing the van he got into isn't taking him home and wondering why someone would lie to him that way. He pleads for his life. The Fans raise their bats and beat him to death. The demo ends.
"We want to work with other feelings than just being disturbed or feeling awesome," Wedin says. "They're still in there, a lot of disturbed stuff and things to make the player feel great when they finish a stage, but we also want to see if we can add some bit of sadness to the game. This is the last game; it's the finale for Hotline Miami. We're gonna work with how you cope with things ending. All of our characters in the game, they're all going to meet the end of their mission or life or dreams. We're going to see how you cope with that."
The demo is backdropped by music from Pertubator, one of the composers behind Hotline Miami. Wrong Number features a few repeat artists on the soundtrack, but it also has some new talent, curated from people reaching out to Wedin and Dennaton's other half, Jonatan Söderström.
Wrong Number has 20 chapters, though Wedin won't divulge how many playable characters it has. He says Dennaton plans to reveal them as the game nears launch later this year – but at least one of them is a girl. And I bet we'll see more of the Pig Butcher: The final note from his director was to prepare for Thursday's scene, where he throws the girl in the car.
Wrong Number is due out for PC, Mac and Linux in late 2013, and Dennaton is in talks for consoles, including Vita.