As much as the original game was recognised for its soundscape, it was celebrated—and criticised—still more for its intense graphic violence. For the sequel that seems to have continued as a trend. Earlier in the year, a demo of the game was shown that featured a character known as ‘Pig Butcher’. After going through your typical Hotline Miami level, murdering everything in sight, a post level sequence showed this character threatening sexual assault, before an off-screen director yelled “cut!” revealing the whole sequence to be part of a movie based on the events of the first game. How meta.
Perhaps like the first game’s portrayal of violence, this was an attempt to critique the objectification of female characters in videogames, but a few writers (including Cara Ellison, writing on this site) found it to be in poor taste, making use of an extreme topic to shock, and frankly a bit crass. Dennaton ended up removing the scene from the demo, but when asked if this controversy had affected the development of the game or any of the creative process, Söderström’s answer was simply “No. Not really.”
“At the start of the game, there’s an option to choose whether you want the game uncensored or not,” Wedin adds. “It was stupid to have it in the demo, looking back. It doesn’t really work if you can’t continue playing and see how it works.”
One of the more interesting features of the sequel is the level editor, which is apparently the number one request from fans.
“It’s not fully working yet,” says Söderström. “We need at least another week to work on the features that are missing. We haven’t decided how far we want to take it. Like, it would be cool to add custom graphics and stuff, but then you get these kind of problems with what kind of content users can add to the game, like swastikas or whatever, so we’re not sure we want to do that. We do want to make it so you can create your own storyline, like a campaign. We also want to make it as easy as possible for users to create their own levels, so you don’t have to be good at programming to make anything with the editor. It’s on an MS Paint level.”
Another thing that fans were asking for was the addition of multiplayer, but that is something that has been left out—after all, the Dennaton duo are determined to make games for themselves. The breakneck pace of the game simply wouldn’t work with two players, so cooperative killing sprees are out of the question.
“It’s hard to keep that ‘press R to restart, die repeat die repeat’ with two characters,” Wedin says. “Do both characters die? Or if one character dies, does the other player have to wait?” That, he says, would “break the whole hypnotic vibe of Hotline Miami.”
Hotline Miami 2 recently got bumped from 2014 to ‘early’ next year. “We are in the final stages of our work,” Wedin says, “and then there’s going to be a lot of testing and bug fixing. We’ve been very close to being finished for a long time but we also discussed a lot of stuff that we didn’t have time to make for the first one, like menus and how to design them so they work well in the game. We made our own achievement list, because we didn’t like how Steam’s own achievement notification had weird colours from the game on them. We wanted to make everything in the game cohesive. This is the last Hotline Miami because we’re cramming everything we have in there. I don’t think we can take it any further after this.”
It’s interesting the duo should hint at the end of the Hotline Miami universe. Providing the game is as—or more—successful than the original, where does the studio progress from here? I’m interested as to whether the size of their two-man team restricts them from going as far as maybe they would like.
“We talked a bit about it,” Söderström hedges. “We want to keep it just the two of us, but maybe contracting someone to do something in 3D or whatever... something we can’t do ourselves.”
“We want to keep at least one game that just me and Jonatan are making,” Wedin says. “Maybe a side project that we have creative control over. It’s just an idea, though. We never felt like we wanted more people. Things are way more complicated when there’s more than two people.”