I love Hotline Miami. The series is easily one of the most brutally violent l games ever played. Which shouldn’t make sense since most of the characters are never more detailed than glorified stick figures. But it is, and probably will be for some time now (I refuse to play Hatred because of what it represents). But its complete and total brutality isn’t why I love it, I love it because of what it tries to represent through its gameplay. That is to say, the concept of non-violence through the lenses of hyper violence.
Hotline Miami 2 is as hard as it is brutal. Everything about it seems to revel in its hyper violence. Heads can be completely cut off, a couple of shotgun shells have been pumped into several mobsters, and at one point I think I dismembered a dude with a chainsaw. And that makes up of the majority of the levels, it’s all a bloody blur. At its peak Hotline is complete and total adrenaline rush. Its soundtrack drives the player forward and mirrors the brutality of their actions as they clear each room. But then everything stops. The tunnel vision, the music, the need to use weapons. All that is left is the player and the death and carnage they have dished out. It makes everything seem, kind of disturbing.
But then there’s Evan, the writer/reporter. Evan’s levels are probably the most difficult to get through because of one particular quirk, he doesn’t kill anyone. Keep in mind that this is a game where chopping people in half or shooting six or so rounds into a clump of enemies is business as usual. But Evan seems to operate under the same rules that a normal person would (i.e. he’s not a psychopath like literally everyone else). Consequentially this makes him the only person with any sort of morals or redeemable character traits to speak of. In addition the music in the levels that include Evan are comparatively low key. Below are two different songs, the first is from was is probably the more brutal levels that involves four different characters (technically five). The second is the first time we are introduced to Evan.
Notice that the first video is a hyper in your face propellant for the actions of the characters (and by extension your actions). It drives you forward as you clear four different areas of enemies. Evan’s by a comparison is still propulsive, but not in the same way. Its quick and panicky tempo makes sense because, up until this point at least, you were able to outright murder your enemies. That power you had has now been stripped from you. However, you can not only complete the areas as you always had before, but also double your points if you disarm your enemies as you knock them out. So in a game where you can literally tear people in half with a chainsaw, the nonviolent option is the most beneficial from a score standpoint. And in all respects that’s what makes Hotline Miami 2 so interesting, not that it is violent, but what it says about violence. It does all this commentary through the use of gameplay. Something that is not often used in a medium where gameplay is most important.