If you took Hotline Miami, mixed it up with a little bit of Max Payne, and then sprinkled in some John Woo vibes for good measure, you’d get The Hong Kong Massacre. Sounds like a pretty awesome amalgamation of ideas, right? Well, whilst The Hong Kong Massacre certainly has some highs across its high-octane and brutal shooting escapade, some awkward flaws do hold it back a little.
The Hong Kong Massacre puts players into the role of a former police detective that has gone on a bit of a killing spree following the murder of his partner, with Triad members firmly in his sights as he runs and guns his way through a myriad of locales across Hong Kong. The tale is told through a police interrogation that recounts your actions over the previous few days, whilst some ambiguous cutscenes in-between add some cinematic flair to proceedings too. It’s all run of the mill stuff as far as revenge tales are concerned really, though there’s enough going on to keep you invested in the narrative.
Remember how I said that The Hong Kong Massacre feels like Hotline Miami? Well, that similarity will be evident from the get-go for most players, with the top-down, room-clearing, guns-blazing action of the game taking no prisoners from the word go. Each level of the game takes place in a top-down environment where you’ll progress by taking out all of your enemies, with the player able to sneak around, catch enemies off-guard by blasting their way through doors, use the environment to their advantage for cover, and then pick off foes one by one as they look to move on to the next level. It’s a simple formula, but it’s certainly an effective one as far as fast-paced action is concerned.
It only takes one-hit to die in The Hong Kong Massacre, so it can certainly feel tough when you’re surrounded by foes with nowhere to hide. Fortunately, you have a couple of tricks up your sleeve, with the player able to not only dive around the area to evade enemy attacks but also temporarily slow down time to dodge bullets or pick off some unsuspecting foes. It’s a mechanic that was clearly inspired by Max Payne (and John Woo too, of course), but it works really well and adds an excitingly stylish flair to The Hong Kong Massacre’s action. Its use will certainly be imperative to your progress in the game, with some of the latter levels proving especially tough if you aren’t switched on and using your abilities to your full advantage.
The gameplay loop itself is a satisfying one throughout, as is learning the layout of each level, the positions of enemies, and the best plan of action to actually complete them. Whilst action is at the forefront in The Hong Kong Massacre, there’s definitely an element of strategy in place where you’ll find most of your success by actually having a plan (and maybe a bit of luck with trial and error). You’ll also get graded on your performance in a level and the actions you complete during it, encouraging players to not only replay levels to earn additional stars (which can be spent on weapon upgrades) but also play in specific ways – admittedly, there’s not a whole lot of variety to the system, but it does add some replayability for those who want a bit more from the game.
Whilst enjoyable to play though, The Hong Kong Massacre does have a few flaws that stood out. For one, your enemies RARELY miss; not in a ‘this game is very difficult’ kind of way, but in a way where you’ll never quite know whether or not you’re in cover since enemies can seemingly pick you off with ease if they can see a slight glimpse of your body. It’s something that can be difficult to judge in the game’s top-down perspective, especially with things like shootable windows present in each level. It could be a little frustrating, especially when you’re on the cusp of completing a level only to find yourself taken down by a ridiculously accurate enemy.
The controls could be a little fiddly when playing in handheld mode too, with the small analogue sticks of the Joy-Cons not always feeling wholly accurate when lining up shots. There is a bit of an auto-aim function in place that can make your life a bit easier, but it can prove to be a little fiddly and imprecise when trying to scope out multiple targets in quick succession. The same applies to the game’s dodging mechanic, with the player’s movement slightly hindered when coming out of a dive and leaving themselves open to an attack if they’re in plain view.
In fairness, these flaws don’t hinder the experience too much, especially if you play with a Pro Controller where the imprecise controls are less of an issue. For the most part, The Hong Kong Massacre is just pretty fun throughout. However, it is worth pointing out that whilst it mixes up some ideas in its gameplay, it rarely feels original or like it betters the titles that inspired it. Take Hotline Miami for example; whilst The Hong Kong Massacre play a lot like it, it lacks the originality and the slick level design found in Dennaton Games’ release. It’s a GOOD game, but there are better options out there…
The Hong Kong Massacre offers an enjoyable high-octane shooting fix, but it lacks the originality and precision found in similar releases. Don’t get me wrong, it’s satisfying to clear levels of enemies by blasting them away with gunshots and the slow-mo mechanic adds some stylish flair to proceedings too, but it doesn’t do enough to make the game feel significantly better than other titles in the genre.
Still, there’s plenty to like about The Hong Kong Massacre and it’s definitely fun to play through – just don’t expect anything revolutionary as far as its top-down shooting action is concerned.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC