This top-down shooter is an action movie fan’s dream played out in stylish slow-motion.
The Hong Kong Massacre is Hotline Miami meets Max Payne on the set of a John Woo movie, and for the most part it’s every bit as violent and thrilling as that combination sounds. While the minimalist story presentation and some repeated environments and boss fights expose its slightly limited scope, The Hong Kong Massacre consistently delivers a brutal ballet of ballistics that remains gripping from the first shot fired to the last enemy downed.
The Hong Kong Massacre is Hotline Miami meets Max Payne on the set of a John Woo movie.
There’s some semblance of hard-boiled plot backboning the experience – you play an ex-cop out for revenge after his partner was killed by triad gangsters – but it mostly serves as a vehicle for your violent shootouts. It’s told through a series of disjointed cinematics and bar room conversations, with each of the 35 levels serving as a flashback to prior events. The storytelling may be sub-standard, but the shooting is so electrifying and addictive that the only plot you really need concern yourself with is the plot you’ll bury each of your enemies in at the dead triad cemetery.
Each level in this top-down shooter plays out in much the same way. One shot is all it takes to kill both you and your enemies (with the exception of the bosses), and thus you must learn through trial and error the placement of each goon before you can choreograph the best and bloodiest path through them in one perfect run. Crucially, you can restart a run just as instantly as you failed it since there’s no prolonged loading time to spark the embers of your frustration from repeated death into full flame. I found the live-die-repeat cycle of to be intensely compelling, and the sense of satisfaction upon completing a level – complete with a gory, close-up kill-cam of the last enemy dispatched – absolutely immense.
Slow and Steady
The Hong Kong Massacre is certainly quite challenging by design, though its unforgiving difficulty is alleviated somewhat by the ability to toggle in and out of slow-motion. You can also perform Max Payne-esque shoot-dodges that also make you briefly invulnerable to enemy fire. Use of the slow-motion ability recharges quickly, and it only took the first couple of levels for me to lock into its pulsing, tempo-shifting rhythm – bursting through a door, slowing time to rattle off a round of assault rifle fire to all corners, and returning to full speed to watch the bodies hit the floor.
The controls feel streamlined to the point of becoming second nature.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about The Hong Kong Massacre is how its spectacular shootouts are pulled off with such simple controls, and this is largely thanks to the context sensitive dive button. The same button that lets you slide along your knees also lets you crash through windows and cartwheel over the top of furniture, all while you’re firing in 360 degrees and decorating the walls with Jackson Pollock paintings made of bad guy brains. Since it requires an intense amount of focus to keep one eye on your enemies and the other on the bullets zipping a handful of pixels away from your skull, it’s great that the controls feel streamlined to the point of becoming second nature.
But not every aspect of The Hong Kong Massacre is on target. While each level is unique in layout and every firefight can play out in numerous different ways, the assets used for the environments themselves are frequently recycled to the extent it’s often hard to distinguish one nondescript office tower floor from the other. More disappointingly, the boss fights that unlock at the end of each set of seven levels are re-skinned rehashes of what’s effectively the exact same duel – it’s a shame there wasn’t more of an effort made to set these climactic shootouts apart.
Yet while there are only 35 levels including the repetitive boss fights, there’s ample incentive to return to those you’ve finished. Points earned by completing challenges in each level can be spent to upgrade your arsenal, which is beneficial for the more populated stages later on. Each set of challenges is always the same; beat the level in a set time limit, avoid the use of slow-motion, or kill all the enemies without missing a shot. While I doubt I’ll ever muster up the fortitude to go for the latter on the hardest levels, the inclusion of these challenges kept me playing The Hong Kong Massacre well beyond its story’s end.