These days gaming is full of vast open worlds, sprawling stories and complex characters, but every now and then it’s great to have a bit more of a straightforward experience and what could be more straightforward than a good old fashioned bullet fest revenge story? The answer is, not much, fans of the eighties and nineties action scene should feel right at home with The Hong Kong Massacre, let’s take a closer look.
Hotline Hong Kong
THKM wastes no time getting down to business, after a quick glimpse at our blood-soaked protagonist we backtrack to four days earlier where, after receiving a tip-off, our hero enters a room, we take control and shoots the crap out of all the enemies in sight. That, in a nutshell, is pretty much the core premise of the game, playing through a series of levels that will increase in size and enemy count as you relive the four days to find out exactly what happened that lead our protagonist to be standing around covered in other peoples body sauce.
The game is played from a top-down perspective and the easiest way to sum this title up is a mix between Hotline Miami and Max Payne with more than a few nods to the classic Jon Wu movies. Each level has the tried and tested formula of just kill every enemy to advance. The enemies won’t go down easily though and it’s one-hit kills all round, that includes you, just one well placed shot from some criminal scum will see you die in a spectacular slow-mo sequence and having to start the level over again.
Dodge, Dive, Dip, Duck and… Dodge!
It’s no secret, you will die a lot in this game, as is the design but fortunately, loading is instantaneous so you won’t get stuck looking at loading bars constantly, this allows the one more try mentality to kick in as you seek to progress through each shoot out. As you retry levels you will become accustomed to enemy placements allowing you to either plan ahead and progress steadily, picking them off one by one or charge in like Arnie on crack and just blast the bollocks off everyone with extreme prejudice. Your core defence against the hail of bullets that will be flying your way will be the use of some Jon Wu inspired flips, dives and slides which allow you to avoid the gunfire and the handy use of a slow down (bullet time) mechanic that can be used in short bursts but has a cooldown mechanic, so don’t get carried away.
This allows for some pretty badass sequences as you slide over a car wielding twin pistols, blasting away at scumbags before doing a fancy Roley Poley, swapping your pistols for the shotgun your latest victim dropped only to land on your feet and pump the next smeg pot full of lead. There are a number of destructible environments allowing for some saucy setups of blasting a guy through a wall then diving through the debris to surprise the next goon who’s just rushed out of the bog with his pants in a bunch to see what all the commotion is about.
Combat, for the most part, is slick and although challenging at first, once you master the dodge mechanic and find your groove the levels flow along nicely and are short and sweet making for nice bite-sized chunks of action. The odd boss fight gets thrown in and sadly these tend to be a bit of a let down as we found they just upset the flow of the overall game. BOSS BATTLES take place on parallel rooftops where the boss is running away from you on one side and you must give chase on the other, shooting across the gaps while sliding and diving to avoid a torrent of gunfire is fun at first but each boss uses this same formula and it soon becomes stale given the fact that these oversized goons take multiple shots to put down.
With a game focused so heavily on gunfights, you’d likely expect a large arsenal of weapons to go along with it, but you’d expect wrong. THKM features just four-gun choices, Twin Pistols, Shotgun, Assault Rifle and Sub Machine Gun. This may seem disappointing but given the formula of the title, these are pretty much all you will need to get the job done. You can only wield one gun at a time but can acquire guns on-site from fallen enemies if you run out of bullets or just want to mix things up mid-level. Each gun type has its own stats and these can be improved by completing challenges within levels. Three stars can be earned per level by completing a level in a set time, having a perfect aim or not using slow-mo.
This, in turn, add’s additional replay value as each star can be obtained individually, you might want to do a run just to finish the level within the time limit then do another to focus on not using slow-mo etc. The more star’s you unlock the more stats you can increase in your weapons and it goes without saying that having a longer range will come in handy for picking off enemies from afar instead of risking it all in close quarters shoot outs.
THKM take a simple approach to storytelling and drip feeds the plot in between missions, we enjoyed this as it kept the focus on the smooth gameplay but gave just enough information to keep us interested in the scenario and ultimately, why we were on this mission. Obviously, we want to avoid any major spoilers but let us just say the plot is somewhat cliche, it won’t break any new ground but is put together well enough to compliment the overall experience.
Performance-wise there is little to gripe about, loading is extremely minimal which is always a bonus. Presentation is slick and well designed with plenty of detail within each level, especially when debris starts littering the place. Controls are simple, left stick moves you around while the right stick aims with core actions being designated to the shoulder buttons and secondary actions placed on the face buttons.
The Hong Kong Massacre is an in your face, pick up and play action fest that doesn’t shy away from its influences. Fans of Hotline Miami will feel right at home but possibly let down by the lack of weapon choices. Action fans will certainly have a good time but the try, die, try, die, try, succeed formula may be off-putting for some. We enjoyed what THKM had to offer despite it being a niche formula, and would recommend to anyone looking for an addictive pick up and play shooter to enjoy in short bursts.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 26/12/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Arcade, Action, Shooter
Publisher: Untold Tales
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop