The Hong Kong Massacre  – Review
Follow Genre: Twin-stick shooter
Developer: Vreski
Publisher: Untold Tales
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4
Tested on: Switch

The Hong Kong Massacre – Review

Site Score
Good: Tight and responsive gameplay
Bad: Writing could have used some polish
User Score
(3 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.3/10 (3 votes cast)

It’s not often that a game can draw you in based on its title alone, but a title like The Hong Kong Massacre certainly speaks to the imagination. Add in that developer Vreski has stated that the game is inspired by both classic action movies and titles like Max Payne and Hotline Miami, and you’ve got a game that is certain to garner attention based on its premise alone. Still, having an interesting premise alone isn’t enough, so we were curious to see whether Vreski and publisher Untold Tales would deliver. 


With a narrative that’s both mysterious and engaging, The Hong Kong Massacre certainly knows how to captivate one’s attention. The story is structured around a police interview, with the protagonist, a former detective, recalling the events of the previous days, and the levels themselves acting as flashbacks of sorts. The protagonist recalls his four-day long chase of the mysterious “Two-Headed Dragon”. It’s a story of vengeance, as our protagonist wants to deliver justice for his partner, who was brutally murdered. We won’t delve into too many details, but with a title like The Hong Kong Massacre, you probably have somewhat of an idea of the events that transpire.  

While the story approach itself is fresh and really manages to capture the atmosphere of an action flick, we have to admit that the writing isn’t what it should be. Apart from the grammatical errors that were present throughout the on-screen text, the dialogues didn’t always feel natural and were often devoid of any emotion. Still, the story scenes did enough to create a deep enough level of immersion to make you care about the protagonist’s motivation. 


The Hong Kong Massacre goes for a cinematic aesthetic that works fairly well, especially when played in docked mode. While the cutscenes are limited and often feature very little movement, what’s present here looks fantastic, with beautiful and eerie lighting effects and 3D models that look uncannily realistic. Actual gameplay footage is less impressive, mainly because it’s often difficult to see what is going on, especially in handheld mode. The game never pushes the Switch to its limits, and the dark rooms that are barely lit tend to hide some of the lesser visual fidelity, at the cost of also losing gameplay clarity. You’ll often find that you’ve been hit by a stray bullet that you didn’t even see coming because of this issue. Adding to this is the fact that on-screen text is very small, and often barely legible in handheld. 


Contrasting with the atmosphere that is delivered through story and cutscene aesthetics is the bland and lacklustre soundtrack. The synth music feels very generic and lacking. Given the game’s cinematic approach, we would’ve expected a soundtrack befitting of an action flick. As such, the soundtrack for The Hong Kong Massacre feels like a missed opportunity. 


The least we can say about The Hong Kong Massacre is that the gameplay caught us by surprise. The core experience delivers what you’d expect from a top-down twin-stick shooter, but from the opening stage of the game it quickly becomes clear that this title is brutal. The player character might be quick with guns, and able to take down enemies at a breakneck pace, but he’s also inherently vulnerable, and getting shot down yourself is something that happens quickly and often, especially early on, while you’re still getting acquainted with Hong Kong Massacre’s mechanics. Memorization is key here, as you’ll want to familiarize yourself with where enemies are hiding so you can go in guns blazing and making sure every shot counts.

Ammo is limited and while you are able to improve your weapon arsenal as you progress through the game, you’ll need to get through those early levels first. A single bullet is able to take you out so playing through a level is more often than not a matter of trial and error as you figure out which enemies to take out first and where to take cover. Thankfully, the controls are tight and responsive, and fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy going on a killing spree. The Hong Kong Massacre’s core experience provides a solid but unremarkable take on the twin-stick shooter genre. The game pretty much relies on its difficulty and the introduction of a standout feature; a Matrix-style slowdown mechanic. The aim of this mechanic is to buy you more time to react to enemy movement but this ability is, of course, limited in use. Still, there is an inherent sense of coolness to watching your character backflip in slow motion while taking out enemies.

The game is structured around missions and each mission provides you with a set of challenges apart from the main goal. Challenges are optional but clearing them rewards you with stars, which you can subsequently spend to upgrade your weapons cache. The challenges don’t stray too far out of the box and involve goals such as clearing a mission within a certain timeframe, maximizing bullet efficiency or clearing the mission without relying on the slow down mechanic. Meanwhile, missions give you much more freedom, and typically just tell you to kill everything in sight in any which way you prefer. While challenges do increase the game’s longevity, we couldn’t help but feel they were also cumbersome and more often than not it was more fun to ignore them and instead clear the mission in a more efficient way. 

That said, while there is some decent variety in gameplay itself, the missions usually boil down to taking out every single enemy in a level. Unfortunately, the level designs occasionally become an issue, and we had to actually search for a final henchman that was somewhere in the maze-like structure we were shooting up. The stage design wasn’t always optimal and we would’ve preferred a more realistic and straightforward approach when it came to a building’s layout. This could’ve been easily solved by simply adding an on-screen map but unfortunately, the game lacks this feature and the multi-room apartments often felt disorientating as a result. 


The Hong Kong Massacre is a bit of a mixed bag. We were fond of the gameplay, especially the slow-down mechanic, but the lacklustre soundtrack and poorly written dialogue made us feel like the game could have used some more polish. The visual issues were somewhat mitigated by playing the game in docked mode rather than handheld, and we imagine visual performance to be better on a different platform. If you can overlook the aforementioned issues and just want to get stuck in guns blazing, then The Hong Kong Massacre might just be up your alley. 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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The Hong Kong Massacre - Review, 4.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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