Top-down shooters were all the rage at one point in gaming’s young life. Arcades would be full of them, and then home consoles were on the receiving end of arcade ports of various quality. Once the 3D era of gaming kicked off, top-down shooters started their slow decline into obscurity. They’re still about, sure, and some of them have even done well, but they’re not as popular as they once were. Maybe that’s due to the decline in quality? If that’s the case, The Hong Kong Massacre should serve as a massive wake up call to those lapsed fans back into the genre.
The Hong Kong Massacre takes place in the early 90’s and you play as… I don’t know. I can’t remember if the game even tells you the name of the character you’re playing as. In honesty, I can’t really remember any important details about the game’s plot. It’s completely secondary and not really needed to enjoy the game to its fullest. It takes place in Hong Kong, I know that much!
You play as a cop taking on the bad guys, and that’s all you need to know. It doesn’t matter why you’re getting into mental John Woo-style shootouts. All that matters is that you need to be the last man standing before you can progress to the next level of mass murder and wanton mayhem.
The game is split into days, and each day has a set of levels and a boss encounter at the end of the day. The levels play out with you picking your starting weapon and then being dropped into the level. From here your job is simple: kill everybody, don’t get killed. That sounds overly simple, and that’s because it is. You’re only goal is to take out every bad guy without yourself being shot to death. And death comes quickly in The Hong Kong Massacre. Enemies go down with a single shot, but so do you. One hit and you’re starting the level again. Thankfully the loading times are non-existent and it helps to get you back for “just one more go”. That one more go never is just one more though. Its fast and frenetic action is a blast and I just wanted more of it.
While you’ll no doubt die plenty of times in The Hong Kong Massacre, each death is an opportunity to learn. Enemy placement isn’t random so you’ll soon learn where the baddies are. You’ll clear one room perfectly before being killed from the guy at the window. You start again, clearing the room in a slow-motion dive, and then you pop the sneaky twat at the window who clocked you last time. It’s very satisfying.
It’s a difficult game but you do have a few tools at your disposal. The game’s slow motion mechanic can be triggered at will with a squeeze of the left trigger. It’s metered but it’s very generous in that the meter lasts a good 10-15 seconds and is replenished in a fraction of that time. It’s a bit of a crutch for us old men to rely on, but it’s a welcome one.
Then there’s the diving mechanic which, when combined with slow motion, is a monster. You dive by tapping R1. When you’re diving around, you can’t be hit by any bullets. Again, another crutch, but one that’s necessary to the game’s over-the-top visual style and chaotic gunplay.
Guns can be upgraded, but getting the points to upgrade them is not an easy task. Each level you complete gives you one star, which I call a point because I’m stuck in the past. Each level also has three challenges that award extra points. More points means more weapon unlocks and more upgrades. Getting these extra points, however, is a ballache. There’s a timed challenge where you need to complete the level under a certain time. Another gives you a point for completing a level without using slow motion, while the last challenge demands absolute precision as you kill everyone in the level without missing a single shot.
Players wanting the most out of The Hong Kong Massacre will no doubt rise up to the challenge, but I’ve already kissed my chance at a Platinum trophy goodbye. I managed to get a couple of levels done without using the slow motion, but I just can’t do the rest. I’m an old man.
Visually, The Hong Kong Massacre is great. There’s a lot of detail crammed into each level and when it all kicks off and the bullets start spraying and the glass starts shattering, it’s easy to lose your read of the room and become distracted by all of the effects going on around you. It looks great and I’m a big fan of the stylish setting. One sore point, however, is in the game’s cut scenes. They’re few and far between but when they roll around they’re so out of place. They look absolutely awful. Almost as if they were uploaded to YouTube and then downloaded using a poor third-party app, replacing the HD pristine with 360p and an awfully low bitrate. It doesn’t have any adverse affect on gameplay, mind you, but if you somehow manage to find yourself invested in the story, this is an annoyance.
I’m still not done with The Hong Kong Massacre and I don’t think I ever will be. Those challenges are just too damned difficult, but playing the game is just too fun to stop playing. I rarely say this, but when’s the sequel?
The Hong Kong Massacre PS4 Review
The Hong Kong Massacre is a treasure of a game. It’s basically John Woo’s Stranglehold, but as a top-down shooter, and as Stranglehold is one of my favourite game’s of the PS360 era, that’s the highest praise I can give it.
Very satisfying gameplay (one more go, I promise!)
Looks amazing in motion (and slow motion)
Non-existent loading times
Really poorly done cutscenes
A story that’s hard to follow
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)