If ever there was a genre of gaming that needs more entries within its limited library, it’s the Wooverse of action games. A world of action born on the rough and mean street’s of China’s single bastion for democracy, Hong Kong’s hardboiled cinematic action has a patron saint in the form of John Woo and his mayhem messiah Chow Yun-fat.
Heck you’ve probably just remembered that back in the Xbox 360 days, the duo lent their talents, likenesses and names to Stranglehold, an underrated explosion of bullets, explosions, and pigeons that is well overdue for a remaster. Outside of that prime example, what else is there? Well here’s a new one for you (sort of): The Hong Kong Massacre.
Whipped up by the Swedish team of Vreski, The Hong Kong Massacre first popped up on PC and PS4 back in January 2019. It’s now out on Nintendo Switch, and while the song remains the same, the added benefit of being able to rip through seedy motels and dingy apartment blocks while you’re on the move is an admittedly sweet incentive.
As a top-down twin-stick shooter, The Hong Kong Massacre stands apart from the rest of the genre pack with a style that makes it feel like the bastard child of Max Payne and Hotline Miami. One bullet is all it’ll take to halt your rampage dead in its tracks, but your enemies are going to have a hard time actually pinning you down with a well-aimed blast of lead.
You’re able to slow down time, dodge-jump past not so friendly fire, and weave your way between weapons, a style of play that emphasises being able to find a golden path between enemies as you land killshot after killshot on them. Trial and error is of course part of the learning bullet curve, but it’s a gameplay loop that’s wonderfully satisfying even when you bite the dust after yet another failed run.
The sheer meaty chunkiness of the action is balanced by The Hong Kong Massacre’s overall challenge, a lethal gambit of high risk for the reward of survival. It’s good stuff, and being able to open a door with a bullet, dive through and temporarily slow the world to a crawl while unleashing a mass exodus of lead into nearby bodies makes for an addictively satisfying experience overall.
On Switch, the action flows smoothly enough. Docked and handheld mode are nearly indistinguishable due to the cinematic frame-rate, although the dark aesthetics of its murky underworld design can make it a touch difficult to see what, where, and who you’re shooting if its an overcast day. If there are any criticisms to be loaded into the magazine, it’s that the story is basically non-existent although this can be forgiven because nobody is buying a game that John Woo would be proud of for an essay on why pigeons have convinced your nearest sociopath to wreck his way through the underworld.
It’s the boss fights which come up short, as each of the duels on offer feel exactly the same. Once you’ve played one pulse-pounding showdown between gun-fu masters, you’ve played them all. But as a pure balls to the wall action experience that you can take with you on a trip and flex your thumb muscles to? The Hong Kong Massacre is a mercilessly enjoyable spectacle that proves just how malleable the twin-stick shooter genre really is.
A slow-motion bullet ballet extravaganza, The Hong Kong Massacre is a lean and mean action gameplay whose core gunplay makes for a satisfying and challenging loop that’ll leave you feeling like a hardboiled action star after every face-off.
Last Updated: January 6, 2021