The Hong Kong Massacre mashes up John Woo with Hotline Miami
Action game is bloody and violent in the tradition of Hong Kong action films
It’s 1992. A flickering neon light shines through the window of a seedy apartment building. Suddenly, a man bursts through the door in slow-motion, two pistols firing away at a gun-wielding figure. Every shot is accurate, and the unnamed enemy’s blood paints the room in splashes of crimson.
If this sounds like a scene from the Chow Yun-fat classic Hard Boiled, well, that’s the point. Except this isn’t a movie, it’s a game.
The Hong Kong Massacre, out today on PC and PlayStation 4, clearly pays homage to the city’s famous action films. I played a couple of hours of it today, and came away pretty impressed.
While the visuals are pure John Woo, the gameplay heavily leans on another influence: Hotline Miami, the iconic indie game from 2012. Like that game, The Hong Kong Massacre is a top-down action game where death lurks with every bullet -- a single shot is enough to kill you, bringing some strategy to the, er, massacre.
The player’s advantage comes from their vantage point; having that top-down view means you can see behind doors and walls, allowing players to plan their routes and their attacks, figuring out which baddies to take out first and which bits of furniture to hide behind.
You have two special moves to help you out here. Pulling the left trigger slows time. You can’t do it for long, but it’s enough to help you step out of the way of heavy fire. You can also tap the right bumper to dodge. It’s vitally important because you’re completely invulnerable while flipping, flying or leaping; but also, to be honest, it’s really cool. If there’s one thing in this game that makes you feel like you’re in a John Woo movie, you feel it when you tap the button and see your character dodge bullets while jumping through a window.
This move also makes the game feel more action-oriented than its apparent inspiration. I feel like Hotline Miami is almost a puzzle game: You’ve got a building full of enemies to clear out, so how do you do it?
Where Hotline Miami to me is all about controlled aggression, this game is a far more head-on experience. The invincible dodge move combined with slowing down time means I’m much more comfortable literally diving straight into battle. Instead of skulking around corners I head straight for enemies, confident that the Slow Time + Dodge abilities will get me out of any danger.
To put it another way, in Hotline Miami, I ask: What’s the cleanest way through this level? But in The Hong Kong Massacre, I ask: What’s the most stylish way?
One of the draws for me is in the title. Being from Hong Kong, it’s rare to have a game set in this city. And it’s obvious the developers have a lot of love for my hometown; I enjoyed details like the tiled floors common in older buildings, or the distinctive red taxis.
I can’t wait to play more of The Hong Kong Massacre, and we’ll bring you much more on this game right here on Abacus.