The Hong Kong Massacre Review

So, I am going to put this out there – The Hong Kong Massacre is one of my favourite games of the year so far. It has all the elements that make me sit up and pay attention with wide-eyed delight:

  • Mysterious developer with one of the most minimalist websites I’ve ever seen – Check
  • A spiritual sequel to Stranglehold – Check
  • Killer soundtrack – Check

Now, that might seem like a very specific checklist, but The Hong Kong Massacre is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted. A hyper-focused game on the act of slow-motion violence with the aesthetic of The Raid if it was directed by John Woo.

The premise of the game is that you play an ex-cop, left for dead and bent on revenge. The story plays over several days as the cop goes through scenarios, gunning down all that have wronged him. This means going through chapters and then taking on a higher-powered boss.

The whole game is a top-down, twin-stick shooter, akin to Hotline Miami. The player must clear out all enemies from the level to move onto the next. It only takes one shot to kill the player which will force them to restart the level. To balance this out, each level takes about 2 minutes to finish. On top of that there is a dive that makes the player immune, and a slow-motion ability that allows them to sidestep bullets. It is an effective spin on the genre that meaningfully distinguishes it from its peers. There is a great feel to entering a room, diving across the floor and swinging the cursor and capping enemies as bullet time is activated.

This doesn’t make the player over-powered as slow-motion is on a meter that requires reverting back to normal time, or taking out an enemy, to recharge it. This is where I think HK Massacre excels. The balance between slowing down time, the dive immortality, and the lethality of the enemies means that HK Massacre plays like a John Woo film. Not just in the more balletic moments of his films, when the hero takes out hundreds of guys in spray of blood and explosions, but also in the desperate exchanges of two antagonists in which entire surroundings turn into masonry confetti while they miss.

Rooms erupt in neon lights, glass shatters and cascades, doors explode under pressure of fire, and all of it is put through a distorted hand cam visual that gives everything a frenetic look.

HK Massacre only has a small roster of enemies, but it smartly comes up with new ways to deploy them over the course of it’s thirty levels. It is a testament to their level and environment design that I never felt like I was repeating the same motions. Even the boss levels that are setup similarly still have enough flare to them that each one presents a new challenge.

The progress in the game is also well thought out. Each level has 3 challenges to complete, usually along the lines of beating a par time, never missing, or not using bullet time. When a challenge is beaten, a star is awarded, and these can be used to upgrade the weapons that the player can start with. The challenges encourage revisits and a different way to look at each level due to their stringent demands.

The problem is that, at present, HK Massacre is incomplete in pretty grievous ways. This is not a case of ‘some people will hate this, but I love it’, but actually ‘This feature is obviously non-functional’.

For starters, the Leaderboards on every level I’ve tried have crashed the game. In another game leaderboards are nice to have, but in HK Massacre they feel integral to the replay value. So much of my time was spent refining and getting a perfect run through a level, if I had seen someone do it quicker, I know I would have returned to try and do it better.

The second, almost as glaring, issue is that the final level can’t be completed. I’ve killed the final boss multiple times, and the level just never ends.

I am pretty confident that HK Massacre is going to feature in my top ten games of this year, but at the same time I cannot give this a particularly high score because of glaring shortcomings that mean I would struggle to recommend it to anyone. It’s a bit like if I really enjoyed sitting on a two-legged chair. I like it and look past its obvious shortcomings, but I can’t vouch for its structural integrity.


The Hong Kong Massacre hits all the right mechanical and visual notes and should be considered one of the best in its genre. Great controls, superb style and a cracking soundtrack. However, it has two glaring bugs that detract from the overall quality.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Perfect controls
  • The gun feel is spot on
  • Great presentation of gritty crime world
  • The sequel to Stranglehold that I wanted
  • Leaderboards crash the game
  • Probably not the sequel to Stranglehold that everyone else wanted
  • Not possible to complete the final level
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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