Shadowrun: Hong Kong ReviewJustin Ling
I recently became a fan of the tabletop game Shadowrun, which was a big reason why I decided to give Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun video games a whirl. Shadowrun: Hong Kong is the latest game of the bunch, and I can safely say that this is a game that any fan of the Shadowrun franchise needs to pick up.
The story is solid with enough twists and intrigue to keep players interested. You play as one of two adopted children of a man named Raymond Black. You and your adoptive brother Duncan Wu return to Hong Kong at Raymond's bequest, but soon find yourselves attacked and hunted down by the Hong Kong police. A triad leader named Kindly Cheng helps you out, but at a price: the two of you must become shadowrunners and work for her. The player character and their crew not only have to perform jobs for Kindly Cheng and several other clients, but they must also discover why theyve been targeted and why the city of Heoi is plagued by nightmares that threaten to tear the citizens' minds apart.
The gameplay has improved since the last two games. One of the most welcome additions is the option to choose when to go into battle mode when hostiles are present. This allows players to try to get as close to the enemies as possible before the battle mechanics kick in, meaning they don't have to waste precious AP just trying to get close enough to the opponents to fight effectively. This also provides more opportunities for stealth, which is definitely a big boon for players who prefer to be sneaky instead of confrontational.
One of the biggest changes of all is the Matrix. The Matrix in Shadowrun: Hong Kong has been revamped drastically, for better and for worse. The good news is that players can now move around the Matrix freely until one of two things happen: hostile programs are encountered, or players get spotted by Watcher programs. This means that players that prefer stealth now have the option to sneak around the Matrix, dodging Watcher programs as they try to find paydata and hack systems. The appearance of Matrix level has also become more varied, as opposed to the same design used for all Matrix levels in the previous two games.
The game does have a couple of flaws, unfortunately, and one of them is the new Matrix. The stealth portion of the Matrix can be frustrating at times due to how fast the Watcher programs move and how unresponsive the player controls can be at times. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to move a character through a tight area, only to be caught by a Watcher program due to the character ignoring your command to move to a certain location. There is also a hacking mini-game whenever players try to access hidden information, and while the mini-game isn't a badly constructed one, some might find it a bit tedious after a while.
Another flaw of this game is the load time. Loading takes quite a while, even when quickloading. This can prove to be quite frustrating to players who frequently reload saves. Most glaringly of all, sometimes the game fails to load a game properly, getting stuck on the loading screen while the background music of the current level plays and player hints cycle at the top. Quitting and reloading from the same save still causes the loading screen to become stuck, so the only way to fix the problem is to reload from an older save, potentially resulting in lots of progress lost, depending on how often the player saves their game.
Despite those flaws, I would still recommend Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Harebrained Schemes has given us a gripping story with a great cast of characters, an intriguing setting, and a beautiful glimpse into a world where magic and machine mix together. Fans of the tabletop game and those who just getting into the franchise will want to give this game a try. The shadows are full of danger, but there are great rewards for those who dare venture within. Such is the life of a shadowrunner.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.