|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tiger Hill Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Midway||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 29, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1, online mutiplayer||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
When I first heard about Stranglehold, I was instantly hooked, mainly due to the admiration I have for director John Woo. I have been a fan of several of his movies, and when I found out he was going to be intimately involved in the making of the game I knew it was going to be right up my alley. At the same time, it was also assured I would love the game because it would be a sequel to the fabled Hard Boiled film, which starred Chow Yun Fat. The film is among many die-hard action film enthusiasts' top ten. In fact, the film is considered number nine on the best action flicks of all time lists. Therefore, I had two reasons to automatically stay hyped for this game. I was not disappointed in the least.
The beginning of the game starts with a bit of mystery: who are the girls being kidnapped and what is the point behind murdering the cop? Both of these key elements are story devices that action movies fans will recognize right from the start. Of course, it is the execution of the cop that sparks the start of the game and shows Tequila at his finest. By finest I mean a take no prisoners, lock and load, action sort of guy. While the story is solid enough for action aficionados, it will be the gameplay that will have other players salivating at the chance to dive into slow motion and slay the countless gang thugs that you will come across.
The interesting part about Stranglehold is the fact that a mechanic most gamers wish never returned to videogames, the bullet-time feature, is actually worthwhile and intoxicatingly fun. While anyone might tell you Stranglehold is really nothing more than a Max Payne next-gen rip-off, they might be a little misinformed. Yeah it does share the "bullet-time" slow motion feature and it also shows a hard edge cop doing everything that he can to get the job done, but that's where the similarities end.
First off, you have different Tequila Bombs, very resourceful health boosts, and the action segments that capture the heart of what makes John Woo an amazing action director. The Precision Aim allows you to aim directly at the spot in which you want to fire at your enemy. This is an awesome feature with several different cinematics to represent the spot where the enemy was shot, like the head, neck, mouth, eye, and the occasional crotch shot, but it doesn't have the full magic of John Woo. This isn't a bad thing about this feature, rather to say that not all Tequila Bombs capture the essence of John Woo.
Another bomb you will find yourself using a bit is Barrage. With this one, Tequila loads whatever weapon he has to the max, and then for a short period of time you will have unlimited ammo and be impervious to most damage you will encounter. Yet again not truly mesmerizing you with the flare that is John Woo, but a cool feature nonetheless.
The final Tequila Bomb you acquire is Spin Attack. The Spin Attack is a cinematic, which opens up with a John Woo trademark of white doves fluttering up in front of Tequila and shows a fiery blaze of bullet casings flying from their chambers as Tequila takes out all of the enemies in the room. At first, I didn't care for this feature, even though it was the class act feature of John Woo's style. In the beginning, I thought this would quickly become trivial, due to the implausibility of making them different each time. I was wrong to doubt. In my experience with the game, every spot that I used the Spin Attack, the backgrounds, as well as the flailing enemies, were different.
Stranglehold doesn't just stop with the use of the Tequila Bombs to try to capture the feel of the movie; it is a sequel too. You will enter a standoff minigame automatically from time to time. In this, you will use a blend of Precision Aim and Tequila Time, the name for the slow motion feature, to take out the enemies that have you deadlocked in their sights. Much like everywhere else in the game, if you find a device, propane tank, signage, or anything else that can be used to start a chain of events to defeat your adversaries, you will be rewarded with a higher style rating. You receive points for every kill that you perform, the better the skill at execution the better the points. These points are used to unlock certain items in the Shop on the main screen. Coincidentally enough, John Woo himself is the man behind the counter selling you some of the unlockable features of the game; he's also the bartender at the beginning of the game.