Stranglehold Review for PlayStation 3

Stranglehold Review for PlayStation 3

The Glorious Return of Bullet Time!

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.

Stranglehold screenshot

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.

Stranglehold screenshot

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.

Stranglehold screenshot

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.

Unfortunately, the graphics don’t hold up the way they should have all the way around. By this I mean the environments look amazingly detailed; they would have to in order for the amount of destruction to look remotely believable, but the character models are not as spot on. This is a really unfortunate thing. When the environmental graphics look this pristine, I would have really liked the character models to look as sharp. With that said, these models are not the worst I have ever seen, but with a game that is supposed to be an accurate representation of the actual stars, it falls just a bit short.

Stranglehold screenshot

I cannot stress enough how vivid the environments look in the game, and every splintered chair is equally matched with the emotion felt in the music of the game. Now, it is nothing new to have a dynamic score for any type of game, but there is a level of magic felt in every beat of drum thumped through my speakers. I would almost say that the music is worthy of its own official soundtrack. To compliment the score, the voice-acting had to be top notch, and even though I would have rather heard the original Cantonese dialogue with English subtitles, it works just as well with the English spoken dialogue.

There are few problems with Stranglehold that need to be addressed, however, one being the length of the game. If you dive into games, this one might only take you about six to eight hours to complete. This really isn’t that bad of a thing, especially if you are the type of gamer who loves having that game you pop in every so often just to relieve some tension. This is part of the appeal to Stranglehold. If you prefer playing extremely long games, then this one might not be for you. However, it is so addictive that I will doubt anyone who says they didn’t somewhat enjoy the game no matter its length. Another issue is easily fixed, the camera controls. There are regrettable instances where the camera is an irritating piece of work. For example, the camera swings in an insane motion when you are performing any of your various slow-mo movements and trying to aim. As I said, there is an easy fix for most of the problems you will encounter in the game. If you toggle on the Lookspring option, most of the camera woes disappear.

A final complaint I have revolves around the online play. While this could have been a truly amazing feat in online play, considering the many abilities allotted to you when playing the game, most of the features that make the game awesome hurt the online play, or worse are pointless to have. For example, the Tequila Time can only be used if two people start it at roughly the same time. Regrettably, the Precision Aim also works the same way, meaning that you may slow down to take your shot but the other players do not. The online play is at least worth checking out to see if you like it or if you and some friends want to get on and spray each other with lead.

Stranglehold will capture the hearts of anyone looking for an action game, period. It might even capture the hearts of anyone looking for a game. While there are problems with the game, you will quickly forget what those are as you continuously mow down your enemies with various execution techniques. It delivers on its tagline of being a true John Woo experience and then some. While the game may have suffered several delays, I can honestly say that all of the push-backs have been well worth the wait, and it easily strangles all competitors.


  • Stranglehold allows gamers to play a John Wood directed action blockbuster movie. dual-wielding, stunt-laden gunplay combined with massive destructible environments ensures that Stranglehold will be a true tour-de-force. The environmental interactivity and two-fisted gunplay all come online, bringing the experience to a whole new level.
  • Gamers will experience smooth flowing gameplay, such as running up railings, swinging on chandeliers and leaping onto moving objects, all without interrupting intense gun battles.
  • Featuring the cinematic flare of acclaimed action director John Woo, Stranglehold will also benefit from Woo’s direction on storyline, camera placement and cutscenes. Starring international action-star Chow Yun-Fat as Inspector Tequila, the game’s cast is also comprised of other A-list Hollywood talent.
  • The innovative physics engine will provide gamers with an unprecedented level of interactivity. With two huge areas to explore (Chicago and Hong Kong), the interactions will be infinite with each level offering massive amounts of destructibility.
  • Stranglehold’s inventive combat camera and Tequila Time™ slow-motion system allow players to simultaneously aim and shoot at the current target while driving, providing for robust gunplay combat between vehicles.
  • Using a highly modified version of the Unreal 3.0 engine integrated with the Havok physics system, Stranglehold will breathe new life into game environments and characters with stunning graphics, and feature an ever-changing battleground depending on how players approach different scenarios.

    The environments a pristine, however the character models are a bit lacking at times 4.0 Control
    The high octane action of John Woo is easily controlled with very few practice sessions needed. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    Solid enough. The voice acting is really good and somewhat unexpected. 4.3 Play Value
    Addictive in every sense of the word. You’ll play through several times to see the different things you can do. 4.2 Overall Rating – Must Buy
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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