Strangelhold ReviewCain Dornan
Its clear from the onset that legendary action film director John Woo has had quite some influence on both the storyline and the gun-totting, bullet-spraying action gameplay that Stranglehold serves up. The game doesnt attempt to challenge players with puzzles, moral decisions or other tidbits that may get in the way of the games heavy central focus on action. The games never quiet, not for a second, as you stylishly blast your way through hordes of henchman as you follow a storyline typical of Woos stylish formulas.
Of course, given that Stranglehold is, indeed, a direct sequel to Woos 1992 classic action flick, Hard Boiled, it comes as no surprise that those familiar with the film will be able to nitpick the countless similarities and qualities that the game serves. The game follows and further expands on the movie, as we assume the role of a rogue cop named Tequila, who has a penchant for killing and lighting-fast reflexes to handle a large group of foes at any one time. Chow Yun-Fat, the actor of Tequila in the movie, has reprised his role in Stranglehold, lending both his likeness and voice for the part. This helps to uphold the authenticity of the link between the movie and the game, with his likeness suiting the role perfectly and satisfying fans of the movie.
The games story sees Tequila once again disobeying direct orders from his superior as he ventures to engage, and eventually destroy, a drug ring providing illegals drugs to the Hong Kong market. Its from here that Tequila runs into an old mobster from his past, who tells Tequila of how two competing mobs have kidnapped his daughter and granddaughter, who just happen to be Tequilas long-lost forbidden love and daughter, whom he has never met. Obliged to help the old man find the two women who he cares about so greatly, Tequila sets out to rescue the two women, causing plenty of death and carnage within the organized crime rings.
As mentioned earlier, Stranglehold focus on delivering a direct action experience that involves little more than stylish acrobatical kills, amazing reflexes, cool special abilities and a handful of great weapons to mow down your enemies, all of which translate into a surprisingly enjoyable, albeit repetitive, experience. Quite simply, the game is good fun to play, to the point that youre willing to overlook its clear repetitive and overused nature. Youll find yourself diving for cover as you shoot down enemies in slow-mo, swing across chandeliers as you fire at your foes below, run across railings with guns blazing, or slide along on a wheeled kart killing your unsuspecting targets.
If thats not enough, and to the mix its destructive environments and interactive objects that help to make the games world feel more living and real. Walls shatter with bullet holes, doors and thin walls crumple as rounds pummel and rip through them, and the many objects that fill the stages tear to shreds as your rounds completely destroy the environments that you are in. Tequila can choose to either slide along with top of a top with guns blazing, or kick it up to use as temporary cover. The destructivity of the environments add further wow factor to the game, further adding to its stylish presentation and execution that helps to make the game so much fun to play.
Its an elegant yet straightforward experience that is a joy to pick-up and dive into its stylish and addictive presentation that makes you smile solely based on its cool factor. Diving through destructive environments that are being torn and ripped to shreds through thousands of whizzing bullets while pulling some rather cool evasive moves not only looks great, but is plenty of fun to actually perform.
Of course, the novelty of the diving and shooting does grow old towards the later parts of the game, however, other interesting features help to keep it refreshing. Youll occasionally find yourself in situations where you are surrounded by a group of enemies in a stand-off style situation, requiring you to shoot each enemy in a slow-mo event as Tequila spins around to each opponent, giving you a short opportunity to shoot them while evading their rounds. The game also incorporates a range of special abilities where charging up enough style power by killing your foes in creative fashions (diving and shooting, for example) allows you to unleash a barrage of gunfire, spin around in a classic gun ballet fashion firing at your enemies in a circle, or using precision aim to fire at enemies from a distance, with each body part hit causing a different dramatic death scene of your enemy.
You wont really need to use these abilities too often during the early portions of the game, however, the difficult ramps up roughly half-way through requiring you to make more regular use of these aiding abilities.
Outside of the single player affair, which can be completed in about seven hours of play, is online multiplayer support. While many of the single player abilities are included in the multiplayer, the somewhat sloppy execution of it leaves plenty to be desired. All of our online matches were laggy, buggy and generally bland, with a lack of players online also reducing the small amount of time youll be interested in playing this one.
Character models arent quite as detailed and beautifully animated that we expect with a next-gen release, with character faces and accurate animation lacking the level of refinement that many recent top releases have managed to achieve. Environments are generally impressive, with a vast assortment of locales to destroy with the satisfying destructive game worlds that help to improve the visual finesse of the title. Authentic voice acting with the presence of Chow Yun-Fat to reprise his vocal role of Tequila adds a satisfying authentic link between the movie and its sequel game.
Its not the type of game that youre going to remember for its utterly unique and innovative gameplay or features. Rather, its a game that manages to effectively combine and refine familiar gameplay techniques that combine with its cool factor to produce a game that is a lot of fun to play. While the rather short single player mode may turn off some, Stranglehold is a worthwhile look for those after simple, straightforward gun-totting action.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.