Review by G3cko360
Life is ever changing, but some things remain constant. These are the universal truths and are unwavering and absolute. Water is wet. The sky is blue. Chow Yun-Fat is a bad ass and thanks to Midway Games and Tiger Hill Entertainment, you can control the master of disaster as he unleashes his trademark ballet of bullets in John Woo Presents Stranglehold for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles.
The game's story picks up several years after the Hong Kong action epic Hard-Boiled and once again follows a path of betrayal, deception, and fancy locations that rival that of any given Hollywood script. In other words, it's an action game with lots of guns, a massive body count, and more red fluids than a ketchup factory. Does anyone really care about the story? It only serves as a tool for pacing between shooting segments anyway. The good guy wins.
For the most part, Stranglehold controls nicely. It uses a modified version of the standard console FPS/3PS format (Left and Right sticks control movement and camera, right trigger kills stuff, etc.) but the diving mechanic could have used a little more polish as it fails about 5% of the time leaving Tequila dead and bringing forth a maelstrom of obscenities and broken controllers. Also, the environmental interaction, while cool as hell, will often leave you diving 10 feet over and past the banister you wanted to climb. Those small complaints aside, the controls are otherwise tight and easy to learn and you'll be blasting bad guys like a pro in the first 30 minutes. Which is a really good thing since, especially in the later levels, you'll need every advantage you can get if you don't want to end up swiss cheese.
If Stranglehold is remembered for one thing, it'll be the sheer amount of environmental destruction and interaction that takes place during the many massive gun battles. Just about everything breaks, shatters, explodes, or collapses and it can all be used to your advantage. Got an enemy hanging out under bar sign? Shoot it and watch as it sparks and swings down delivering massive trauma to his head. Shoot the walls next to an enemy and watch him cower as the wood splinters mere inches from his face giving you the opportunity to blast him through that brittle stone wall he just took cover behind. Scenarios like these are a dime a dozen in Stranglehold, but their repetition adds to something else Stranglehold has in spades... style.
Like all of the John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat team-ups before it, Stranglehold has more style than an issue of Vogue and it plays an integral part in the core gameplay as well. Everything revolves around style points. The cooler your methods of dispatching the hordes of gangsters, the more style points you'll earn. Shooting an enemy in the head will earn you a small amount of style points, whereas running up the sliding down a railing, dispatching enemies by shooting the signs above their heads then diving onto a rolling cart and unleashing hell in "Tequila Time" (Stranglehold's version of "Bullet Time," or slow-motion) will award you in a big way. When you've amassed enough style you can unleash one of four "Tequila Bombs," which range from giving you a quick shot of health to firing your guns in 360 degrees to clear a room. Overall, this system comes together very nicely and you'll find yourself planning stunts on the fly to get just enough points to unleash that one move that will save your ass.
In the end, it all boils down to this: Stranglehold is a no-holds-barred shoot 'em up action title that breathes new life into a genre that's been flopping around like a fish out of water since the release of the original Max Payne in 2001. The fierce combat and awesome amount of destruction alone warrant some serious attention, but the tacked-on multiplayer, sometimes unresponsive controls, and relatively short play time (7 levels offering only 6 to 8 hours of gaming) keep this one from taking home the gold.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 09/13/07
Game Release: Stranglehold (US, 09/05/07)
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