Stranglehold (Xbox 360) review
"In 1992, director John Woo released the cult action film Hard Boiled, forever to be known for it's stylish gunplay and a body count that set records in film history. Now, 15 years later, Chow Yun Fat and John Woo reunite to continue the story of Inspector Tequila, and to dispense their own brand of justice, with John Woo's unique sense of style. "
In 1992, director John Woo released the cult action film Hard Boiled, forever to be known for it's stylish gunplay and a body count that set records in film history. Now, 15 years later, Chow Yun Fat and John Woo reunite to continue the story of Inspector Tequila, and to dispense their own brand of justice, with John Woo's unique sense of style.
Stranglehold is an attempt to allow players to control an action movie. Featuring slow motion effects, bullet dodging dives, swinging from light fixtures and sliding over tables, Stranglehold achieves it's goal. The game is extremely fluid, keeping you constantly on the move. Wave after wave of enemies relentlessly try their best to kill Tequila, and it is up to you to dive, jump, shoot and slide your way through the game. With an incredible amount of moves, it is surprising that Stranglehold is so easy to control. Tequila will automatically slide over surfaces like tables, countertops and other low ledges. The L button triggers a slow motion dive, but can also be used to interact with the environment when cues are given. These cues will light up the object with which you can interact in a silver slight, and when you hit L, Tequila will perform the move involved with the object, such as jumping onto a railing, or jumping onto a light fixture. The R button controls all form of attack for all of the weapons. Ammunition for your weapons is acquired simply by walking over a discard weapon. Tequila can have a maximum amount of two weapons in his inventory at any given time (Dual wielded pistols count as one weapon). Weapons are switched by pressing A. If you want to discard your current weapon for something found on the ground, simply walk over the weapon and press X to swap. Tequila is controlled with the left analog stick, with the right analog stick used for camera control, which can be rotated to any angle you choose.
As you stylishly kill enemies, you will receive style points. When these add up to a certain amount, it will fill your Tequila Bomb Juice. There are four Tequila Bomb attacks which you can use at anytime, as long as you have enough Juice. These four attacks are a health boost, a long range precision shot, a barrage of bullets that temporarily also makes Tequila invincible, and a spin attack, which essentially kills all non-boss type enemies in the area. These abilities are activated with the directional pad, with each directional button assigned a different bomb. Tequila will also find paper cranes around the environment to refill his Tequila Bomb Juice. This makes sure that you almost always have a ready supply of juice, in case you need to get out of a tight spot in a hurry. Most of tha Tequila Bombs come with a mini cutscene that will play if you activate it in a spot where enemies are not directly in front of you, adding to the cinematic feel of the game.
Tequila will constantly battle bad guys in order to get to the next area. Each area will present a brand new environment with more enemies for you to defeat. While this may sound boring, the game makes sure that there are plenty of ways for you to eliminate enemies, so that the combat never feels stale. Occasionally, Tequila will run into an area only to be ambushed by a group of enemies who immediately hold him at gunpoint. These are called "Standoff Sequences". The game will switch to a mode where the player cannot move Tequila, except to aim his guns or to lean to the left or right to dodge bullets. The games automatically switches to slow motion, and your goal is to eliminate the enemies quickly, either by shooting them, or objects around them to kill them. If the player cannot eliminate the enemies during the course of the standoff, Tequila will have to kill them when the standoff ends, though this is generally not desirable, as the enemies can cause a fair amount of damage in close range combat.
Stranglehold's plot continues the adventures of Hong Kong Police Inspector Tequila Yuen in a brand new story. In Hong Kong, a policeman is killed, and Tequila investigates the killings. He finds that a Triad gang is behind it, and tries to take the gang down. Tequila's investigation is interrupted when the boss of a rival Triad gang, James Wong, informs that Tequila's former girlfriend (and Wong's daughter) has been kidnapped by the Russian mob, along with Tequila's now 18 year old daughter. Tequila must save his family while being caught in the middle of a war between two rival gangs trying to take control of the drug trade in Hong Kong.
Graphically, Stranglehold is nothing astonishing. While the graphics and animations surpass anything that could have been done on the previous generation of consoles, the graphical ability of this game could have been better. While the lighting is extremely well done and the destruction of the environment is impressive, the game still has a cheesy, cartoon style to it, while still managing to make Chow Yun Fat look realistic enough to be believable. The guns are extremely well animated and detailed, including the triggers, notches and fire selectors on them. Cars seem reasonably realistic, though these are not seen as much as the Oriential decoration featured in most of the stages. In that regard, the animations were done extremely well. All the scales on dragons are detailed, and granite statues feature the appropriate stone textures. The game features something called Massive Destruction, which allows players to destroy segments of almost anything in the environment, including slot machines, tables, chairs, cars, statues, walls, pillars and displays. The various stages of damage are animtaed extremely well, with location accurate damage, and believable responses to the damage, such as caving in or snapping apart.
The audio segment of Stranglehold is extremely satisfying. The sound effects are incredibly entertaining to listen to, with accurate sounds for everything from bullets hitting a tile, to a roll cart on a granite floor. Special music is played during the course of the Tequila Bomb attacks, as well as during boss fights, adding ambiance to the game. When Tequila is near death with little health, the sound of a heart beat may be heard. The music in the game is a collection of rock music fused with old fashioned Chinese music, which helps set the background of the story extremely well. The voice acting is done extremely well in the game, though it's surprisingly that all of the lines spoken in the cutscenes are in English, as the game is based on a Catonese movie. Some people may worry about Chow Yun Fat's heavy accent, but his lines are mostly understandable, with only a few of them being mashed beyond comprehension. While it may have been a nice feature, subtitles are not included in the game. The inclusion of subtitles may have helped us understand some of Mr. Chow's more cryptic lines, and the lines some of the enemies occasionally spew in Chinese or Russian.
Stranglehold is a short game. With each chapter taking about and hour to complete, the game clocks in at about seven to seven and a half hours. Stranglehold can be played on Casual, Normal, Hard and Hard Boiled. While there are achievements for completing the game on higher difficulties, the game does not differ much, except for the fact that the major of your Tequila Bombs being spent on healing Tequila rather then pulling off those precision shots or barrage attacks. An unlock shop featuring a range of multiplayer characters, concept art and videos is included in the game. Players unlock these bonuses through playing the levels and earning more style points. The multiplayer in Stranglehold is nothing spectacular. In fact, one might go as far as to say that the multiplayer was added on as an afterthought, as it certainly seems that way. The game plays essentially the same as the single player, though multiplayer matches often turn into rabid session of trying to reach the HMG before the other players do, as it makes short work of all other players once it is in your possession. Tequila Time must be earned through hitting and killing targets. Various weapons, health kits and paper cranes are scattered across the map to keep players well supplied. Two modes are featured in Stranglehold's multiplayer, the classic Deathmatch, which involves all the players in the game trying to kill each other, and Team Deathmatch, where two opposing teams try to kill each other and win before the other team does.
For those John Woo, Chow Yun Fat, or Hong Kong "Bullet Opera" fans out there, this could easily be worth the money for you, as long as replays of the game are planned. For those who are looking for just another action game, this game should be a rental. As the multiplayer is not anything stellar, your attention will mostly likely be on the single player story, which isn't long enough to warrant a purchase. For those who would like to buy the game but worry about the length, simply wait for a price drop on this one.
Community review by Probester (December 21, 2007)
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