Stranglehold Preview - 07/09/2007

The master of Chinese action movies, John Woo, makes his debut on the video game scene with Stranglehold. Can the director have as much success in the videogame industry as he has had with movies?

Stranglehold (also known as John Woo Presents Stranglehold) is the spiritual successor to the filmmaker’s 1992 movie Hard Boiled staring Chow Yun Fat as Inspector ‘Tequila’ Yuen.

Plot wise it’s a bit thin along the ground, as most Chinese action movies are, set in modern-day Hong Kong, a policeman goes missing, leaving no clues and baffling the department, until they receive what seems to be a ransom call from an unnamed source. It requests that one officer appears in Kowloon market. Of course, Tequila volunteers and from here on it’s a constant battle against rival triads and the Russian mafia leading you form the streets of Hong Kong as far as Chicago.

The game is being developed by Midway and utilises the Unreal 3 engine. The use of this engine allows for the great amount of carnage seen in all the trailers and screenshots so far. Almost anything in the environment will be destructible, stone walls, pillars, and any objects littered around the gameplay will brake into pieces when peppered with bullets, providing a highly cinematic experience. Also, character movement will play a great role in the game as you must keep moving so as to not get shot.

As Tequila, to whom Fat provides not only the facial likeness but also the voice, you will have to jump, run, dive, roll and swing around in an attempt to take out all the adversaries in the level before they get you. Tequila will also slide across surfaces such as tables when the player runs into them. This mix of movement and shooting is often referred to as the ballet of death concept and is often utilised in many of Woo’s movies (including of course, Hard Boiled). Apart from this, there is also the addition of Tequila Time, which is basically a slow-motion system, which will make everything and everyone move slowly, reminiscent of The Matrix’s Bullet Time.

Tequila will also be able to activate one of four Tequila Bombs, by completing stylish kills (i.e.: using the environment and being acrobatic) or by collecting glowing, purple, origami cranes scattered around the levels. The four Tequila Bombs include Heal (refills part of Tequila’s health bar), Precision Shot (allows Tequila to take aim and place bullets in enemies' specific body parts like their head or groin area), Barrage (Tequila becomes invincible and has unlimited ammo for a short time period) and finally, Spin (Tequila spins on the spot taking out all enemies in the vicinity but only partially injuring bosses).

When Barrage or Precision Shot are used, the game cuts to a stylishly cinematic, slow motion, in-game cut scene. There will also be Standoffs in the game in which Tequila dispatches enemies one at a time in slow motion with an over the shoulder third person camera angle. In this mode Tequila can also dodge bullets that are fired at him and utilise the scenery for stylish kills and to save ammunition.

Set for release on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, the console versions have also had collector’s editions announced. The 360’s will have an extra disc with behind the scenes video footage of the creation of the game, as well as some of the cinematic scenes that didn’t make the final game. In addition to this, the PS3 version will have the original Hard Boiled, digitally remastered in high-definition, all of which will be located on the same blu-ray disc as the game itself. With the master of action cinema John Woo at the helm and the charismatic Fat as the star this should be a game to look out for and although there seems to be nothing new in the face of innovation, the fast paced action and next gen graphics should delight and excite fans of the action genre.

Release dates for the 360 and PC are the 5th of September, with the PS3 version coming later on the 25th.

Keep to TGSN for the full review at release.

- Alex Goodenough



Midway/Tiger Hill
360 - PC - PS3