Stranglehold PS3 Demo Impressions - 02/10/2007

With Stranglehold just around the corner on 360, I guess the producers thought it was about time that PS3 owners had a taste of their game that had been available to 360 owners for around a month before hand. Thus the Stranglehold demo was released for download on the PSN store.

Weighing in at a hefty 1337 megabytes (one of the largest demo in size and possibly content out there with 4 difficulty settings) the demo was a big download for some people not blessed with faster internet connection (me being amongst them).

Once you boot up the demo the logos of the companies involved and a few credits with John Woo and Chow Yun Fat’s names amongst others are shown. The game starts off with a longish cinematic sequence which takes place simultaneously in Chicago and Hong Kong. In Chicago four men break into an apartment and abduct two women, one knocks a picture frame to the floor and we see that Fat’s character Inspector Tequila is in it. In Hong Kong, two men are carrying a cop which they have abducted and then they shoot him. The action then pans to the police station in Hong Kong where they receive a call from the criminals asking to send one cop and from here your road as Inspector Tequila begins. Fat’s likeness has been grafted almost perfectly to the character and there is no mistaking it's him. The graphics seem at a glance to be very good but when you look closer you see imperfections such as on screen flickers that should not be present in this day and age of gaming.

Once all the cinematic sequences are over and the actual in game part begins you are thrust into the midst of it in third person perspective as Inspector Tequila. From here you commence to take out one alley after another full of enemies. The trick is not to dispatch them normally but to use stylish kills by performing acrobatics and using the scenery to your advantage. Tequila time, which is basically slow motion, kicks in automatically when you perform certain dives but can also be activated manually by clicking R2. The more stylish the kills, the more stars you get (seen to the left of the screen) and the more a green gauge (again on the left) fills. This gauge is to indicate how much power you have to initiate Tequila bombs which are the game's special moves. You start off with only the healing move but as you progress through the areas you also gain the precision shot (this is through your first play through as you unlock the other moves, spin attack and barrage when you unlock the harder difficulty settings). This is where you can zoom in and shoot a specific body part of an enemy and watch him writhe with pain and collapse. Unfortunately another graphical glitch here as when I decided to shoot one of my enemies hands (I was hoping he would drop his gun), he shook it in agony but it was as if the gun was glued to his hand and didn’t fall down.

As far as the general gameplay pans out, it is quite good although moving Tequila with the analog in the midst of action packed fire fights can be a bit difficult and unresponsive so hopefully they'll tinker with that for the finished game. The shooting is no problem although there shall be many a moment when you will go for a diving kill and overshoot your target as you end up ahead of him and he starts shooting you in the back.

The game itself pulls off that cinematic, movie style very well, with Woo even managing to get his calling card, white doves, in near the beginning of the game. But it is very samey. The whole demo consisted of enter area, shoot all bad guys, leave area. This was repeated many times with the only let up coming in the form of a couple of standoff moments where you have to pick off a number of enemies one by one whilst dodging their bullets. The amount of destructible scenery though was truly impressive as anything in sight would fall to bits realistically when peppered with fire. This was the best part of average and on the whole disappointing graphics which could have been so much better. The gameplay was good but not great and again, can be improved.

Verdict? The demo was a little underwhelming as more was expected (by me anyway) of this game. At the moment this game showcases run-of-the-mill action with ok graphics and some nice ideas but nothing really new. It seems to be a game aiming for glamour instead of substance and although that might work in movies, games are a whole different ball game. Stranglehold could be so much better. If only the developers put in that little more effort near release and tweak the finer points that need attention then I could see this game becoming a must have for all action fans. As it stands, this might just tickle a few gamers' fancies, and fans of the Woo films might enjoy it, but that’s about it.

- Alex Goodenough



Midway/Tiger Hill
PS3 - PC - 360