Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: 'Stranglehold' grabs you and doesn't let go

If you have an appetite for gunplay, a legion of gun-toting enemies and worship the ground John Woo walks on, "Stranglehold: is for you.

The Midway smash, also developed by Midway, is the video game follow-up to the John Woo 1992 cult hit, "Hard-Boiled." Knowing the game, which features Chow Yun-Fat, was based on "Hard-Boiled," I watched the movie. It's a pretty sweet film ... and I definitely recommend you watch the movie to appreciate easter eggs and such in the game. In the movie, Yun-Fat is Inspector Tequila who is investigating the death of his partner during a tea-house massacre. After the first six minutes, you realize one thing - Yun-Fat is virtually unstoppable. That's what I call a hero!

In the game "Stranglehold," Yun-Fat reprises his role as Tequila and then all the fun behinds. If you have played the demo, you are familiar with the 'Tequila Time' move, which allows the talented inspector to slow down time. If you haven't played the demo, no worries.

The story apparently picks up where "Hard-Boiled" ended. You have to solve your partner's murder and you meet a ton of baddies. This is where it gets good, if you like gunplay. You blast your way through the toughest enemies Hong Kong has to offer. You won't get bored - trust me.

If you are sensitive to blood, do not play this game. It's very, very visceral - blood is splashed all over like a Quentin Tartintano movie. You can even enter a sharpshooter mode that zooms in your target for a for-sure kill. As you fire, the bullet speeds to its target and SPLAT - Brain matter city, baby!

Guns - lots of guns - and Tequila loves them all. He starts out with his *friends* - Desert and Eagle. It's most definitely intense gunplay with destructible environments. If you can see an object shining, you can shoot it. Sit back after shooting it and watch the mayhem unfold quickly.

You get tons of enemies thrown at you - and usually, on some levels, you can just sit and pick them off. Common sense would tell me if someone just fell in front of me dead, I am not gonna follow him.

The graphics are sweet - "Stranglehold" uses a modified version of the Unreal 3.0 engine, integrated with the Havok physics system. It's a pretty game and the character looks wonderful. It's one stunning game.

The sounds are dead-on too. The gun sounds are sometimes as popular as Yun-Fat.

Gameplay, that's a toughie. While it's a blood bath of sorts and one of the few games out that allows you to slide on rails and across tabletops and bars (just like the movie) but the camera angle can be horrible at times. The controls aren't perfect - during a helo scene where I blast baddies with an M-60, I found myself trying to access 'Tequila Time' because the enemy was coming a wii bit too fast.

Another low point in the game is when you have to finish all of your objectives before you advance. While I didn't mind this much at first, other times, I would try to just leave the mission and see what happened.

This is definitely a good effort by Midway and after being No. 1 in the U.S., according to, 174,000 folks decided to take it for a spin.

I urge you to watch the movie first - there are a few sweet moments in the movie, especially when Tequilla slams a Tequila, just like in the movie.

If you wanna bring it to some of Hong Kong's worst game, get your little friends, lock and load and blast yourself into a coma.

Why should I care: Dude, it's John Woo starring Chow Yun-Fat in a video game - you do the math. It's not perfect, but it's a very good game.

The good: John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat and the follow-up to "Hard-Boiled," 'Tequila Time,' powered by Unreal 3.0 engine, has online multiplayer, has good story/plot or you can drop it and just blast - a true love story to the age of guns. Only 'Black' does a better job.

The bad: Difficult controllers at times, a few legions of enemies (if you love guns, disregard this), relentless enemies.

The ugly: Wait until you see your first kill via precision aim mode. Only Sgt. York and Agen Jack Bauer (24) have higher body counts after this game ends.

Overall: 8.5 (out of 10) - this game rocks. It's very addictive and if you love Chinese shoot 'em ups, this game is must for you. It's not perfect - and the controls will make you wince a time or two, but still, stepping into Inspector Tequila's loafters is legit.

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