My initial expectations for Stranglehold were high. If John Woo’s Hard Boiled was anything to go by then I thought I was in for some adrenaline pumping, body bagging and gun crazed action. A true maverick, I wanted to smash through a door, have a cigarette (stubbing it out on my arm, of course) and punch the first person I saw in the face. Then I’d start playing.
Using the typically stylised approach to violence and gunplay as seen in excellent films like Hard Boiled and The Killer, Stranglehold is a game which many worry could encourage real-life violence.
Poppycock, I say as I reach one hand for the gold-plated pistol in my jacket and stare my opposition down. Or at least, that’s what I might have said before I started playing this game – whether or not my opinions have changed is something you’ll have to judge for yourself.
In fact, the only thing I can really let you know in advance is that this review won’t feature any type of pun based on the name of the main character, Tequila. With that in mind, let's get on with the review and see just what Hollywood/Hong Kong legend John Woo has whipped up for us in the PC version of his new game, Stranglehold.
Set as a sort-of-sequel to the Hong Kong classic Hard Boiled, Stranglehold puts you in charge of brutal renegade cop Inspector Tequila – a rejuvenated 1992 digital scan of the legendary Chow Yun Fat.
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The games opening cutscenes set up the plot line. The no-nonsense veteran cop, Tequila, is disregarding orders from his superior and heading off on a one man rogue mission to save a friend from a gruesome fate at the hand of some criminal scum.
In order to achieve his goal, Tequila must mow through hordes of gun-wielding Triads in a veritable orgy of violence that epitomises action-cool. The story line from here-on in is rather predictable and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this insignificant cop-napping is actually part of something much more deserving of evil laughs.
A worldwide gang conflict that no police force, S.W.A.T. team or secret service has managed to handle? A mission so difficult that only a lunatic who can carry a baby in one arm and a shotgun in the other can manage? Yeah, probably.
Although the storyline is about as realistic as me running up a banister without once stopping for balance, it does gives the gritty ambience needed to justify wiping out half the population of China in a single day. However, it’s unfair to scrutinise the several flaws in the plot or why every bad guy has inexplicably stood next to a barrel of explosives. You don’t play a game like this to sit there pondering the economical principles of every street vendor in China making a living from selling watermelons.
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No, you come to play Stranglehold to slide down long banisters whilst pumping an inordinate amount of bullets into everyone you see, only to dive off onto a trolley and ride your way through a packed street, obliterating melons as another person suffers a face full of bullets. Then you finish off with a backwards slide across a table, a roll on the floor and barely a care for your now-scuffed jacket.
That’s why people play games like Stranglehold and on that front the game is already a success.
However, there are other third person, slow-motion shooter games out there which have concepts similar to that of Stranglehold and similarly lamely named characters. You know the one I’m thinking of.
The real question is what does Stranglehold have that others don’t? Well, it all comes down to the fine details...