John Woo's Stranglehold (PC)

Written by Dan Boaden

October 7, 2007 | 10:07

Tags: #akimbo #blood #boaden #chow #dan #dual #fat #guns #hard-boiled #hong-kong #max-payne #port #stranglehold #tequila #ue3

Companies: #midway

Tequila Body Shot

It’s probably best to start off by looking at the signature “Gun Ballet” of Chow Yun Fat and John Woo.

Unlike many other games, when you approach a table, instead of stopping to either jump or navigate another way round, you effortlessly slide across the surface smashing anything laid there into a million pieces. There are various animations for this depending on how you approach the surface.

For example, a jumping dive across the table will have you sliding on your side, whilst just running at it straight on will have you moving across the table in a skewed sitting stance. I found myself playing with this feature a lot within the first 20 minutes of the game, astonished by how cool it actually was even if it looks a little awkward at first.

Tied into the gun ballet is Tequila’s ability to interact with several objects whilst still wielding his two pistols. Among his arsenal of tricks is the ability to swing off chandeliers, slide across railings, run up banisters, scoot along on rails, spring off walls and nip down zip-lines

John Woo's Stranglehold (PC) John Woo says 'Get off, you're choking me!'
Click to enlarge

Each one of the aforementioned tricks is performed by pressing the spacebar when something that can be interacted with glints, which in my experience, is most of the world. It makes the interaction feel a little bit too easy, but it’s still well presented and fun to do. When interacting with the environment in such a way, the slow-mo function is enabled and everything turns into rather disgusting tones of brown. Supposedly this makes you aim better.

The slow-mo ability can be activated manually at any time and is probably a more efficient way of killing the enemies. However, it’s just not quite as cool as ducking and diving around the scenery spraying copious bullets and costing the Hong Kong government millions of pounds in damages.

An already diverse selection of environmental interactions is expanded even further with the ability to shoot signs and shelves to send them crashing down on opponents.

Exploding gas canisters, vehicles and trip lines allow you to combust your opponents. Several items, such as tables, can be kicked over and used for cover to bear the brunt of the proceeding fire-fight. It’s obvious from this that for any situation you enter into, there are multiple ways to deal with the enemies and it will undoubtedly have you gasping and grinning as you lunge around like a gymnast on speed. With guns.

Tequila Stuntman

If you kill your enemies in innovative enough ways, you get awarded style points that clock up on the left of the screen.

There points are then proportionally added to your ‘Tequila Bomb Gauge’, which essentially allows you to perform a variety of impressive stunts from Tequila’s repertoire. These include the usual power ups - health boosts, aiming bonuses, and various special attacks. As you progress through the game these are all eventually unlocked and are useful for getting out of sticky situations.

For example, the precision aim allows you to sniper kill someone far away and comes with a very aesthetically pleasing and pretty gruesome animation sequence as you watch the bullet fly into the opponent’s body – depending on what part you shot at. It feels very Max Payne inspired, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Now, I don’t want to tell you how to play the game, but I do have a little equation which I managed to create after studying the later levels of the game. It may help you out and should definitely give you a good idea of what you’ll be doing for most of the later levels.

John Woo's Stranglehold (PC) John Woo says 'Get off, you're choking me!'
Barrage attack + Loaded shotgun = Pwnage

The final element of the gameplay worth noting is the standoff function. This happens when Tequila is surrounded by some of the more angry gang members and you fight each member one by one in slow motion. You have to dodge their bullets and try to kill them at the same time.

However, just in case the coordination it takes to do two things at once is too arduous, they’re usually standing next to some explosive object where a single shot will give you an instant win. Yay!

There is even more I could divulge, like locational damage on enemies which means that you can shoot them in the groin and then recoil at how you could do such a thing to a man as he staggers around clutching his gonads for a bit, but after a while it all gets a little samey. So, instead, let’s move on and have a look at the game's graphics.
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