Stranglehold Xbox 360 Review
Logic tells you that you need an equal number of good guys to kill a large amount of bad guys. However, this same logic also tells you that you should always fire a gun with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Of course, if you continue down this line of thought then you also would never slide down the rail of a flight of stairs, jump on a trolley, roll round and around, and then shoot seven shades out of someone as a copious amount of both bullets and doves fly joyously throughout the vicinity. You see in the world of John Woo, the over the top universe that the 1992 movie Hard Boiled was situated in, and thus in the world of Stranglehold, logic doesn’t matter. Instead it gives one man, Inspector Tequila, an insanely difficulty task, and then asks you to accomplish it in the most theatrical way possible. Thankfully, outlandishness usually does a good game make, and Stranglehold is no exception to this rule.
Without doubt the most likeable aspect of Stranglehold is that it’s quite a spectacle to play, with some form of highly destructive action happening on screen at almost every second. In fact, even if you were to hand the controller over to someone else for a while there is some fun to be had watching how they choose to use the environment, handle Tequila Time (the games name for slow-mo effects), and a large amount of armaments, such as assault rifles, submachine guns, heavy machine guns, rocket launcher and more on show. As you may already know, or may have seen in the recent Live Marketplace demo, Tequila Time works very similar to the bullet-time seen in the now six year old Max Payne. However, in contrast with that game, Stranglehold allows for use of slow-mo in combination with games environment, which achieves much more visually impressive results as you interact will all parts of the game world when taking care of the hoards of enemies on show. Of course, for a game such as Stranglehold it really excels if you try and push everything you are given to its limits. Sure, you could walk through some of the levels, use Tequila Time sparingly, tiptoe down cautiously down the stairs, and try to conserve ammo as you go. I am sure this tread softly approach would result in you seeing the end of the game. But it would be a shame to do this, as you’d be missing out on what makes the same so special.
A collection of special moves are on show in the game and get unlocked over the course of the game’s opening levels, thus letting you regain health, zoom in on a target, or become invulnerable for a short amount of time. The meter for these moves builds up depending on how stylishly you play; therefore it is to your advantage to play using all the lethal elegance Woo films are known for. So thankfully, even though every single one of the levels in the game has several instances where you will say wow just for what the Unreal 3 engine and Havok physics laden visuals bring to the table there is no denying the gameplay also stands up to the task as well. Furthermore, apart from working your way around the levels, and taking out enemies that appear as you go, the game also throws another kinds of encounter at you called standoffs. In a standoff Inspector Tequila gets surround by enemies on all sides and you are forced to stand your ground as the game goes into slow motion to let you target each of the enemies one by one, and also dodge their bullets using both analogue sticks. This is a nice break from the normal run and gun style of play, and also a part of the title that manages to feel special each time it happens as it is not overused during the course of the game.
Unfortunately, there are also a few negatives on show to mention, but thankfully none of them seem to be game breakers, and do nothing to make the game, well the single player part at least, less entertaining to play. The first point of contention would definitely have to be the game’s story which seems very weak. Now, I know John Woo films are always all about the action over the story but it would be nice if the story developing in the games cut scenes were somewhat compelling rather than something you’d want to skip through right after they start. Also, in terms of online multiplayer it has to be said that Stranglehold just fails. The mode is basically there just due to the fact that it is currently the ‘in thing’ to do, and some higher-ups on Midway’s board probably demanded it be included. Actually, if you really are looking for something to extend the games lifespan then the unlockable items that can be bought in the games shop are the best option. These are a well thought out addition to the game which comes with a virtual recreation of John Woo as a barman, and is the far better option to keep you playing the game into the late hours.
So, when all is said and done Stranglehold is yet another competent effort at a third person shooter in an increasingly saturated market. If a relentless story-lite action shooter is your kind of game then you really will find no better title on shelves than Midway’s latest effort. While it is not the all singing all dancing evolution of the third person genre that some games are promising to be in coming months it is still a nice step up from the fundamental formula that Max Payne brought to the table all those years ago. And for that it deserves an ample amount of praise. Likewise, when we’re talking about those older games, it is not a bad follow up from Tiger Hill Entertainment’s previous effort, Psi-Ops.
Everything really does look better in slow motion.