John Woo Presents Stranglehold [European Release]
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Systems: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
For the longest time video game developers tried to act like movie directors when making their games. They weren’t and it showed heavily. Diluted, mediocre plots with horrible dialogue and laughably bad cut scenes became the industry standard. While there are exceptions to this rule they were just that, exceptions, and more and more games came out to affirm the stereotype.
Now, world-class writers and directors are making it their job to change that stigma. Steven Spielberg has made a deal with EA to develop three games, Clive Barker has taken a liking to writing game scripts instead of novels, and John Woo has brought his action style to the Midway developed Stranglehold.
To anyone who has played Max Payne the general gameplay is not foreign. There are rooms full of enemies just dying to be shot and you dive, in slow motion of course, and fulfill their needs. This is old hat and slow motion combat is ridiculously close to being an overdone feature. Stranglehold spices it up in a number of ways.
Early in the game you begin unlocking special moves or “Tequila Bombs.” These lovely beverages come in four flavors: health regeneration, precision aim, barrage, and a spin attack. Each takes from the same gauge and can help kill enemies when even the most pressing of odds are against you. These go a far way to break the game apart from repetition and make it feel like its own game as opposed to Max Payne with destructible environments.
The graphics are very nice. Characters are all modeled very well and the environments, while not too varied (there are fancy looking levels and slums, not much in-between) they are all nice to look at. For the most part everything that looks like it should be able to be destroyed can. These are often marked with a white glow and sparkle that symbolize the architecture being more then meets the eye. Signs can be shot to have them dislodge from the wall and ‘relodge’ into an enemy’s head, and rooftops can often be destroyed to smash the people inside the house.
If you can’t blow it up, odds are you can stand on it or climb it. Every ledge has the option to be jumped on to and most poles or things like that can be run around on. The same goes for anything hanging from the ceiling, be it a chandelier or pterodactyl fossil. This all goes to show exactly what this game is: over the top. If every John Woo movie was combed through and the scenes in which people do stupid, unrealistic and fun things were taken out and put in a game it would be this.
That may sound like an insult but it isn’t – the game is just as fun as it should be. You will slide down banisters and shoot waves of mindless gang members with your pistols (which never need reloading, how practical!) The people that you encounter throughout the game are all stereotypes of action movie characters, from the ex-partner (“I thought you were my partner!”) to the commissioner (“I’ll have your badge for this!”). The game doesn’t win any medals for storytelling or voice acting but neither of them get in the way.
The controls and camera are both solid. In the demo there were some problems with the cover mechanism not working as intended, but in the final product it isn’t as much of an issue. Sure, hiding behind a pillar will end up getting you killed anyway (they break when shot) but doing it isn’t a problem.
Multiplayer is fun if you can actually find a game. It seems tacked on and while they were able to nail down the mechanics of it fairly well it falls onto a backburner so far back its actually cooling it off. After hours of game searching I was able to find one with three people in it. Again, good fun an if you have a few friends who also happen to own the game I would imagine it being a good time. For the average person, however, I can’t say it adds too much.
Stranglehold is a lot of silly fun, it seems like that is what I am trying to get at. It isn’t absurdly long and it doesn’t have the replay value it could have so buying it might not be the best idea in the world unless you are a huge fan of third person shooters.