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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Midway

 

Developer

Midway

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

September 5, 2007

 

 

- Just about everything explodes at some point

- Great set pieces

- Cinematic touches integrated into the gameplay

- Looks awesome

- Mini-game showdowns aren't as forced as you might think

- Very responsive controls

 

 

- Multiplayer feels tacked on

- Besides the slickness of the production values, we've seen this game before

 

 

Review: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC)

Review: BioShock (360)

Review: Overlord (360)

 

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John Woo Presents

Stranglehold

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

In many ways, the gaming industry has come a long way since Max Payne first scowled his way into action history.  Besides off-the-wall similes, it established bullet-time as a de facto feature for most action games.  Stranglehold is a videogame sequel to John Woo’s 1993 film Hard Boiled, which featured what we all know as bullet-time and “gun ballets.”  The same film was cited as inspiration for the gunplay found in Max Payne – so the circle is complete.  The big question here is does Stranglehold outdo Max Payne?

 

stranglehold          stranglehold

 

In many ways Stranglehold does, thanks to the extra horsepower provided by this generation of technology.  For shear visceral thrills, Stranglehold scores many points for giving us some of the most destructible set pieces ever seen.  Playing 

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as Inspector Tequila, you can run up banisters, slide down broken railings, jump to overheard chandeliers, and leap out of cover with gun blazing with little regard – nay, contempt – for reloading all the while destroying just about everything.  Taking cover only works for a little while.  Enemies will unload on Tequila’s position, chipping and crumbling away 

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pretty much anything in the way (and those that don’t will rush to Tequila’s position for a better shot).  It forces Tequila to constantly remain on the move, after all you never see action stars take a breather in the middle of a gun battle.

 

There are many other action film elements incorporated into the game – not surprising since John Woo’s production company, Tiger Hill, was deeply involved with the game’s development – but it does it in concert with the overall gameplay.

 

Scoring “stylish” kills – while riding a rolling cart, sliding down a railing, leaping backwards off a wall, etc. – results in more style points which fill the “Tequila Bomb” gauge.  The Tequila Bombs – Health Boost, Precision Aim, Barrage Attack and Spin Attack – fill the game with cinematic action.  (Well, aside from the Health Boost.)  After firing a bullet with Precision Aim, the camera follows the bullet to its target and shows the explosive results in glorious slow-motion; and Spin Attack, which pretty much kills everyone, with Tequila temporarily becoming a dove-spewing tornado with bullet accents.  During the 6 or 7 hours you’ll spend blasting through the single player mode, none of this stuff gets tired, which is also a demonstration of how fun and different each level is, which are very often peppered with “interactive” points.  This basically means you’ll spend some time looking for propane tanks to destroy or overhead object to shoot and send plummeting to crush some poor bastard’s head.

 

It’s definitely not the story that will push most players through – there’s revenge, old debts, Russian mobsters, etc. – it’s the glorious set pieces that will encourage players to keep going.

 

stranglehold         stranglehold

 

The multiplayer, which can be fun when playing with friends, seems a bit like an afterthought – as if the single player game wasn’t enough and it needed some padding.  As well, the basic approach to the gameplay changes completely during multiplayer.  Most of the time I would die and not know who hit me – but it hardly matters when most matches were over in two minutes or less.   The only reason I can see for the brevity is a list of Achievements tied to hosting 10 multiplayer games on each map – people just want to get the Achievements and get out.

 

But as far as action games go, Stranglehold is about as flashy as they come, with enough slick gunplay to keep fans of the genre glued to their seats and having fun, even if they skip multiplayer altogether.

 

- Omni

(September 25, 2007)

 

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