John Woo Presents Stranglehold

While trying to catch up with all of the old games I missed when my computer wasn’t up to scratch and after watching Hard Boiled (OMG I had never seen the cover until I saw the Wikipedia page, this makes me love it even more) I decided to play “John Woo Presents Stranglehold”.  The game itself isn’t revolutionary, and not all that spectacular, but there are a couple of things that really sucked me in:

  • Presented by John Woo
  • Features Bullet-Time
  • Insane amounts of action
  • Chow Yun-Fat

Any of these elements could make a game worth playing my book, but for those of you who might be a little skeptical I’ll give my reasons.

Presented By John Woo

I always love to try out games that have some relation to a movie director.  Sometimes this is just to remind myself that movies and games aren’t really the same thing and you can’t just seamlessly move between the two (I just shuddered thinking about the first person scene in Doom the movie).  Before I continue though I do want to say that I love Hideo Kojimas idea of making the MGS games like an interactive move (but I digress..).  The thing about games made by real directors is that either they fail because they attempt to be to much like a movie, or they contain some great idea that is under appreciated because everyone says “this is going to be crap cause it’s made by a Hollywood director”.

Boom Blox (by Speilburg) is awesome.  It takes a rather simple idea (knocking down towers of blocks) and translates that into a good puzzle game that utilizes the console perfectly.  John Woos movies are renowned for their action scenes, which is one of the things from movies that does translate well into games, so an action game built around these is bound to be good.

Features Bullet-Time

Ever since the Matrix, every second movie or game has had bullet time.  We are now all getting to the stage where are a little over it, it’s a little cliche.  The addition of Bullet-Time to a game can change things dramatically.  If there is too much emphasis on it you can lose sight of the rest of the game and sometimes the game can be too easy.  If the Bullet-Time is added as an afterthought then sometimes it’s not properly balanced into the game mechanic and you don’t ever need to use it.  Most of the time, it just feels tacky, and you almost feel as it you are cheating by using it (the enemies don’t have Bullet-Time).

With all that said, I’m always curious to see if a game can get the bullet time to work correctly, and if it’s done right it can enhance the game significantly.

Insane amounts of action

Sometimes you just wanna play a game that is nice and easy.  Having to walk for 20 minutes between seeing enemies can often get boring, and “survival” games can often seem quite dull and boring with the payout not being worth the wait (you spend 5 minutes knowing something is about to jump out at you, it finally does, you poo yourself, shoot it in the head with a shotgun and then wait 5 minutes for the next thing to jump out).

From what I could see, Stranglehold looked like it wouldn’t be dull.

Chow Yun-Fat

This doesn’t need any explanation at all!

Chow Yun-Fat is awesome.  Any game with him spouting cheesy one liners and shooting people has got to be great!

Does it live upto the expectations?

Even with the game meeting the four criteria above, I approached it with a pinch of salt.  I wouldn’t say the game was great… but I also wouldn’t say it was horrible.  It was just the right level of bad that makes you enjoy it, but I could see a lot of other people walking away after a couple of levels.

The action was definitely there…. in the first level I think I killed 176 people.  It also shows you how much damage you cause (usually in the 100,000s to millions).  You also had some skills, although I only really used two of them (healing and sharpshooting).  The Bullet-Time was definitely there!! Stranglehold didn’t really give you the option of using bullet time, it really crams it down your throat, but it’s cool.  Whenever you do a dive while facing an enemy Bullet-Time turns on (you can also turn it on yourself, but my right mouse button is broken and diving is so much cooler).  The only problem with this is that it gets a little repetitive and you basically spend most of the game diving.  I would basically run into every single room and dive straight towards the enemies (initiating Bullet-Time) then shoot them in the head.

The second level had a little bit of extra gameplay, with your flying around in a helicopter then planting bombs, but after this Woo obviously couldn’t be bothered and the rest of the game was just mindless running around shooting.  The game itself isn’t too long, with only 7 levels, although the levels are quite long (45 – 1 hour each) and it all becomes a blur of diving and shooting after a while.

Towards the end of the game I really did start to get bored (surely I had killed all the second rate henchmen in the world already) and I was counting down the levels to the end and waiting for the next in-game cutscene with Chow Yun-Fats voice acting.  Unfortunately the cut-scenes were pretty scarce and the story was a little hard to follow.  I know that Chows ex-girlfriend and daughter got kidnapped and I was helping out some gangsters to get them back, but I wasn’t sure which gansters I was helping in the end after so many poor/predictable plot twists.

By now you are probably thinking that the game doesn’t really sound worth playing, but I think it is.  The thing that you have to remember is that the game is based around mindless action, gunfights and Bullet-Time, as long as you don’t go in expecting MGS style storylines and cutscenes, Oblivion style freedom or any real replay value/depth you should enjoy it… (at least until you have killed over 500 bad guys and become completely desensitized to guns).

(The screenshots are pretty crap as it’s really hard to move to the printscreen button at the other end of the keyboard in an action game, I really need a better way for getting screenshot)

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