Action director John Woo presents and stars in this thrilling third-person action adventure 'Stranglehold'. The game is a virtual sequel to his original movie masterpiece 'Hard Boiled', where you take on the character of Inspector Tequila played by actor Chow Yun-Fat experiencing his personal war with Hong Kong crime lords. When his ex-wife and daughter are kidnapped by the Russian mob he struggles to balance his duty to uphold the law and doing whatever it takes to save his family.
I'd like to focus this PS3 review mainly on the game play as this is what makes the game what it is.
The game itself offers great excitement in allowing gamers to use stunt-laden gun play, witness destructible environments and special gun moves and be able to interact with objects using the Massive D innovative physics engine.
Tequila has a pair of pistols as a default weapon but along the way you can pickup submachine guns, assault rifles, heavy machine guns and the odd rocket launcher here and there. In addition you can also collect grenades which are very easy to aim and throw which come in handy when you run out of bullets. Each gun will have its own strengths and weaknesses such as the shotgun not being useful at long ranges but you usually want to go for something that does the most damage. I was disappointed not to see any sniper rifles throughout the game (unless I missed them?) but with the special features available they are probably not needed. You can only carry two types of guns at a time but you can pickup dual pistols and sub machine guns for maximum impact.
Once you are out of ammo you can use your fists which are also pretty effective at close combat by knocking down enemies with one hit.
The use of Tequila Time during game play offers slow motion combat similar in style to that of The Matrix and Max Payne. Your Tequila Time is measured using a meter in the top corner of the screen which runs down for continued use but regenerates when deactivated (using the R2 button). The ability to pull off killings when in this mode offer a great gaming experience which include diving in different directions, rolling on the floor, peaking out from behind structures and jumping off walls and platforms. As you kill enemies in this mode your special ability gauge (or Tequila Bomb) increases in a circular direction. Every quarter point of the circle that is filled offers a unique ability to use in the game which is activated on the directional pad. Additionally, collecting paper cranes throughout each level will also fill the special move meter much faster.
Not really a special ability as such but building up the first part of the gauge will give you the option to use a health generator that provides a small amount of regenerated health which is very useful if you are in the middle of combat, cannot find a med pack and you are almost at the brink of death.
The first ability to use is an accurate shot for which you enter slow motion and get a limited time to zoom in and use precision for making a long distance one-shot one-kill bullet aim. This is very spectacular as the camera follows the bullet to the enemy for a hit. It is a very handy feature if you have an annoying enemy hiding in a hard to reach place who has a really destructive weapon as you can pick them off quite easily. Unfortunately you cannot kill a boss with this special move but it does take a large chunk of health off them.
This second special ability mode allows you to unload a massive amount of shots in a limited time without taking a hit. The ability offers precision aiming for specific body parts with their own unique animation. This is a great ability to use if you have to enter a room and fend off a large amount of enemies in quick succession. You can simply charge towards enemies pumping your shotgun with a continuous reload which is extremely effective.
The third ability adopts a 'go nuts' philosophy with a 360 degree turn that annihilates every enemy in a room. This is ideal for getting out of a tough situation where you are surrounded by enemies and have nowhere to run. The only problem with this ability is that you are still subject to damage but you do have the added benefit of seeing the game's graphics at its best.
At the end of some cut scene environments at the beginning of a level where you enter a room, you are presented with a Standoff. Surrounded in a circle by several enemies all with their guns pointing at you point blank, you enter a slow motion scenario where you have to dodge bullets by darting from left to right and firing at the enemy to kill them. Once you've killed off the enemies you can then carry on the standard style of game play. This is not one of my favourite parts of the game as you do take a lot of hits when you can't anticipate which direction the first bullet is heading so you tend to start going into every bullet until you kill off a few of the enemies.
Interaction with Objects
In the game there are various objects or fixtures that you can interact with such as doing a one-handed jump or dive across a table, sliding down stair rails and zip lines and leaping onto chandeliers or trolleys for a ride, all done whilst conducting a gun battle. In some cases an enemy may be standing under a neon sign which can be shot at where it falls and crushes them. Exploding barrels are dotted around the game too which can wreak havoc when shot at to destroy nearby enemies. Kills generated from this feature add a complete section to your Tequila Bomb referred to as style points. About half way through the game there are parts containing environmental puzzles which involve shooting at poles or planks to create new walkways. This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game and it certainly adds a more comical or theatrical feel to it.
I remember the days when games used to be very rigid and very little would happen to the environment around you when it was sprayed with bullets or blown up for example (apart from making a few holes). Stranglehold takes this to the next level. On certain levels you can burst through wooden doors to break them down, smash windows and hide behind pillars or walls when under fire which start to disintegrate the more you are fired at. This can make the gaming experience more realistic as wooden fixtures get broken easily or concrete structures get destroyed with larger weapons such as rocket launchers so you loose your cover occasionally during gun battles as you become in view of your enemies.
End of Level Scores
You are marked on your success at the end of each level in relation to enemy kills, shot accuracy & damage costs where you are then given an alphabetical rating, usually from 'A' to 'D' (as you probably wouldn't complete a level with a lesser mark). This is challenging in its own right as you can attempt to better your rating for each level by making sure enemies are killed in fewer shots etc. Most of the levels I completed in normal mode resulted in a 'B' or a 'C' rating with a 'A' on the odd few occasions.
There are 3 difficulty modes as with most games; easy, normal and hard. I opted for the normal mode (as you do) and found this to still be quite challenging whereby I had to go through some levels over and over several times in order to complete them. Stranglehold is one of those games which have a lot of different button functions and this takes a few levels to get used to. I would certainly not recommend leaving long gaps in your period of play like I have as you will end up forgetting the controller settings and re-inventing the wheel each time you resume play which makes the game harder to get back into. Some boss levels are quite difficult and will require several tries to complete.
I thought I would mention the repetition in the game as this may put off some potential buyers. After you've completed some of the earlier rounds, the later stages tend to be quite repetitive with regards to the surroundings as some buildings look the same and they tend to map out with the same scenario; standoff, gun battle, take on boss. This tends to go on within one large room and I preferred the roaming aspect to the game on larger levels. Shooting at an enemy boss in a helicopter becomes a regular theme on a few occasions throughout the game.
Sound & Graphics
The sound effects aren't anything spectacular but they are pretty spot-on and they do sound authentic when shooting weapons or hearing bullets ricochet off various surfaces. You get a few sound track changes when entering certain scenarios or special weapon modes but other than that the only sound you hear is shouting amongst your enemies or the treading of your character across the ground.
The attention to detail with the graphics is quite amazing which includes state of the art cut scenes complimenting the Hollywood feel to its design. Shooting scenes are very realistic with blood shots shown quite clearly during close combat and particularly in a standoff or barrage shot. I was very impressed with the graphics of the characters in the game plus the surrounding buildings and rain fall. There is one later level later in the game which involves walking through a waterfall creating a temporary blurred vision which offers stunning visuals. The facial movements of the characters in the game are very detailed with superb facial expressions.
When I first started playing the game I noticed a flaw that involved losing the sound completely on the game when a detailed combat scene broke out. The only way to fix the problem was to quit the game and reload it. This only happened a few times but I've not had this problem at all recently. The other slight flaw I noticed was relative to a lag when using one of the special moves where the frames appeared to be trying to catch up with the action which resulted in a period of stuttering which was uncontrollable. This only happened on two occasions but I've recently installed the latest updates for this game which may have fixed these minor bugs but having now completed the game I will probably never know. The only other thing worth mentioning here is when you try to run from enemies when they are shooting at you. Your character tends to crouch occasionally which slows you down as a click of the analogue stick is what makes you crouch and it's hard to avoid doing this when running in different directions.
Overall I enjoyed the experience of playing through this game from start to finish even though it got a bit repetitive towards the end. If I was criticising this for anything it would be the fact that they jammed most of the appealing features into the earlier part of the game so it became less enjoyable the more you progressed. Interaction with objects also became less of a theme in later levels. Having said that, the graphics are excellent and it was an fantastic and innovative game to play, particularly if you like a lot of shooting action with stunts. The destructible aspect of the game offered something unique at the time this was released and this will be a theme that will probably be continued with future PS3 releases. I estimate that I completed the game in under 10 hours of play with a rating of 'C' so this gives me something to work on should I ever feel the need to play it again. I cannot comment on the network play as it is not something I have explored as there are much more appealing and popular online games to play and my game time is always limited these days. There are a few un-lockable features in the shop on the main menu where you can spend hard-earned style points to buy things like additional character skins and making-of movies which add to the durability of the game.
You can pick this game up brand new online for around £10 - 12 which is a very reasonable price, so based on that I would certainly recommend this game as it offers great value for money. The collector's edition of the game comes complete with the Hard Boiled movie on the game disc but you can only watch this on the PS3 as it will not work in a standard Blu-ray player.
I brought this game after thinking the demo off the Playstation Store was great, full of action and not a moments to stop and take it all in. Constant action, exactly what I like. The game is alot more of the same and is very fun.
The graphics are ok but nothing special for the Playstation 3 but still perfectly fine and don't harm the game. The soundtrack is very fun and fits the game. The game has no framerate issues so it runs very smooth.
John Woo has definately helped make the game as it is full of action from the start to the end.
You are a no-prisoners cop taking on some crime lords. You have to save your family after they are kidnapped and its a race against time.
The game is great and very fun. It is full of action and lots of combat scenes and plently of gunplay. The controls are very easy but the game is quite hard. Try the game using the demo on the PS Store.
You will never get bored with all the action as there is lots of variations and you won't be able to put it down.
However, it contains no 2 player mode letting the game down.
Overall, this is a great game and is a must have for action fans!
You can see immediately that John Woo has had a hand in the development of this game. He definitely left his mark on this one the whole game is one big action rollercoaster. There are no moments to catch your breath which I like. After all, its an action game. ;)