• When action carries the name of John Woo behind it, you know you are in for a treat… couple that with Chow Yun Fats on-screen character that is Inspector Tequila and that treat gets a whole lot stickier with a tonne of bullets and blood. Killing shouldn’t be this much fun… but in Stranglehold it is and the fun never stops. Lock and Load and get ready to kick ass John Woo style.

    Stranglehold developed by Midway takes the Hard Boiled character of Inspector Tequila on a ride across seven explosive chapters, as he looks to free the girls, put a huge amount of bad guys in body bags and get his gun or guns off along the way.

    Your journey in Stranglehold begins with “the gamer” bearing witness to a cop being killed by a rather nasty looking thug and what looks like your girlfriend and daughter being kidnapped… cue the Police being informed and Inspector Tequila reaching for his jacket, getting ready to set sail on what will become a blood bath of a journey. Your badge is at risk, but you could not give a monkeys as you are Chow Yun Fat, you are Inspector Tequila and someone needs to pay.

    Stranglehold is one of those games that beds the gamer in by ‘quick hint’ boxes popping up in the first level as if to guide you on how to control your character, but what Stranglehold does not do is allow the gamer to begin the journey gently. This is hardcore from the word “GO” and it never slows down what so ever throughout the entire game. This is the first point that grabbed my attention in this game and left me with a rather cheesy grin… these are games that gamers love and boy oh boy does Stranglehold leave you begging for more.

    Stranglehold

    Controlling Inspector Tequila is a pretty neat affair, so I won’t bother you as to what button does what… but something that certainly is worth the mention is the ability for Tequila to dive around at the touch of a button, slide up or down banisters with the same said button and to jump off objects all in the name of style. These motions on some occasions kick in the ‘Tequila Time’ but there will be more on that later.

    Another immediate point I wanted to make is that no matter what weapon you carry throughout your journey… you never reload and this certainly comes across all “Woo” like with the action never slowing down. My only moan and groan here is that Tequila only has the ability to carry two weapons and sometimes I was left wondering which two killing machines to pack… that said, from pistols through to rocket launcher, all were very satisfying to use.

    Stranglehold also packs in quite a few other tricks up its sleeve and the first of these is not only having the ability to interact with the environment but to use the environment to your advantage. By that I mean there are usually certain objects in the game that you can shoot the crap out of and make them fall onto unsuspecting enemies… and as such cause those big cheesy grin moments time after time. Examples being when you shoot out a sign above a thug to watch it land on his head crushing him or with you totally ignoring the nine thugs trying to shoot you from the bridge, as you shoot out the bridge struts and watch the bridge and thugs come crashing down to a messy death.

    The second trick is the ability to activate bullet time “a.k.a.” Tequila Time, and while this very often will kick in, all by itself with given situations, with the touch of a button you have full control over slowing down time, dodging bullets and taking out the bad guys. It is very Max Payne… but who cares, it’s very slick and great fun to take advantage off in the heat of battle. However Tequilla Time is run off a meter and this will deplete meaning you have to wait for it to recharge before you can activate it again. That said, it does not take long to fill up the gauge again, nor does it require you to collect any items to keep it active… it’s there and you will certainly use and abuse it till the cows come home.

    The final trick up Strangleholds sleeve is for you to use ‘Tequila Bombs’ and these come in four flavours unlocking at key points throughout the game. The first and almost immediate bomb is the ability to top up your health bar in the heat of battle and saves your running around bleeding to death looking for a med kit. Your second bomb is precision aim and for me was by far the best of the bunch. Precision aim slows down time and zooms into the enemy or object you are looking at and allows you to place your aiming reticule precisely where you want it. These moments funniest of course with you deciding to shoot a thug right between the legs to watch him clutch his man bits blood spraying everywhere. The third bomb you will acquire is barrage, and this puts any weapon into hyper mode spraying bullets out left right and centre, while at the same time not effecting, your ammo stash. This certainly worked best with the shotgun as you could tear through anybody and anything with the shotty on barrage mode and was great for going through hordes of enemies. The final bomb you unlock is the spin attack, and this allows Tequilla to spin around in a circle shooting whoever is in his way… again great for taking out large groups of enemies and providing superb animation with the tequila bomb in action and bodies flying everywhere.

    Your tequila bomb meter is kept topped up in two ways. The first of these is to collect the paper cranes that you see lying around each level, but the second and quickest fashion is filling the bar from stylish kills and by linking kills together getting extra points from interaction with objects as you do so. There is an achievement in the game for producing a stylish rating of 50 and for those still seeking it and not wanting a spoiler then look away now. But for those that are hunting it and want then help, then I found that the best place to grab this was right at the beginning of the game, where you have the first banister to slide down with a cart at the bottom and the second banister that you run up… link all this interaction together producing kills from all the signs around you, and you will easily hit a 50 star style rating, before the action calms and as such the style rating resets back to zero.

    Gameplay throughout Stranglehold is set at a frantic and quick paced affair but one that totally suits the game. Just when you think you have cleared a room, another dozen thugs run into the action and guns go a’blazing again. And when you are not running and gunning for your life you are pushed into a stand off which is very typical John Woo. Tequila will be surrounded and out gunned with you being able to control the aiming reticule and take out bad guy after bad guy… but all this on a time basis meaning, if you miss you are going to get hurt but stand offs at least allow you to lean one way or the other to dodge bullets coming at you. The first couple of times in a stand off are fun, but this was one portion of the game that got a bit boring in the end albeit the last one is a doozy as you have a fair few to take down with only milliseconds spent on perfecting each takedown.

    Playing through Stranglehold never gets boring and while the game can be classed as a tad short with only needing around six hours to slog through it, there is a tonne of replay value and the ability to play through on four different difficulty settings from casual through to hard boiled. There are also 45 achievements in Stranglehold worth a total of 1000 points, with these being split between single player and multiplayer based actions. Some single player will be grabbed on your first play through with others being collected as you tidy up playing again. Finding 250 paper cranes as an example will take some serious gaming time but fortunately grabbing them while playing multiplayer counts and will help those that cannot find all of them during the single player campaign.

    Speaking of multiplayer, Stranglehold certainly does have it, and while you are limited to small numbers of players in each room, you have the ability to activate Tequila Time, use the Tequila Bombs and have all the fun of the fair as you interact with all the objects in each map. Flavours come in ranked or un-ranked with deathmatch or team deathmatch choices. The downside I have found to LIVE is (a) based on certain said achievements for hosting 10 matches on said map and as such, has every bugger in the World hosting a room, thus having a slew of 1 man rooms “no one interested” choices when you are looking for a match to join and (b) the lag in the game can be something chronic even with only four players. This could be a cross continental same ole same ole problem, but could also be down to the sheer amount of things going on, in each map and as such causing the slow down. Lag is painful and everybody hates it – so whatever it is – – please fix it.

    In the looks and feel arena Stranglehold is a pretty darn solid affair and everything looks and feels great. Environments are colourful and well presented and while not having the glean of Gears of War… still tick the boxes. Character animation is very slick and your character that being Chow Yun Fat is amazing in likeness. Audio is also very cool with plenty of bang and boom for your buck and all in all certainly does what it says on the tin.

    In summary Stranglehold is a blast from start to finish, it has a total John Woo movie appeal and your heartbeat will certainly race in portions of this game. It is great fun to play and even better on replay as you can try bigger and better ways at causing mayhem on your quest to be the hero. The multiplayer while fun to play does have it’s problems and could have probably been executed better but it’s tweaks here and there and as such is no biggy… this therefore is certainly a game worth owning.

    Score: 8/10

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