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December 19, 2007
John Woo Presents Stranglehold - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
28/11/2007Red AntMidwayMidway12-8
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc9905kb720pDD5.1NoMA15+

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Chow Yun-Fat looks wonderful in Stranglehold.
If you like action movies, then you should have at the very least heard about John Woo's masterpiece, Hard Boiled. Unfortunately as far as we can tell the movie has never been released in Australia on DVD and that is despite the fact that it is one of the highest rated on IMDB with an average score of 7.8/10. This game is a sequel to that movie and John Woo has signed on as producer while Chow Yun-Fat reprises his role as Inspector Tequila. Can they create another hit - albeit in video game form? Fortunately even if you haven't seen the movie this game stands up quite well on its own.

John Woo Presents Stranglehold sees Chow Yun-Fat reprising his signature role as Inspector Tequila, pitting gamers as a take no-prisoners cop waging a personal war with Hong Kong crime lords. Tequila’s loyalties to the force are tested when his ex-wife is kidnapped by the Russian mob in Chicago. Tequila struggles to balance his duty to uphold the law with doing what it takes to save his family. What this all amounts too is one kick-ass game with plenty of action from start to finish.

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Battle in the Chicago Museum.
So what we have here is a third person action game which takes place in Hong Kong and Chicago. Split into seven large chapters (the entire game took us around 10 hours to complete - if you rush it may be over a little quicker, but if you take your time to explore it could take a bit longer) the game includes multiple weapons to take out the enemies including pistols, shotguns and machine guns. When it comes to enemies there are hundreds of them too. You won't go too far before another wave pop out from all corners to take you out. At some points in the game you will even mount a machine gun in a helicopter to inflict some major damage. As with any John Woo production it's not just about the killing, but the style. Shoot an enemy in the groin and he will wince in pain, shoot him in the head and he'll drop quicker then a bag of cement.

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There's a tonne of cool moves in the game.
As you run around clearing out the levels of bad guys it is possible to enter Tequila Time to perform stylish moves such as diving around the levels, running on railings or rolling around on a cart. While doing this time slows down and by killing enemies you collect style points which, besides going to your final level score, help to fill up a style meter. Filling this meter then allows you to unleash 'Tequila Bombs' by pressing the corresponding button on the D-Pad. There are four levels of bombs in all which are as follows...

The first 'Tequila Bombs' refills your health gauge by about a third. The second level is Precision Aiming which slows down time and allows you to zoom in on distant enemies and take them out with a single shot - impressively the camera follows the bullet to the point of impact. The third level is the Barrage which gives Inspector Tequila, for a short period of time, has unlimited bullets and makes the Inspector invincible. The final ability is the 'Smart Bomb' which sees the inspector spinning around in 360° shooting all enemies within sight - and with doves fluttering around. That's John Woo at his best!

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All the environments can be damaged.
Along the way Inspector Tequila will also enter standoffs with multiple enemies. Surrounded by enemies your perception of time is slowed down so you can see approaching bullets, giving you time to duck out of the way to the left or right. At the same time you have to take out the enemy by targeting either him, or other items around him. Target items around him you ask? Well yes we forgot to mention that. You see you don't have to just take out enemies by shooting them directly, you can actually shoot parts of the scenery such as external air conditioners, or signs above the enemies thus making it fall onto them. Not only does this look cool, but also rewards you with more style points.

As you progress through the game you can also enter a shop (where John Woo is the shopkeeper) and actually buy items such as artwork for the game, movies including early visualization sequences, and even additional characters for the online modes. While not overly detailed these are nice bonuses to have.

Speaking of online gameplay after you've finished with the single player game you are going to want to check this out, although you won't find a massive amount of modes or options here. In fact what you are going to find is Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch options and that's about it. Given the maturing of online gaming we actually expected quite a bit more from the online gameplay.

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Particles, gunfire, smoke - it's all here.
It must be said however that there are a few disappointments with this title - besides the aforementioned rather short length. The first is that unlike America we do not get a copy of Hard Boiled included on the Blu-Ray disc. It would have been fantastic to see the movie in High Definition prior to playing the game, but we miss out. Given that we pay full price still this seems a little unfair. The biggest issue in terms of gameplay revolves around the camera. Quite often you will jump one way and aim the other way, but the camera has a bit of a time tracking movements. There can be someone right behind you blasting away and you won't be aware where it's coming from. I guess that's an issue with many 3D shooters, however in this game it seems worse then others. Stranglehold also has some clipping issues here and there with Inspector Tequila passing through walls and objects on occasion. It's minimal but distracting. Finally the enemies continually respawn and while this keeps the pace going it does make it seem a little unfair at times.

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Shooting from the cart...
As you can see from the surrounding screenshots this is an impressive game graphically and it early proof of just how powerful the Unreal Engine 3 actually is - although Midway have done a lot of customisation including the integration of the Havok Physics engine. Almost every part of the scenery can be destroyed, damaged or affected by explosions or gunfire. In all the years playing games I don't think I have seen so much destruction of levels and it's a joy to simply go around destroying objects for the hell of it. While all this action is happening the frame rate manages to hold pretty solid, although not rock solid mind you.

Cut-scenes in the game also deserve a special mention. Sure, they were directed by John Woo, and his style oozes all over them, but it's also the level of detail and the plot that will have you intrigued. The acting, and voice work in these scenes is generally magnificent, although some of the characters do appear a little wooden and the character models, while realistic look a little off. In fact it's almost like the character models are so realistic in places that your brain senses automatically that something isn't right. As previously mentioned though the biggest issue we have with the graphics is the camera which at times becomes a little confused and occasionally doesn't track you as well as it should. Still, Stranglehold is a great looking game overall.

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Running around above the enemies.
Audio is certainly another area where Stranglehold really shines. Jamie Christopherson's score for the game is every bit as epic as any motion pictures. Simple in many quieter parts and the cut-scenes but also dramatic when required. The voice acting is pretty good, although on occasion it sounded a little muffled. This all pales into comparison to the effect though with brutal gunshots and explosions being heard from the surround speakers.

Every once in a while a game comes out that is better then the sum of its parts. That is certainly true of John Woo Presents Stranglehold. While there are issues with the cameras at times, the game is a little on the short side, and the multi-player longevity is questionable there is no denying the amount of fun which this game brings. High production values, some great unlockable content, and frantic gameplay make this a title worth adding to your collection. A blast from start to end.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSCharacter models are a bit strange, but the destruction is superb.
80%
SOUNDGreat music, great dialogue and even better effects. A treat for your ears.
90%
GAMEPLAYDespite the problems with cameras this is one of the most entertaining shooters we've played for some time now.
86%
VALUEQuite a short title, and no Hard Boiled movie sucks. Could be better value.
71%
OVERALLStranglehold isn't the best game on PS3, but it is one worth checking out. It's a blast from start to finish and a showcase for destruction. Highly recommended.
83%

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