When kung-fu movies were considered extremely cool, we all dreamed about becoming Van Damme or Bruce Lee. The new generation of such movies was clearly marked by John Woo, a movie director who innovated on the genre (without causing a revolution); his products were always at least fun and entertaining. From his collaboration with Midway resulted a reflection of his movies in the gaming world, with a clear interactivity bonus added, to allow gamers to become the action-stars themselves.
Stranglehold can be considered a spiritual sequel to Hard Boiled, a flick released in 1992 starring Chow Yun-Fat as inspector Tequila, a fearless police officer that uses unorthodox methods to fight organized crime. The story is a classic one: the policeman’s girlfriend is the daughter of a mobster, but they are truly in love with each other. Suddenly, the lady disappears and the mobster sends the policeman a Morse message, making good use of his ribs as a means of communication, but after 18 years the girl resurfaces, with a child. And you can pretty much guess whose kid it is.
To have a good reason for killing mobsters, the girl and the child are kidnapped by a rival triad and we enter in a vicious circle, in which inspector Tequila kills baddies from one side of the law, negotiates with other triads and has flashbacks so that the story is more detailed. Naturally, the colleague from the police department also steps in, working undercover, but you don’t know for sure whether or not he has turned his back on the law; and to top it all off, your boss is threatening to kick you off the force, which makes you even more angry and determined.
As you can see, we have a rather plain story, which is only the stepping stone towards the real reason for playing Stranglehold: the action. We saw bullet time put to good use in the first trailers, so the game was quickly categorized as a Max Payne clone, which is only partially true. At least some work has been done on the system so now it’s activated automatically when you do a specific move or jump and an enemy lies at the end of your gun barrel. You can also activate bullet-time manually, by pressing the right mouse button, but generally this is not needed as the game uses it quite well.
Alongside Tequila-time (the name given to the bullet time) there are four other “Tequila bombs”, or special abilities. These are all based on the same “fuel”, so the more enemies you killed in a stylish manner or using a complex combo, the more possibilities you have of using the abilities. The first is very useful and helps you heal your wounds. The second one offers the possibility of concentrating on a single enemy and putting a bullet right between his eyes (or any other body part for that matter), with the camera moving accordingly, following the trajectory of the bullet – what follows is a personalized animation depending on the place chosen for impact.
The third is the most useful bomb, called Barrage – it allows inspector Tequila, when he’s mad, to become immune to bullets for a short period of time and gun down anyone who stands in his way, a very effective method of cleaning a room full of baddies who enjoyed Beretta more than Shakespeare. The fourth and most spectacular ability makes the inspector spin around and shoot in all directions, while white pigeons fly around, so you can get rid of large number of enemies in a very cool way. Not to mention that all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.