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Jeremy Jastrzab
03 Aug, 2007

Stranglehold Preview

360 Preview | Back for another shot.
Last month we brought you a hands-on preview of an early build of the upcoming video game venture from John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat. Recently, we got a chance to play through what are pretty much going to be the first two levels of the final build of Midway’s crazy shooter, Stranglehold. As has been discussed previously, Stranglehold is a video game follow up to the Hong Kong action classic, Hardboiled. Players reprise the role of the Inspector Tequila (Yun-Fat), who is more than your typical rouge cop.

We got a bit of a better glimpse into the story in this build. We already know that Tequila’s family has been kidnapped and that a lot the story will revolve around trying to get them back. However, we got a slightly deeper insight into the warring factions and the overall cinematic presentation style. We’re not expecting RPG depth, but hopefully it will be more then a brainless romp.

There is no point in repeating all of the in-game specifics that were mentioned in the last preview. However, pretty much all the features previously discussed have made it through to the final build, either unscathed or tuned up. Tequila will have four abilities at his disposal, Health, Precision Targetting, Barrage and Tequila bomb. However, the latter three need to be gradually earned. While they may seem like simple additions, they are critical to your success through out the game. You’ve also got slow-mo or “tequila time”, which will only be activated when your bar is stocked and when it’s needed – not whenever you want it.

Isn't that taking it a bit too far?

Isn't that taking it a bit too far?
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The slow-mo manages to work well this way and is a great supplement to your abilities. Given that you’ll be facing dozens upon dozens of enemies, you’ll be glad that the slow-mo is there for you to pick off a group of enemies when you’re in a tight spot. The same goes for your abilities. You’ll be glad that barrage gave you invulnerability after you’ve mowed through two-dozen enemies.

The role of interactivity has been made more important as well. Not only have the potential actions increased, namely maneuvers off rails and walls, but the potential for using the environment to help you progress as well. It’s almost something of a puzzle element that has been added. There are several destructive points to the environment that help you progress as well as knock-off enemies. As a common sense measure, a lot of the windows that you destroy can be jumped out of as well.

For example, you are asked to destroy some explosive drug labs but the main vantage points will catch you in the blast. You have to find that sneaky hole in the wall, that gives you a peak of yellow (explosive can) and use precision shooting for the rest. We also saw one sequence that had us shooting down some ramps and watch as the barrels rolled down to create a walkway for us to go. Not bad for a linear shooter.

At numerous points in the game, you’ll be forced into stand-offs. Basically, you’ll face one guy at a time and he’ll fire shots at you. You can dodge his shots with the left analogue stick and at the same time, aim with the right analogue stick and shoot back. They start off fairly easy but as the game progresses, they get quicker and much more intense. We also tasted the game’s first boss. If the first boss is out there firing rockets within the close quarters of a bar, we really want to see what the other bosses will do.

It was mentioned to us that this game will be hard. With four difficulty levels in the final game, we struggle to comprehend how much harder the game will get, as it was challenging enough on the easiest level. Sure, we actually survived, thanks to the generous ammo and health pack distribution. However, Stranglehold is unlikely to be a walk over – as the difficultly level jumps with each stage. While there are only seven stages in the game, they are quite huge and won’t be wiped through too easily or quickly. There is a multiplayer mode, but no word has been given on this yet.

Hong Kong will never be the same.

Hong Kong will never be the same.
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While the game is shaping up very nicely, there are some issues that we encountered along the way. Unfortunately, as much as we hope, they may not be resolved by the final release. In a game that encourages blazing guns, we (still) don’t understand why we’re restricted to just holding two weapons at once. We’ve mentioned it before, but again, why should such an outlandish, destroy-everything shooter be constrained in such a way. Furthermore, the camera struggled at close quarters and in confined spaces. It was a bit annoying, particularly when it got in the way of your cool moves. Finally, a simple hop or jump would have been handy, not just the dive.

Graphically, the technical improvement to the game has been subtle, but noticeable if you’ve seen the before and after. The damage model is still promising to be one of the best around. However, it is more the style side of things that has come ahead in leaps and bounds. The two levels that we played were each very distinctive and a lot of things have been cleverly colour-coded. Not to mention, the game feels much more vibrant that in previous builds.

We stand by our original stance on Stranglehold. On the absolute surface, it may seem like the game is another linear shooter with slow-mo and some people will dismiss it before giving it a go. However, there seems to be much, much more to the game than just pair of smoking gun barrels and a straight line. You have a lot of control over what you want to do and the game looks to be a steady mix of action, some thinking and white-knuckle reflexes. We really are looking forward to playing the final build, when it’s released in September.
Overall:
After playing more Stranglehold, we're hoping that blowing up stuff will never be the same again.

Related Stranglehold Content

Stranglehold Review
27 Sep, 2007 Get hold of it.
Stranglehold demo Live
08 Aug, 2007 You can try to be Tequila.
Xbox 360 Stranglehold: CE to retail for $129.95 in Australia
13 Jul, 2007 PlayStation 3 CE not coming at all.
1 Comment
6 years ago
This is my second most anticipated game after Bioshock. I've tried not to read any previews or view and new screens or movies of this for the last 4-6 months because I don't want anymore spoilers.

I know the game will be like Max Payne but with Chow Yun Fat (which is better imo cuz he rocks and he's actually a real dude) and the awesome special moves and environmental destruction will really put this game in a league of it's own

The first time I saw this game I knew it was right up my alley but I didn't have much faith in Midway to deliver the goods. As time has gone by however it seems this game is going to do John Woo, Chow Yun Fat and Max Payne some much needed justice!

I might watch Hard Boiled again before I play this for the first time to get into bullet mode.

I might actually read the preview now.....hey sweet you can only carry 2 guns at a time? HOW AWESOME!!!!!! Man it's things like that which will really push challenge and creativity in the game cuz blasting through it with every gun in your posession is only gonna ruin it. I remember in Max Payne I hated sifting through the huge armament list because it was unrealistic and cumbersome. 2 guns is awesome imo and will really add to the realism. Trust me watch Hard Boiled before playing and you might be more inlcined to play it through like an interactive story instead of just a video game.

I'm also really glad it's going to be quite hard because the concept is very simple....you just need to be skilled (as long as the controls are solid). So all the gripes you seem to have are actually all welcome additions imo (except for the camera problems).

Also I love John Woo so i'm glad they've retained his signature styles (doves, bullet ballets etc).
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  Pre-order or buy:
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Australian Release Date:
  20/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $119.95 AU
Publisher:
  Red Ant
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007

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