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It’s been a long time coming, but
Stranglehold has finally blasted its way to the PS3. And for action
Jacksons who love shooting things up there aren’t many to touch
this. 

Marking a first for videogames, the
vision for Stranglehold comes from a world famous director. And who
else to direct an action based shooter than the legendary John Woo.  

Stranglehold is actually the sequel
to the much-heralded film Hard Boiled,
also directed by Mr. Woo and once again brings inspector Tequila, played
by Chow Yun-Fat back into action.  

The story involves a killed cop, a
kidnapped family and two criminal gangs. Using his own brand of justice,
Inspector Tequila must stop the gangs and save his family.  

It seems a logical step for a major
director to have creative control over a video game given that games
developers are taking tips from Hollywood in recent times.  

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{mospagebreak}Games such as Kane and Lynch and Heavenly
Sword
have shown that good acting and story-telling can enhance a game.
While Stranglehold benefits greatly from the input of Mr. Woo in terms
of look and feel of the game, it’s impressive in other areas too.  

From the moment you load it up you
can immediately see the influence having a film director on board can
have. The main menu is beautifully presented in the style you’d find
on a DVD film. 

The filmic influence extends well into
the game. The cut-scenes before the first chapter introduce us to the
world of Inspector Tequila and the determined foes he will face. Presented
in the way Mr. Woo likes, the narrative flow is seamless.  

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The first mission is a jaunt through
a Hong Kong marketplace. It’s not exactly a gentle introduction but
it sets the tone for what’s to come. The boss battle at the end of
this stage will have you pitted against a rocket launching gangster
in a restaurant. It’s ridiculously over the top, but that’s one
of the reasons it’s so enjoyable.  

The second chapter is not so exhilarating.
Inspector Tequila finds himself in a beachside area called Tai O. Most
of this chapter will be spent completing missions such as destroying
drug dens and planting bombs. At this point we found ourselves not looking
forward to the rest of the game. But thankfully after this chapter there
are no more mission objectives and the game starts to pick up. And pick
up it does.  

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From the third chapter there is nothing
but action, and the reason anyone would want to pick this title up.
There are some great moments such as when Tequila must protect a band
from what seems like hundreds of goons and the trip to the museum where
taking cover behind priceless artifacts before they get blown to smithereens
seems normal. 

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There is a hell of a lot of destruction.
Nearly everything can be taken apart. Statues, buildings, vases, pillars,
tables, you name it. As if you didn’t already know, sometimes its
just fun to blow things up. It adds a sense of realism too. If an enemy
is taking cover, shoot a nearby wall and he will protect his face from
incoming debris.  

Its not just about shooting, it’s
about shooting with style. Those familiar to John Woo films such as
Hard Boiled or Face-off will witness Woo’s trademark that is two handed
pistol fights, doves and slow motion in the game.  

Hold down the R2 button and you will
be taken into "Tequila time". This is basically slow motion. Killing
enemies while in this mode will earn you more style points which add
up to some cool special moves. 

They include the ability to heal yourself,
which you will use, Precision Aim, Barrage and the Spin Attack. Each
one has its own purpose. Precision Aim is best used for the hard to
reach foes at long range, while Barrage and the Spin Attack are more
suitable for taking out whole rooms of foes and destroying enemy cover.  

These moves will become indispensable,
especially in some of the later levels and are a joy to behold as each
is accompanied by a stylish sequence complete with doves; watching baddies
taste lead in slow mo’ has never looked so good.  

The multiplayer mode offers the chance
to look good while killing other PS3 users online. This affair is pretty
basic offering you the choice of some of the games settings as a focal
point for online play. Get enough style points and you can play as different
characters in this mode, including John Woo himself.  

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Unfortunately Stranglehold is not a
long game by any stretch. The hardcore, and even not so hardcore gamer
can finish it in a day if they wanted to in normal mode. Of course playing
it on ‘Hard’ or ‘Hard Boiled’ means it will take longer to do
so. But it’s about quality not quantity right?  

And thankfully there is a lot of quality. 

Stranglehold is one sharp shooter guaranteed
to provide fun for anyone who’s ever been excited by guns, explosions
and violence. The absurdity of the action is a quality we’ve always
loved in Chinese action films is evident here, owing to the influence
of John Woo, and we’re thankful for it.  

It’s short, and multiplayer may be
a basic affair, but for what it is, Stranglehold is pure gun-toting
fun for those that like their action Hard Boiled.    

Rating: 8.5 

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