Stranglehold Reviews

  • All the TigersAll the Tigers547,405
    31 Mar 2011 02 Apr 2011
    19 2 1
    A friend recommended that I play this game, because he and I share a terrible curse: we both have what most doctors would term an "unhealthy obsession" with Chow-Yun Fat and John Woo. Playing through this, I have to say that I enjoyed the game immensely, but I doubt anyone who doesn't have Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow, and the Black Lagoon anime enshrined on their DVD case would enjoy this game nearly as much as I did. That said, let's break this down for people who don't know Chow-Yun Fat's American cinema debut (you know who you are) and those who never played the Max Payne series (I don't know who you are).

    Much like the three examples I listed above, Stranglehold probably went below the radar for most people. The game came out in 2007, and it was mostly advertised in the same vein as Bayonette in 2010, i.e. "if you liked this really popular series, you'll love this new game." However, unlike the Bayonetta-Devil May Cry relationship, this did not become a critical success. Another selling point was the relatively new Massive Damage (abbreviated Massive D) system that allows you to destroy pretty much everything that doesn't have a concrete foundation certified by the Board of Public Safety, which was much truer than the first sales pitch.

    Graphics-wise, the visuals are sadly unimpressive. Textures and environments are fairly bland, and the game shows its age, which given the game is now three and a half years old, says something in equal measure about both the game and how console game design is progressing. The developers added an interesting flare that randomized AI skins somewhat, having the game engine construct your generic opponents with swappable parts, allowing for combinations such as Face B + Torse D + Lower Body A. Still, even though the city is no longer full of identical multi-tuplets with identical fashion senses, it is filled with a lot of siblings who have the same tailor. And given that you're slaughtering the entire population of Hong Kong and the more mundane half of the Chicago mafia, all in about 7 to 10 hours of game play, you don't really notice this feature too much.

    What you'll likely remember the most is the Stand-off scenes, which are an homage to John Woo's movies. At critical moments you'll have a Hong Kong-Mexican standoff with multiple enemies, with the number increasing with every encounter. You'll enter bullet-time to take them down one by one, dodging incoming fire all the while. These are fairly enjoyable, and are the parts I (voluntarily) replayed the most.

    The AI has about two settings: run at you like a bat that's dine-n-dashing out of Hell's Kitchen, or stand behind a pillar, determined to drill through it with its pistol/Uzi/shotgun to get to you. Typically, the game only throws four enemies at you at a time, and only two or three levels make you fight a boss at the same time as those four people. Also, until you've hit the body count for the area, killing one enemy spawns the next one almost immediately, making for some very hectic battles. The AI remains the same throughout the game in terms of tactics, but higher difficulties have the enemies do increased damage. A melee at Hard Boiled (highest difficulty) will take you from full to within an inch of your life, so don't let them get close to you, especially since the other three are probably also shooting at you concurrently. Overall, the AI is fairly exploitable, but the higher damage can make the enemy's lucky shot into your Load Checkpoint. And given their numbers and the fact you personally fire ~10,000 bullets in three levels (when I got the achievement), they have a lot of chances to get lucky. Get ready for frustration, but good planning, a good guide, and/or a lot of luck should get you through. Most people have decided that it's better to be a living Hardened detective as opposed to a rigor mortis Hard Boiled detective.

    In terms of physics and reactions, the environment is fairly realistic, and a lot of overhanging structures can level the battlefield if you make them collapse on your enemies. Explosions, rock slides, and falling AC units all happen at the pull of a trigger. The ragdoll physics are hilariously overdone, though. If Halo 3 made you wonder how dead bodies can be contortionists, get ready for Circ de Cadaver. Those are good for a laugh, and hearing Tequila fight one-liners with one-liners after being shotgunned by a boss into a pretzel offers a bit of a bittersweet reprieve from frustration.

    Enemies also react to wounds depending on where you shot them. Tequila Time and Tequila Bomb Gauges--yes, that's what they're called--help smooth things over in terms of difficulty, and the Precision Aim ability makes enemy reactions very clear. Using this ability, which kills everyone but bosses in one shot, makes the enemy clutch their respective injury as they collapse. For those familiar with the phrase but not the origin, "Testikill" comes from this game and this ability, and that Penny Arcade joke later became an achievement in the DLC.

    The storyline is fair-to-decent. It's a well told and complete story that's standard fare for shooting games, meant as a sequel to the Hard Boiled movie starring Chow-Yun Fat and directed by John Woo. There was talk of making an actual movie sequel to Hard Boiled based on this game, but little enough has been heard from that. The story will be nothing new but nothing bad, and though predictable, it's still enjoyable.

    Outside the single-player campaign, however, all's quiet on the multiplayer front. Literally no one plays this online, largely due to the absurdly long loading times for each map (between 45 seconds to a minute-fifteen and upwards), and the fact that the game sends you back to the lobby without saving any of the online settings like what map you were playing or the time and score limits. The online retail achievements are all grinding, from hosting and completely 10 matches on every single one of the maps (which is where the post-game settings reset gets annoying) to killing 307 people and so on. The DLC is priced at $15/1200 M$ and unlikely to ever go down, and it's entirely multiplayer-based. If you do fork out the money, it's only an hour or so of boosting for these, as they're mostly for fulfilling conditions on certain DLC maps as opposed to grinding.

    Overall, Stranglehold is an average game. It flew under the radar, sonar, and visual confirmation of most of the gaming community, and those who have played it mostly agree that it's about as good as any other game you'll find in a used game store's bargain bin. Hard-boiled is extremely difficult, but in the end more just tedious as opposed to frustrating. Nothing overly remarkable aside from the Stand-off moments, which are arguably the best part. Most people will probably want to pass on this game, unless you want to take on the persona of the Chinese equivalent to Antonio Banderas.
  • Sensor GhostSensor Ghost288,640
    30 May 2011
    16 2 1
    I have had this game for years, having purchased it from the bargain basement section of an online website for about £5.
    It can still be bought for this price, or pre-owned and will offer many hours of entertainment.

    The Single Player experience is one that I have grown to appreciate over time, as it is simple yet difficult to master. It invites you to go in all guns blazing, leaping off walls sliding down bannisters and generally diving headlong into battles with several enemies firing from all directions...

    But, and heres the good/bad news...
    The HardBoiled difficulty unlocked after completing the game on any difficulty is a much different game.

    This is good if you consider yourself a true gamer, and bad if you are easily prone to joypad throwing tantrums...

    Enemies become much more resiliient, better shots and use the scenery to their advantage. Leaping in head first as in the easier difficulty levels results in a very swift death... Which, in conjunction with rather long loading times (a feature of many early 360 games) can be rather irritating.

    Scenery needs to be used more, 'Tequila Time' (Bullet time) slow mo needs to be used more manually than automatically, and hte tequila bombs (special moves) which charge by by the kill, or can be boosted by collecting origmai style paper cranes need to be used strategically.

    Pretty much everything in the game can be destroyed or smashed up, from pots and pans, to entire walls and totem poles. Some of this scenery can be used to your advantage as it will damage/kill enemies.

    Stringing combos together is the key in easier levels. For example, level 1 on easy is great fun. SLide down hte bannister, blast the signs from the walls of the building to kill the enemies, just as you reach the bottom, leap forward onto a trolley, and steer this, whilst shooting enemies of propane gas cannisters for more kills, then leap from this onto an uphill bannister run, again more signs, tehn leap from here into a wall spring, flying backwards through the air twisting and turning as you fly, blasting wrong doers into the walls...

    Stringing combos together on Hard Boiled, is very tricky, and as such, very rewarding when you do, but it becomes a more stealthy affair, with lots of hiding behind pillars, leaning around to pick off stragglers.

    Multiplayer is an interesting feature. The Tequila Tima and Tequila Bombs being especially useful. Not many players left online these days, but, that said, I've been able to get all the multiplayer achiements over this last week, so there are still players to be found.
    1on1 seems to be the match up of choice, but this can lead to one sided games. As with any MP experience, knowledge of the layout is important. Each map has spawn points for weapons and paper cranes. Cranes spawn randomly at the specified points, and knowing there locations is very important, as Tequila Bombs renderyou invincible whilst in use.High powered wepaons are usually located ontop of, or within destructible scenery, meaning you often need to destroy something to releas them. As I said, 1on1 can be a bit one sided, the first kill of the game seems to set the tone, as once you get a kill, your tequila meter is usually full, and your tequila bomb gauge will be at at leats the first level... Meaning you can pick off the newly spawning opponent...
    This leads to many games ending early due to otehr players quiting out...

    My god, i'm waffling...

    Basically, this game was worth every penny. The main character is Chow Yun Fat. Legendary chinese cinema actor, and all of the moves he pulls of in hte game have been seen in his films.
    John Woo had a big input nto the game, having seen several of his films, you can really see his input.

    When you consider the games age, and price point.
  • Wildboy WileyWildboy Wiley574,991 574,991 GamerScore
    14 May 2009
    25 12 3
    To start off, I was recommended to play Stranglehold, as I heard that it was very comparable to Max Payne. After finally beating the game, I have no choice but to label it the exact opposite. It really is more of a smack to Max Payne's face.

    Let's start off, with the story. The game follows as a sequel to the movie, "Hard Boiled": You play Inspector Tequila, you're quickly thrown into the story as a cop has been killed, and the HKPD (Honk Kong Police Department) gets some evidence proving it, with a note saying for one cop to go alone and meet the killers at the Golden Rabbit bar. The chief obviously knows this is a trap, and wanting to send in a SWAT team, is forbidden, when Inspector Tequila states he'll go. The game has a a bunch of rival gangs facing off against each other, and it leads up to Tequila's ex-girlfriend and her daughter being kidnapped. Pretty average storyline.

    The gameplay is like a teeter-toter. it goes both ways. You have Tequila time, which is Stranglehold's version of Max Payne's Bullet time, but as an added bonus, you have Tequila bombs, 4 special moves that help Insp. Tequila through his quest to save his "family", A health regeneration, Precision aim which slows down time and zooms in to get a more accurate shot, Barrage which gives you unlimited ammo on one weapon for a short time, and finally a spin attack, which kills every enemy on screen. To be able to use the moves, the player either needs to find paper oragami birds laying around the levels, or kill enemies and earn style points. There are only a few weapons in the game, those being the pistol, golden pistol (its' a little stronger), the shotgun, Assault Rifle, Heavy Machine Gun, Sub Machine Gun, and the rocket launcher.....

    The Artificial Intelligence is bad, and that is definitely an understatement. 95% of the time, enemies are either standing in one placing shooting at you, or they are running straight toward you full-auto. It's even worse when the game doesn't spawn some enemies with a weapon, so they try running up and melee'ing Tequila, in which, if successful takes away about a quarter of your health bar (On casual difficulty at least...) The bosses are probably the lighter side of the ugliness. The bosses stand there shooting, but at least they can actually do some damage to Tequila.

    The difficulty is great, it's so great that Hard Boiled difficulty is almost impossible unless you're the kind of gamer with a lot of patience. Every area where you are in combat has about 25+ enemies to kill, with about 5 - 6 in the room at a time. On Hard Boiled Difficulty, I would be able to kill at least 4 or 5 enemies before I was almost dead. I thought Veteran difficulty in Call of Duty 4 was hard, but then I played Hard Boiled difficulty on Stranglehold...

    The sound is probably the best part of the game. Most guns sound like they should (except the pistols), and the voice acting isn't perfect, but it holds together well. The bad part, is the bosses usually repeat a script of 3 lines about 20 times before you can kill them, which can get annoying.

    The multiplayer....well, I can't talk about, nobody plays the multiplayer, so I haven't played it, and can't review it. Most likely it's bad if nobody plays it.

    The achievements are good and bad. The singleplayer achievements will make you cry, especially the achievement to beat the game on Hard Boiled difficulty. To anyone who has earned this achievement, I give you massive props! There are a bunch of multiplayer maps, as well as some DLC multiplayer maps with achievements, but none you'll probably get, as like I said, nobody plays multiplayer.

    The game is good, but that's about it. Most people think the reason the game is bad, is the fact it's based off a movie. I don't think the game is bad, I just think that it may have been rushed. WIth a better A.I., more of a weapon selection (perhaps a sniper rifle...) would have made the game a lot better, but without it, the game is sub-par. Buy it if you're going to spend the time required to complete the singleplayer, and to boost the multiplayer, otherwise rent it, or don't play it at all :D.
  • Removed Gamer
    Gamer has been removed
    2 7 0
    Stranglehold is a fun over the shoulder shooter. The campighn in this game is a reasnable size doesnt realy explaing all of the buttons but you understand them and learn the realy quick.
    The achivments for this game are simple and do not take very long to get.
    (I know i dont have them all but im working on it.) The online achivments can be a bit tricky becouse not to many people play this online but it is sold for a low price in most stores now so u could always ask a m8 or buy it for them.
    If you like gears of war, Lost planit and The Bourne Conspiracy i recommed that you try this game.
    If you are more into CoD or halo you could try it but i would recomed that you stay to first person shooters.
    My overall verdict of this game is a 8 out of 10.

    Thanks for reading my review.