Hard Boiled, John Woo's last Chinese film before relocating to Hollywood, was a fantastically over the top action movie with a body count of 307 (the fourth highest of all time according to moviebodycounts.com) that made a star out of both Woo and lead actor Chow Yun Fat. Now the story of Inspector Tequila, the "hot-handed God of cops" continues with Stranglehold on PlayStation 3, a game made with the full co-operation of John Woo, and the first time Woo has worked with Chow since Hard Boiled.
The majority of the game is played as a third person shooter, with you controlling Tequila, as voiced by Chow Yun Fat. The emphasis is very much on frantic shooting action, with as many of John Woo's signature touches thrown in as possible, including his famous white doves, as well as Tequila's weapon of choice being two handguns wielded simultaneously.
The action in Stranglehold is all about style. Tequila has the ability to slow down the action with Tequila Time, a slow motion, bullet time mode monitored by an orange bar in the top left of the screen. Needless to say, diving sideways through the air in slow motion, blasting two enemies, then flipping around in mid air and taking out a third while a flock of doves scatter in front of you is as exhilarating as it sounds, and perfectly recreates the feel of John Woo's critically acclaimed action films. The levels are all fully destructible as well, with environmental hotspots you can use to take out large groups of enemies such as explosive barrels, collapsible ceilings and precariously balanced piles of rocks.
It's not all for show though - every kill Tequila makes adds to his Tequila Bomb meter, and the more stylish the kill is, the higher the meter will climb. So, a straightforward kill will earn you a small amount of Tequila Bomb credit, while sliding down a banister, shooting out signs to land on your opponents, before jumping onto a wheeled trolley and sliding across the room firing as you go will earn you big style points and a lot more Tequila Bomb credit as a result.
Bomb bang a bang
Tequila Bombs are special attacks assigned to the directional buttons that allow Tequila to deal with the overwhelming odds he has to face throughout the game. Precision Aim allows you to target enemies from far away, and then follow the bullet to its target, Barrage makes you immune to most attacks, meaning your weapon fires much faster with unlimited ammunition, while Spin Attack sees Tequila fire off a spinning whirlwind of bullets that will take out every enemy in the room in cinematic slow motion. The enemy Artificial Intelligence is just that - intelligent. Enemies will try and flank Tequila, use explosives to flush him out of cover and work as a team to try and bring him down, and each enemy has specific damage points at different areas across their body, so will react completely differently to being shot in the stomach to being shot in the shoulder.
And that's not the end of the cinematic action either. At points throughout the game you are sent into Standoff mode, where Tequila is surrounded by enemies with guns drawn in a tense stand-off situation. From this position you are once again sent into slow motion mode, and must dodge bullets with the left stick while returning fire by aiming with the right stick. It's a tense recurring sequence that requires focus and split-second reactions, and really helps to continue the feeling of cinematic action created by the game.
Stranglehold also features online multiplayer for up to six players playing deathmatch and team deathmatch modes in a variety of locales from the game. As you'd expect from the game, each match is great fun, as well as being complete and utter chaos, with bullets flying everywhere, players diving around in slow motion and some major property damage as well.
With its cinematic shoot-outs, compelling, globetrotting story of corrupt cops and villains and frantic multiplayer mode, Stranglehold is an action movie come to life. Fans of John Woo will be in heaven with this return to his Hong Kong roots, and for anyone who enjoys their action fast-paced, explosive and Hard Boiled this is a must have.