Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stranglehold Update

Midway are often asked "So why make a game with John Woo anyhow?" The answer is obvious they say, "because Woo’s the best action filmmaker ever!" And there’s something about his films, especially Hard-Boiled, that make them ideal for receiving the video game treatment. It’s something else entirely to mix a close-up of a frightened goon, a shot of hundred dollar bills exploding in the air, doves fluttering away, and of course Chow Yun Fat leaping through the air, all in slow motion. It’s the little touches of humanity, humor, and completely over-the-top “oh shit” moments that say “hey, this is a John Woo film!”

Woo is best known known for his stylized films that turn gunplay into a ballet of bullets. It's no secret that Stranglehold has been a crown jewel in Midway's plans for next-gen since its first E3 trailer two years ago. Four years after Max Payne 2 soaked up so much of the influence of John Woo's heroic bloodshed masterpieces, the famed film director has attached his name to the interactive sequel to his 1992 classic Hard Boiled and it's almost finished.

As Inspector "Tequila" Yuen (played by Chow Yun-Fat), you are on your own against the gangs of Hong Kong & Chicago. In Hong Kong, his partner on the force is murdered, and in Chicago, two young ladies are abducted; there's a connection there, but it's unclear in the beginning. Tequila must break out every weapon necessary and take out Triad hitmen and tough Chicago mobsters to get to the bottom of it all. Tequila works best alone (with an assault rifle). The story plays out as if it were from a John Woo movie and the action looks like Woo played too much Max Payne. The violence is non-stop, you will blaze a path of violence through hundreds of enemies, while laying waste to just about every object in the environment.

Stranglehold appears to have an exceedingly simple control scheme. All one will need to worry about is shooting and using the action button- this is what you'll use to interact with the environment. If you're near a a rail, a dessert tray, or chandelier, hitting the button lets you use climb aboard for added style points. You'll slide down rails or hop belly first on a dessert tray to deal death to your enemies. If there's no object around, Tequila will leap in whichever direction you press and instantly go into bullet time.

Through the course of his death dealing, Tequila will gain access to four special abilities to complement his arsenal. Health which you will need quite often. Trueshot that gives you a few seconds to aim your gun for a long-distance killshot (including a gurgle-inducing throat shot). The Barrage skill, to go super-apeshit with whatever gun you're wielding in a true show of power. And a Woo staple move where Tequila whips out his pistols and pirouettes with guns blazing- Doves fly from nowhere as everyone dies.

It's impressive to watch the multitude of gameplay videos online and see the level of chaos erupting in every scene. You'll see as many wood splinters as you will bullets whizzing past your head as Inspector Tequila dives over tables and swings from chandeliers. Cover won't last long, as every safe haven quickly degrades under a barrage of enemy bullets. Your best bet to survive these intense moments is to stay on the move.

There are a few select moments where you can't run or cause much destruction at all. These are Standoffs. When these occur, Tequila finds himself surrounded by enemies. The mechanics change and one by one in slow-mo you must target and shoot the enemies around you, dodging their bullets. They're cool little moments that are just as intense as the other frantic scenes of gunplay.

One thing that you'll notice watching the footage is that the environments crumble and collapse after taking too much gunfire. It's part of Midway's tweaks to its altered Unreal 3/Havoc engine hybrid, known as Massive D. But according to those that have sampled the game, Massive D, is a massive hit to the framerate. This is something I'll need to upgrade for.

One thing that Woo is adamant about and mentions in all his interviews, is that Stranglehold be more than a John Woo film that happens to be on the PS3, 360, & PC. Woo is the director of his films, but for Stranglehold they want to put you in the director’s chair. So when you play you get to be John Woo, directing and choreographing the action in the way you want, but of course using his style, and lots of doves.

Stranglehold- Latest Release Date: August 6, 2007

Source: GameSpy, IGN

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