For his first crack at gaming, John Woo comes out with guns blazing.
The director shares his affinity for firearms alongside actor Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo Presents Stranglehold , an explosive shooter with punch, but not enough to classify as a blockbuster.
Chow Yun-Fat plays Inspector "Tequila" Yuen, a detective in Hong Kong investigating the kidnapping of a businessman's daughter and granddaughter. This probe takes Tequila throughout Hong Kong and Chicago, battling gang after gang in search of the pair. The plot is solid, but feels secondary to the true stars of the show: Tequila and his arsenal of weapons.
Central to the third-person shooter is Tequila Time, a cinematic slow-motion effect. As Tequila performs stunts like sliding down stair banisters, Tequila Time kicks in, allowing you to pick off plodding gangsters, all while deftly dodging bullets whizzing by. The effect is handled beautifully and adds panache to your attacks.
Tequila Time wouldn't have its impact without strong graphics, which Stranglehold delivers. You can easily spot bullet trails as they zip past. Textures on different objects from pillars to wooden boxes look authentic, especially when damaged. All environments are fully destructible, providing gamers with great views of the carnage they've created.
If operating in slow-motion isn't enough, you'll also come equipped with Tequila Bombs, a series of power-ups geared toward maximum destruction and cinematic flair. A gauge linked to the directional-pad fills up as you dispatch enemies or snag paper cranes scattered through the levels. Once filled, you can let loose a number of moves.
Precision Aim lets you target from afar. Shots end with a flourish as you watch your bullet fly towards its goal. With barrage, you can unleash a flurry of bullets at a high rate without losing ammo. Your most powerful strike, the Spin Attack, releases a twirling strike killing anyone within range. Each Tequila move is entertaining, especially as Woo adds his directorial touches to each shot.
Often, some elements of your environment will glow, signaling another opportunity to vanquish enemies. Send foes flying by destroying explosive canisters or shoot down signs to drop on top of enemies.
Firefights are incredibly intense. So many enemies are tossed your way that you question whether you'll survive.
To break up the action, Tequila gets entangled in Standoffs, slow-motion mini-games where you must dodge oncoming bullets while trying to take out opponents.
Stranglehold is best enjoyed in spurts. At first, the battles are gratifying, but grow repetitive the longer you play. The difficulty ramps up nicely, but the game is a constant stream of shooting and diving with little else in between. Adding to the monotony is the small arsenal, which consists of only four firearms. The single-player campaign is short.
Multiplayer battles are best avoided. The options are quite thin, and the mode lacks the artistic punch prevalent in the solo adventure.
Stranglehold is likely the closest to controlling a high-budget action film as you'll get. Woo's first shot at video games isn't a bull's eye, but it certainly leaves a mark.