Game Review: 'Stranglehold'

A tough-as-nails cop, a damsel in distress, a whole lot of bullets and a convoluted story line. Sounds like a John Woo movie.

But "Stranglehold" isn't a movie — it's a frenzied action game from Midway and Woo, an acclaimed action movie director. Like many of Woo's films, the story has more holes than the walls of a Chinese tea house.

Despite a feeling of "been there, done that," which increasingly accompanies the game's levels as you progress, "Stranglehold" throws enemies at you by the dozen, and, thus, manages to keep moving at a fast enough pace that you won't get bored, despite the repetition.

And in typical Woo fashion, there are multitudes of flashy ways to dispatch your foes, all while interacting with and destroying much of the in-game environments. In particular, a tap on the correct button initiates "Tequila Time," slowing down time, and giving the player an advantage over his many foes.

Fans are also treated to some top notch voice acting from Chow Yun Fat, who reprises his role as "Tequila" Yuen, a cop who shoots first and doesn't bother with the "questions" part. Even Woo shows up in the game.

What "Stranglehold" is missing in story, it makes up for in body count and relentless destruction, creating a "bullet ballet" worthy of Woo's name.

'Tequila Time'

Taking the lead character, Tequila, from Woo's 1992 action drama, "Hard Boiled," "Stranglehold" is a kind of spiritual successor to the film. It tells the tale of a Hong Kong cop who takes on the crime boss who's kidnapped his family and killed a cop.

The story is a little hard to follow, as Tequila shoots his way through hordes of bad guys in markets and museums, seeking revenge and a chance to save his loved ones.

In between the game's many gun battles, cut scenes attempt to keep the story together, and fail. But this game is all about the play, and on that, it delivers in spades.

Whether squeezing off rounds from Tequila's signature double pistols while running up the spine of a brontosaurus in a natural history museum, or dodging enemy bullets while rolling across a restaurant's dining room on a dessert cart, the action is faithful to the intense action Woo made famous.

Aside from an arsenal of loud and extremely destructive guns at your disposal, the game recreates the kinds of action moves seen in Woo's films, by giving players a few special moves, called Tequila Bombs, that keep things interesting.

Take out targets at a distance with Precision Aim, by targeting a specific body part, and watch as your enemy responds to the shot. Hit him in the arm, and he'll grab at it in pain. Shoot him in the head, and send him reeling back.

Barrage lets players fire off rounds and reload very quickly, making for a steady stream of bullets and dead bad guys.

Finally, players receive the Spin Attack move, which is relatively self-explanatory. Spin in a circle, shoot lots of bullets, kill anyone near you. 'Nuff said.

In addition, players will find themselves in tense standoffs, where guns are trained on them from all sides, and players are given only seconds to dodge and fire at their tormentors.

Of course, the game also includes a multiplayer component, giving players the chance to blow each other away online.

"Stranglehold" delivers all of the pulse-pounding edge-of-your-seat thrills you'd expect from a Woo movie. You'll fire thousands of rounds of ammunition, and leave piles of bodies in your wake. Just don't expect to have any idea what's actually going on.

"Stranglehold" is rated M for mature by the ESRB, and includes blood, drug reference and intense violence.