Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Midway Studios Chicago
Release Date: Summer 2007
John Woo Presents Stranglehold is a true example of modern media convergence. Technology has finally progressed to a point where a video game sequel to a revered 15-year-old film can be both believable and accepted. The element of interactivity may make Stranglehold a much different experience than its motion picture predecessor, but the storytelling and gunplay elements carry over seamlessly from one entertainment medium to the next.
Released in Hong Kong in 1992, "Hard Boiled" chronicled the efforts of Inspector Tequila (played by Chow Yun-Fat) to take down a powerful mob of gun smugglers, and it marked Woo's final film in the country before creating blockbusters like "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible II" for the Hollywood studio system. Astute fans of "Hard Boiled" note that over 300 bodies drop over the two-plus hour running time of the film, but I suspect that many more digital lives will end during the six or more hours that Stranglehold spans.
Set roughly a decade after "Hard Boiled" (five years less than the real-life layoff), Stranglehold finds Yun-Fat reprising his role as Tequila, who discovers that a daughter he unknowingly fathered has found herself in the middle of a power struggle between the Russian Mafia and the Hong Kong Triad. With his daughter kidnapped and taken to the United States, Tequila follows the trail to the Chicago History Museum, where the game presumably begins with the inspector taking down waves of goons and destroying scads of irreplaceable artifacts in the process. Feel free to suspend your disbelief at any time.
During my brief romp through the many floors and corridors of the museum, I found the gameplay in Stranglehold to be extremely reminiscent of Max Payne, with third-person weapons-based combat that can be slowed down to a crawl with "Tequila Time" (bullet time). The "Tequila Bombs" and the ability jump on/over various environmental aspects adds a bit of cinematic flair to the game, but it still boils down to a run-and-gun experience that benefits greatly from the use of familiar characters and plot points.
The PlayStation 3 build on display at Sony's recent Gamers Day event was essentially the same as the Xbox 360 demo shown back in January, so be sure to consult Thomas Wilde's earlier preview for the nitty-gritty on the various gameplay elements at play in Stranglehold. As I smoked countless foes and trampled on suspended pterodactyl fossils, I had a chance to chat with Product Manager Jack Van Leer about the PlayStation 3-exclusive Collector's Edition announced during the week of Gamers Day.
Furthering the concept that entertainment can transcend a single medium, the Collector's Edition of Stranglehold will contain both the game and the original film that spawned it. Digitally remastered and exclusive to the HD format, "Hard Boiled" has been squeezed onto the same Blu-ray disc as the game, allowing gamers to take in the complete adventures of Inspector Tequila without swapping discs (or even turning off the console). Details were not yet available on additional content or special features, but it has been confirmed that the disc will feature both the English and original Cantonese language tracks.
Both console versions (along with a PC port) of John Woo Presents Stranglehold are slated to ship later this summer, with the Collector's Edition of the PlayStation 3 version expected to cost $10 more than the standard iteration. While the Xbox 360 release should certainly benefit from the addition of Achievements and force feedback, multiplatform fans of the original film may find the prospect of owning "Hard Boiled" in high definition to be absolutely irresistible.
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