Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stranglehold


Developer: Midway Chicago
Publisher: Midway Games
Release Date: Sept. 25, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: John Woo Movie: the Game

0:01 The game opens a lot like a movie, complete with opening credits. Reminds me of Metal Gear Solid a bit. I hope the cut scenes are less ponderous than that game.
0:02 In Chicago, some guys break through a door. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, some guys drag a battered cop and throw him to the ground. Chow-Yun Fat's wife and daughter are in trouble. The cop is dead. I am CONFUSED!
0:03 More cut scenes as I start the game proper. The police chief gets a request from the cop-beaters to send one man. "I'm not sending in one man, I'm sending in a whole SWAT team. "No you're not" says Chow Yun Fat. OH SNAP! Nice cinematic camera angles and impressive facial animation.
0:04 "Careful Tequila! This is a rough neighborhood." Wait, my name is Tequila? Tequila?!?!?!?
0:05 Diving and shooting engages "Tequila time," which is like Bullet Time but with a crappier name. Shade of Max Payne here. Not that that's a bad thing.
0:06 I spend this entire minute sliding back and forth on a countertop. The slide is always perfectly smooth and clean, no matter what speed or angle I go in at. It's so ridiculous it's funny.
0:08 I spend 30 seconds trying to pick up a couple of guns before I just give up. Ugh.
0:10 So, apparently, if I'm at 109/120 bullets I can't pick up 12 more. If I'm at 108/120 I can. First of all, this is stupid. Second of all, shouldn't there be some sort of message explaining this?
0:12 Man, the action gets fast and furious quickly. I love seeing Chow Yun Fat's grimace as I hide behind cover, and seeing him lean naturally to dodge bullets that come at him while hiding. The characters really feel alive, especially when they writhe in pain as they're shot.
0:14 Apparently, Hong Kong has a real problem with piles of fruit and crates lying around. Someone should look into that.
0:15 Cut scene time. Tequila... walking around... looking for something or someone. He finds him, but the guy runs off, leaving a picture of the dead cop. Then some other guy shoots a watermelon. Tequila dives behind the cart, then it's abruptly my turn to play.
0:19 The last four minutes were spent in non-stop action. Guy after guy comes out from random doors. Only complaint: It's a little hard to tell where the bullets are coming from, and a little hard to distinguish the guys I'm aiming at from the dark backgrounds.
0:20 DAMN! I just dove right past a guy, pivoted in mid-air in slow motion and SHOT HIM IN THE FACE POINT BLANK WITH A SHOTGUN. The little explosion of his head was so satisfying I feel a little guilty.
0:21 It's standoff time, AKA mini-game time. Dodge bullets with one stick, aim with precision with another, all in slow-mo. Eh, I prefer the rest of the game.
0:22 Tequila time is a little wonky, constantly going on and off as I dive. Annoying.
0:24 As much as I like staring at Chow Yun Fat's ugly mug, he gets in the way of the camera sometimes. This causes my first death.
0:27 DAMN x 2. Shooting a gas canister brings down a small village of shops rather convincingly.
0:29 DAMN x 3! Precision aim lets you pinpoint parts of the body in slow-mo. Seeing a guy's eye explode in slow motion is just... DAMN! The whole scene is made worse by seeing him raise his arm and grasp at the bleeding hole. Eeew.
0:32 Watching an air conditioning unit fall on a bad guy in slow motion is the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
0:35 If I were watching this game, I'd probably remark "man, that guy dives a lot." Seriously, Tequila is jumping around like a Mexican bean.
0:37 It's really jarring to go from the non-stop action of the game to the relative calm of the cut scenes. "Why isn't this guy dead." "We ran out of shooters." LOL. I thought they'd never run out at the rate they were coming!
0:39 "Be cool, we got heat at the bar. "You brought a cop to our deal?!?!" Awesome firefight ensues. Wish I could play it...
0:40 ...but just like that, the demo's over. The teaser advertises "The most destructible environments ever created." Sure... if you like destroying lots of crates. A teaser video shows more action. "I told you not to go in alone." "I didn't, I brought my two friends," Tequila says as he holds up two guns. I laughed.
0:43 The video shows Tequila shooting up a casino, a temple and a natural history museum (walking on a Brontosaurus skeleton spine = awesome), all without breaking a sweat. Oh, and multiplayer! The video is almost as long as the rest of the demo!
0:46 I'm not that impressed with newly unlocked barrage mode, which allows for slow-mo rapid fire. Maybe it's better with bigger weapons.
0:48 Hard mode seems harder mainly because there are more enemies and less hits needed to die. I've gotten a little better, but obviously not enough, as I die rather quickly.
0:51 My third death in as many minutes comes because I get stuck hiding behind cover... I couldn't get out. Annoying.
0:55 After five straight deaths, the game asks if I want to retry on an easier difficulty. Maybe I should take that as a sign... a sign that I suck.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? It's the best effort yet to recreate an action movie in a game.

This review based on a demo version downloaded from the PlayStation Network.

1 comment:

eotf said...

If you play more, you might enjoy turning off automatic Tequila Time (accessible from the pause menu) as well as auto-aim, if you didn't already.

I find the game a lot more fun when I'm in complete control of Tequila Time. In the Max Payne games, there was automatic bullet time during dives, but I don't think it drained your meter unless you activated it yourself. In this, the automatic activation can leave you dry when you need it most.

I played the game through on hard, and I had a blast. It has some rough edges, but the action is so intense that I can forgive its flaws.