LOS ANGELES--Stranglehold, or as Midway puts it, "John Woo presents Stranglehold," promises to be the video game sequel to Woo's famous 1992 action movie Hard-Boiled. As you can probably guess, Midway is working with the acclaimed director (Woo is reportedly a huge fan of video games), but the game will also incorporate the likeness and voice of famed actor Chow Yun Fat reprising his role as police inspector Tequila. We got a chance to play the Xbox 360 version of Stranglehold at the show, and it's got a really promising blend of gameplay and visuals.
As Midway's Tony Rod explains it, the idea behind Stranglehold was to create a game that captures the essence of John Woo's movies. And it's something that Rod feels is overdue, since so many other games and movies are so obviously inspired by Woo's movies, which usually feature incredible gunfights that are displayed with stylistic grace. To do that, the control scheme for Stranglehold is incredibly simple. The thumbsticks move you and the camera around, just like in any console action game. Meanwhile, the right trigger fires a weapon, while the left trigger is used for everything else, from leaping into the air to getting Tequila to interact with the object in front of him. Actually, you won't need to worry about making him jump or open a door, because he'll automatically do that without your input. Make him run at a table, and he'll slide over it. The demo that we were shown was the interior of a restaurant, and it was crowded with tables, chairs, and everything else that you'd expect. But since you don't have to worry about jumping over things, it's easy to move around as Tequila jumps and leaps over everything automatically and effortlessly. "From a gameplay perspective, this is an empty room," Rod says.
This lets you run around the entire place, focusing on blasting bad guys with your dual pistols (yet another John Woo signature moment). You can leap into the air, and, if you have enemies in the crosshairs, the game will go into slow motion, just like it would in a John Woo movie. Leap against a wall, and Tequila will do a cool bounce off the wall, pushing against it and leaping in the other direction. Run up to a stairway banister, and it lights up, and if you leap, he'll run atop the banister up and down the stairs. Aim at a chandelier and leap, and he'll swing across the room. There are no jumping puzzles--just aim and jump, and the game takes care of the rest.
The result is that it's incredibly easy to get into some stylized gunfights. It's not enough to shoot guys, but you soon want to get colorful with your kills by trying to be as cinematic as possible. This also serves another purpose, because the more style in each kill, the more you fill up a meter at the bottom of the screen. Fill the meter high enough, and you can execute a special move, like the Tequila bomb, a signature John Woo shot where Tequila suddenly drops down, spins around, and fires at multiple enemies, all while the camera is circling around him and in slow motion. The camera then switches to the enemies that he's shooting at, and it shows close-ups of the bullets hitting each of them.
Visually, the game looks impressive, just like you'd expect from an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game (Stranglehold will also appear on the PC). But what's really cool is that the game features persistent and destructible environments, which means you can shoot them up and they look trashed at the end of a gun fight (just like they do in John Woo's movies). Shoot a rice sack, and rice trickles out. Shoot a seat cushion, and stuffing flies. Shoot wall tiles, and they shatter. And things that are destroyed don't fade away after a few seconds, but they stay around the entire time. By the end of our gunfight, the restaurant was absolutely trashed.
We had a fun time with the single-player demo. We're told that the game will also feature multiplayer, and while details aren't being released just yet, Rod says that they've come up with a creative way to handle the issue of everyone going into "Tequila time" with special powers. We'll have to wait and see what that is and find out what's in multiplayer. Until then, Stranglehold is scheduled to ship for the three platforms listed above simultaneously sometime this winter.