Stranglehold Hands-On - A Night at the Museum

We throw down in an updated version of Midway's upcoming John Woo-inspired action game.

LAS VEGAS--Midway showed off an updated version of Stranglehold, its upcoming action title made in collaboration with director John Woo, at its Las Vegas press event. A short presentation on the game showed two videos. One video highlighted the work that's going into crafting Woo's signature gunfights in Stranglehold; the second focused on Woo and actor Chow Yun Fat's involvement in the project. Once the presentations were over, a playable version of the game was up and running on the Xbox 360, which let us try out a new level set in the Chicago Historical Museum.

The playable demo at the show broke up the level into three chunks named after areas you'll be going through: party room, dino room, and slate room. You could choose to jump to each individually or start out at the beginning of the level--the party room--and go through each area sequentially. The demo opens up with a film that sets the stage for the action as nefarious dudes spirit away damsels in distress and Inspector Tequila arrives. The party room is basically a large multilevel area where you race through rooms and go up stairs, shooting up your foes in a stylish fashion. The next area you race to is full of massive dinosaur fossils that you can actually run up or swing from, including T-rexes and pterodactyls. Finally, the slate room features fossil slab displays.

The three areas work well to show off the various new features in the demo. The party room lets you get up to speed on the basics of Tequila's abilities, the centerpiece of which is a dive that can shift to slow-motion "Tequila time" so you can aim at your enemies. The time slowdown kicks in automatically as you dive and aim at an enemy. You can also trigger it manually by hitting a shoulder button. If you manage to take out enemies while in Tequila time, you'll be rewarded with points that go toward filling a meter in the lower left-hand corner of the screen that contains the four Tequila bomb abilities.

These four special abilities are laid out in a cross-style pattern, matching their assignment on the 360 controller's D pad. When your meter is full, pressing up on the D pad activates your precision shot, a sniper-style mode that zooms in your view and lets you fire a single shot with pinpoint accuracy. Pressing right on the D pad triggers barrage, which slows down time and lets you shoot off a flurry of bullets in rapid succession for a short stretch. Pressing down on the D pad triggers your spin, a flashy 360-degree hail of gunfire that wipes out enemies around you. Finally, pressing left on the D pad uses up a portion of your meter to restore health.

The dino room lets you perform Tequila's more advanced moves, such as hopping and running on railings or the various dinosaur skeletons laid out in the room or hanging from the ceiling. Besides looking cool, performing stylish actions rewards you with tequila points--the more impressive the move, the greater the payoff and the faster your meter will fill. You'll also be able to take cover and pop out to shoot. Taking cover plays a larger part in the slate room because you'll make use of the fossil slates to avoid fire from enemies that are coming at you from every direction. The downside is you'll quickly discover that slabs of fossils don't have much staying power in the face of a hail of bullets, so you'll have to keep on the move.

Stranglehold's visuals were very sharp and sported some extra polish since we last saw the game in motion. Inspector Tequila is a polygonal sight to behold, reflecting the meticulous work done by the team to capture Chow Yun Fat's likeness in the game. The other characters come close, especially in the nicely produced cutscenes, but don't quite match Tequila's quality. The museum environment is a little on the plain side but sports a lot more character once you start trashing it. The unassuming museum features a respectable amount of destructibility that is in line with the game's much-touted massive-destruction feature. You can shoot up just about anything you see around you with varying results. You'll break the glass and perforate the bases of displays, completely decimate dinosaur fossils, shatter vases, and blow apart columns to call out just some of the payoff you get from making use of your arsenal in the game. The action is enhanced by the use of various filters that represent Tequila time or the Tequila bombs.

The good inspector mixes up his own special Tequila bomb for his friends.

Finally, the game's cinematic style is definitely coming together well, offering dramatic camera angles during the different Tequila bomb and Tequila time sequences. However, as nice as the game is looking, there are a few rough spots, most of which are to be expected in a work-in-progress game. The frame rate isn't quite consistent yet and dips when things get crazy. The camera also has a tendency to go weird during hectic times, which makes aiming a challenge. Lastly, animation is still inconsistent in places and makes your enemies move awkwardly.

The audio in the game is very satisfying, thanks to a focus on what you'd want to hear out of a game based on a John Woo movie: gun sound effects and plenty of them. The gunfire is punctuated by the equally satisfying sound of objects blowing up when you get on a roll. Besides all of the gun-related audio, you'll get an earful of speech during the cutscenes and as you go about your business of shooting everyone up. The soundtrack offers an understated accompaniment to the mayhem, which we're on the fence about; we'll want to hear more before we decide if it works for us or not.

Based on this latest level, Stranglehold is coming together pretty well. The overall gameplay is solid and definitely has appeal. The rough spots we mentioned dull its sheen a bit, but we're hoping they'll be addressed by the time the game ships to ensure the game lives up to its potential. So far, development is headed in a positive direction, so we're eager to see more of the game. Stranglehold is currently slated to ship this summer for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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Discussion

39 comments
1234567890xxx
1234567890xxx

Wow. More mindless violence. What will they come up with next?

dysturbed
dysturbed

there is never such a thing as TO MUCH SLOWMO

mingfu
mingfu

Nice action game!!!!!!!!!!

hilliss
hilliss

It should be pretty cool judging from the gameplay footage and trailers and stuff, I just hope the "tequila time" or whatever (slomo) doesn't get overused. Since it initiates automatically whenever you do any kind of dive or other cool move or anything I just hope that doesn't end up ruining the gameplay by having it be in slow motion the entire level. Other than that, looks like a badass action game. That being said, there is such a thing as too much slow motion.

CaRD0N
CaRD0N

Sorry, but to me, this game looks like nothing special... except an Asian Max Payne

zouhou
zouhou

hey it looking good but they should make some time to get the bugs out

4105462786
4105462786

This game is looking pretty sick...I'm really psyched about it =D

Razzi65
Razzi65

looking good.....hope it'll rock b4 GTA come...

rolento88
rolento88

i hope this movie game is good like chronicles of riddick and not bad like reservoir dogs...

TimoTheThug
TimoTheThug

Dunno if this game will work, It might be great game to play. It might keep me statisfied for like 6-8 hours but I don't know if this game will be attractive when putting it next to games like Motorstorm, BIA etc

mojahid_1st
mojahid_1st

when i first heard about this game i wasn't too sure if i would like it or not... latley i have started to realise just how good this game can be... i can't wait

datniccah187
datniccah187

Midway is trying to do big things as of late. They've made some classics in their day. I'm trying to think of some good midway games, obviously there is the Mk's, but i know they're a lot of others, i'm just having a brain freeze at the current moment. But i must say they are trying to come on strong as of late.

NND1
NND1

I have seen a lot of those movies and they are awesome... this game should be too.

Itsdewdewbabiee
Itsdewdewbabiee

John Woo movies are cult classics.... He's the man who put the A in action films... And I'm sure this game will not fall short on action... Many of the action Hollywood films out there play homage to his work... he was the Director that made Chow Yen Fat famous in Hollywood... And his film trademark was of course the double pistol wielding Chow Yen Fat.... Can't wait... He needs to get together with Chow and do a Hollywood action flick.... But this is I guess as close as well get for now.... If you haven't seen Hardboiled you guys should watch it... Freaking awesome movie!

luciotss
luciotss

engine half life, jogabily max payne, the King Slom Time!!!!!

Atreyu_basic
Atreyu_basic

This game looks amazing. I wish they hadn't taken out co-op mode and put in deathmatch. I'd much rather have a co-op mode.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

i don't care about the story. the action showed of was just to cool to be ignored. i'm getting this game no matter what the reviews are. i was happy wiht max payne and i'll be happy with this. expect many many many mods for the game(maybe even some from midway) for pc. this is one of those games that are better on pc(if you have a controller and a card that at least rivals the console version.) because there is mroe replayibility.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

I've played Max Payne 2 2-3 years ago. I liked it. If this game is at least half as good, I will give it a try.

henry4th
henry4th

max payne 1 is great, 2 sucked big time because it's just the same thing as 1 with less an interesting story. Hopefully, this game will have a cool story.

xlancentx
xlancentx

dude what are you talking about?

mattrut
mattrut

The John Woo + Chow Yun Fat team was a heavy influence on a game called Action Half-Life. Action Half-Life was in turn a heavy influence on Max Payne. It only makes sense that a game based on this duo would end up looking similar to Max Payne.

foxy42
foxy42

I just hope they learned what they could from Max Payne 2....best...game...ever.

BrassBullet
BrassBullet

The "Chicago Historical Museum"? Well, I guess I can be glad they haven't changed the name to "Macy's Historical Museum". Seriously though, calling the Field Museum anything else is is like calling the Louvre the "Paris House of Pictures". P.S. Don't support Macy's, bring back Marshall Field's, Go Bears!

Crimson-_-Tears
Crimson-_-Tears

I agree with ya Mohamad_h nothing will ever come near the great games of Max Payne.

DontEatCream
DontEatCream

In my opinion, Stranglehold looks just like a sexier, updated-in-graphics version of Max Payne 2, though I'm still on the fence about it. I'm going to need to read a few reviews before rampaging out and buying the game.

Mohamed_h
Mohamed_h

I think this game will never surpass Max Payne 2 .

ObiKKa
ObiKKa

Spiffy graphics. But I saw an older video of this game at Gametrailers and I absolutely hated it all! The gameplay is way too arcade, the playable character is ridiculously strong, gets repetitive all the time for the full 10 minutes or so when all of the enemies keeps spawning in a medium-sized room/hall, bosses are ridiculously nigh-immortal who needs to be shot at forever, rockets don't even bother the character's health much, and all. It should've been more challenging in a tactical way, but this game's full of artificial difficulty BS. However I have a bad feeling that this game will sell 1+ million copies or so.

jussimple
jussimple

Long time big fan of John Woo. Game looks solid, just hope the frame rate can keep up with all the action.

True_Blu3
True_Blu3

The game looks very very good. I'm, however, going to rent it.

QuebecSuperstar
QuebecSuperstar

Stranglehold is number 1 on my wanted list. I bought Hard Boiled on DVD to set me in the mood, not being familiar with John Woo's Hong Kungian work.

icym
icym

Nice, I wonder if this will accomplish what so many action games try to do and give you a great game/cinematic experience?

games_pot1
games_pot1

Nice to see its going along good.