Videogames-To-Flix #44

VIDEOGAMES-TO-FLIX is a JoBlo.com column showcasing reviews of videogame translations of Hollywood films (or games soon-to-become Hollywood movies). With both industries getting closer and closer, and videogames, in general, getting so much more popular, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hit that stuff!



Developer: Midway Chicago
Publisher: Midway
Systems: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, and PC


John Woo has been talking about making movies based on video games for quite a while now. First it was TOM CLANCY'S RAINBOW SIX, then it was METROID, and now it's NINJA GOLD. Luckily, while those movies seem unlikely to ever see the light of day, Mr. Woo has completed his first game, STRANGLEHOLD, and it's quite good.

Starring Chow Yun-Fat as Inspector Tequila, STRANGLEHOLD is a sequel to the movie HARD BOILED. Tequila is on the trail of a mean old crime boss that has kidnapped his daughter and is holding her hostage. You'll have to kill millions of dudes, slow down time, and pick up paper cranes to make it through this interactive story. This review is of the XBOX 360 version and of the game only (PS3 owners - the special edition comes with HARD BOILED bundled on the same Blu-Ray Disc!).


The simplest way that I can describe STRANGLEHOLD is that it's like playing a three dimensional version of GEOMETRY WARS EVOLVED. Throw in a dash of TONY HAWK, MAX PAYNE, and you've got STRANGLEHOLD to a tee. None of those games are regarded as losers and together they for make an entertaining mix. While the controls initially struck me as somewhat glitched and over sensitive, I eventually came to realize that they're designed to be exaggerated. Anyone who's seen John Woo's movies will understand that this is part of his style. After figuring this out, I adapted quickly and learned to enjoy the experience as a living version of a John Woo movie.

In STRANGLEHOLD, there are two main gameplay modes: shooting while in motion and shooting while stationary. Shooting in motion is a very normal gameplay experience with some added perks. Players have control over the speed of reality allowing for efficient and stylish shootouts that look much like a John Woo movie should. Included in this mode are varying special moves that add some freestyle-like spice and encourage you to add strategy to your mass murder. I'm not talking about chess level strategy; more like Tic-Tac-Toe.

On the other hand, stationary shooting isn't as crisp nor as enjoyable. You're forced into a bizarre cut scene like effect that requires agility and patience to master. Unfortunately, the experience is hindered by a bizarrely out of place control scheme. This scheme is different from the rest of the game and is more frustration than fun. I'd rather the developers added a few more levels than waste their time on these clunky interludes.

Overall, gameplay was enjoyable but took some initial getting used to. Some players may throw in the towel early and I encourage you not to do so. While this game isn't as tight as GEARS OF WAR or HALO 3, it definitely has entertaining gameplay.

Gameplay: 8.5/10


Developed specifically for the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3, STRANGLEHOLD doesn't immediately jump right off the screen as current gen. However, after you spend some time in the game you'll see where they allocated their time. Everything crumbles in this game. LOTS of stuff gets chewed away with bullets and the effect is pretty amazing to watch. You can use your crumbling surroundings as cover from enemy fire or as weapon to take out some silly gangster. The debris showers down like and end of days meteor shower. This cool effect adds a level of detail and fun that gives killing a kind of sandbox feel.

Despite not looking as realistic as GEARS OF WAR or as artistic as ETERNAL SONATA, STRANGLEHOLD is up to current-gen snuff. The character models are adequate and distinguishable, although, lacking the artist flair seen in better games. Chow Yun-Fat looks like Chow-Yun Fat. John Woo looks like John Woo. They just don't snap and crackle like some other games do.

Otherwise, there is only one other noteworthy graphical element, the bullet trails. Each and every bullet has a visual trail that is obvious in regular time as well as in Tequila Time (not my awful phrasing). This is a pretty cool effect in and of itself, and is made even cooler when you battle the helicopter boss battle. Imagine one dude shooting hundreds of rounds a minute through the top floor of a well furnished skyscraper. The walls and cover are crumbling around you and you dive behind a bar as your only place of refuge. Pretty badass to behold and worth the price of admission.

Graphics: 8.6/10


The sound is kind of a mixed bag in STRANGLEHOLD. The voice acting varies from character to character. Some deliver the goods while others sound overly corny. This is typical of normal John Woo movies as well as many video games; so, just go in expecting spurts of hyperbole and you'll be entertained.

On the music front, despite contributions from Serj Tankian, the music in STRANGLEHOLD never stood out from the crazy soundscape of exploding dinosaurs and endless bullet barrages. So, I guess the real winner in the sound department would be the Foley artists. Who needs a score when you have millions of bullets whizzing past?

Sounds: 7.3/10


Once my initial vibe of boredom washed away, I found STRANGLEHOLD to be good visceral fun. Fans of John Woo movies should get a kick out of living one of his movies and being Chow Yun -Fat for a couple hours. If you're looking for a over the top shoot 'em up and you can deal with minor control issues, STRANGLEHOLD is definitely worth your time. Hopefully, Woo will learn a bit from this experience and contribute further to the wonder world of video games.

Final Verdict: 8.0/10


There has been no discussion of making STRANGLEHOLD into a proper movie. Perhaps this might be a fun project for Woo after he finishes making RED CLIFF. I guess time will tell.





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