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There once was a movie named Hard Boiled, which starred Chow Yun-Fat as a balls to the wall cop named Tequila who shot a whole lot of people while diving through the air in slow motion. It would become John Woo's signature style, vaulting him to slew of big budget Hollywood action epics. It also resulted in just as many imitators. The biggest one in the videogame world was Max Payne, allowing anyone to have the thrill of diving through the air in slow motion while rapidly clicking their mouse button. Then came Dead 2 Rights, a Max Payne clone, making it something of an imitator of an imitator.
Stranglehold is being billed as the direct sequel to Hard Boiled, featuring a gunfire ballet that borrows ideas from both Max Payne and Dead 2 Rights, while mixing it up with some original ideas of their own. Unlike the imitators, this game is loaded with cut-scenes to give the following destruction some actual weight in story. While you won't see anything as detailed as Gears of War, the scenes are skillfully crafted, and work much harder than needed to sell this blood fest.
The environments are lavishly destructive, full of crates, watermelons, neon signs, and other assorted garbage that can be smashed, shot, or just blown up. The debris sometimes make it a little hard to spot the enemy that's already put about a dozen slugs into your chest sometimes, but that's why you need to keep in motion. A dive option lets you take a slow motion turn through the air, avoiding incoming fire while lining up a satisfying headshot. You can also slide across any flat surface, or run up banisters or other angled objects, occasionally taking cover behind a wall or knocked over table for some breathing room. Of course, you'd be dead in a New York minute if not for "tequila time," which is just another fancy name for bullet time. Slow down the game to dodge incoming fire while taking careful aim to clear the streets of these scum.
Twin pistols, shotguns, uzis, assault rifles, grenades... there's plenty of firepower to go gung ho over. Building a pile of corpses will also build up your special meter, allowing Tequila to heal, take precision aim (a slow mo sniper shot), load up a steady barrage of suppressing fire, or unleash the doves in a crazy 360 degree hail of lead that kills everything in sight. To keep true to the original movie and the genre it spawned, there's also a Mexican standoff mode, where Tequila has to slow mo target peeps and dodge incoming fire with a dramatic flare. It's especially cool to see the environmental destruction up close and personal, though there's an odd change in the game's sensitivity that makes it hard to play without control adjustment. Hopefully, that'll be fixed up in the final release.
You don't need to just be shot by AI strangers either. Stranglehold will feature an eight person multiplayer mode, complete with slow motion dodges and bullet-strewn mayhem, with a variety of skins to choose from, even one of the legendary director John Woo himself. So there's plenty of manic gameplay to be had here. The only question is how long will the single player mode last, and will the gameplay hold up and keep things cool for its whole length. I guess we'll have to find out at the end of the month.