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Adz Plays... Stranglehold

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My blogs have been appearing thick and fast lately. There WILL be a bigger break between this and my next one (due to the game I'll be playing).


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The game acts a sequel to Hard Boiled, John Woo's action film from 1992. You play as Tequila (Chow Yun Fat), a renegade cop in Hong Kong. The game starts with Tequila knowingly walking into a trap. He hopes to save a police officer, but it doesn't take long for him to find out he's already been executed. He then walks further out of line by deciding to take down some drug labs without official permission. However, things quickly start to get a lot more personal...

The story is pretty typical of an action film (John Woo seemed to have a lot of input with it). It's not particularly sophisticated, but it does the job. However, I feel it suffers because of the slow pacing early in the game. I found it very hard to get into the story due to the gaps between cut-scenes. I'll explain why in the 'gameplay' section. Also, a lot of the early scenes seemed a bit of all over the place. At any rate, the story was never going to win any awards.

I'm not sure if watching Hard Boiled would have helped me to get into the story more. I'd like to watch it at some point, as I hear it's pretty good (even had some special effects later used in The Matrix).


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Stranglehold is a 3rd Person Shooter. If you're familiar with Max Payne, it plays a lot like that. As well as normally shooting people, you can also slow down time to take down enemies in style. There are plenty of objects in the environments to pull off some very stylish kills. You get a variety of weapons throughout the game, such as assault rifles, shotguns and submachine guns.

Unfortunately, the 'bullet-time' (or Tequila-time, as it's known in the game) doesn't always work as you'd like it to. Time usually slows down automatically when you dive while targeting an enemy, but it sometimes fails to activate (even if the meter is still full). This usually occurs with enemies who are slightly hidden behind cover. 'Tequila-time' can be activated manually with the RB button, but it's still frustrating when you get shot to pieces because of it not behaving like it should.

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In addition to slowing down time, you also get 'Tequila bombs', which are abilities you can activate with the D-Pad. The Tequila bomb meter fills up as you kill enemies. It fills up quicker if you chain a lot of stylish kills. You can also replenish it a bit with paper cranes that appear throughout the stages. Not all of the abilities are unlocked at the start, but they all appear pretty early in the game. The first ability gives you a little bit of health. The second is 'Precision Aim', which allows you to one-shot kill enemies from a distance. The third is 'Barrage', which gives you unlimited ammo for a short period of time. You're also invulnerable for the duration of it. The last is 'Spin Attack', which kills all of the enemies around you (as well as making doves appear, which is a reference to a scene in 'Hard Boiled').

Early in the game, the level design isn't great. I spent a lot of time going back and forth not knowing how to advance. This is down to the game not being terribly clear about things. In one of the stages, I got really frustrated with it. I eventually found out I had to shoot a very obscured barrel to create a path. Shootable objects are usually marked with a glint...but even the glint was barely visible! As a result of things like this, I think the pacing of the game suffered. Thankfully, the level design gets a lot better as the game goes on. It makes you wonder if they just got to grips on things later in development and didn't make any tweaks to the early stages.


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Graphically, it's a bit mixed. I seem to remember it looking pretty good when it originally came out. However, it hasn't aged particularly well. Don't get me wrong; some of the scenes look fine. There's a nice moody scene with rain that looks really nice. While the characters models are alright most of the time, the faces look a bit weird in some parts. I'm not sure if it's just a case of the textures loading (it's the Unreal 3 Engine, after all).


Stranglehold doesn't really have anything special going for it. I would say it's worth it if you're looking for a cheap game to kill some time with, but it's hard to recommend when better games are around the same price now. It's not terrible, but it's not great either. If there wasn't some degree of fun to it, I would have just stopped playing.


What's next?

I recently managed to get hold of LA Noire and Timeshift for about £12 together. I'll be playing LA Noire first, as I've been meaning to play it for a while. I've seen and heard great things. As for Timeshift, I'm curious about it. It seems to have mixed reviews, but I remember it being recommended in my 'Time Travel' blog a while back. At £3, I won't have too much of a problem if it's not that great.

After those two, DEPENDING on how I feel....I might go for another JRPG. Strongly considering Final Fantasy IV at the moment. I'll see...

...and if you've been looking at my profile lately, you would have seen that I've played a bit of Sleeping Dogs. My brother is down for a visit, so we've been playing a bit of that together. I'm not likely to complete it before he goes back, but I plan to borrow it off him in January, so I'll be covering it early next year.

Other Plans

Towards the end of the year, I'll probably do a special blog where I'll look back on the games I've completed. I'll also talk about the games I'll want to get my hands on in 2013 (upcoming releases and old). I might throw in some 'awards', too. It could turn out to be a pretty lengthy blog.

As always, thanks for reading. Another blog in a few weeks or so, I reckon.