18 Reviews

Stranglehold

Like a bullet in a China shop

The developers at Midway obviously understand three important rules. One, smashing an object to pieces becomes increasingly more entertaining in direct proportion to how big and expensive it looks. Two, rendering a man infertile with a high velocity projectile never ever stops being funny. And three, the true path to happiness has got sod all to do with enlightenment, or loving your neighbour, or any of that hippy-dippy nonsense.

Real happiness is watching a never-ending stream of angry strangers writhing on the floor in agony. And anyonewho dares think otherwise is, frankly, deluding themselves.

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For the eight or so hours it lasts you on your first play through, John Woo's Stranglehold will preach this simple gospel to you, holding a big-ass gun to your throat and pistol-whipping you repeatedly over the head until you become a true believer.

Make no mistake, few can boast gunplay this satisfying - not that you'd think it by the time you reach the second level, mind you. After the excellent opener (a relatively risk-free sprint through a Hong Kong market district ending in a tile-smashing total trashing of a restaurant) you're whisked off to Tai O - a rickety old village on stilts, all corrugated iron, wooden shacks and skag-infested dosshouses.

You're asked to destroy a handful of little heroin-making installations. A tally appears in the top right-hand corner, and off you go, pumping merrily away with your shottie, seeking them out and laying waste to all and sundry.

HONG WRONG
Fair enough - but then you're asked you to do it again. And again. And agaaain. A seemingly endless trail of near-identical objectives that set you up a treat for what - at this point - you fear could end up being seven dull levels of tedious, imagination-free gaming. Thankfully that doesn't happen. Because the third level is the inspired Mega Restaurant.

The next hour is an assault on the senses the like of which we've rarely experienced. Priceless Ming vases shatter in the faces of your (frankly stupid) assailants. What they lack in smarts they make up for in numbers, falling over themselves as you shower them with bullets, swinging one-handed from a light fixture, cackling to yourself as you hold down the right trigger as though your life depends on it.

With each subsequent floor of the restaurant, you're presented with yet another choice cut of Grade A carnage - until you bear witness to one battle that is quite simply outstanding.

WOO'S THE MAN
A standoff in an opulent dining hall, where the mission objective is to ensure that at least one member of the band, located in the centre of the stage, is still playing when the shooting stops. No mean feat considering you're using up more small arms fire than the whole of Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon combined. Kicking over tables one minute, sliding over the tops of others the next - with SMG fire shattering fishtanks and cracking skulls at the rate of two a second.

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Fifteen minutes of hand-numbing intensity later, you're left sweating and breathless, giving a mental standing ovation to the men and women who brought us this classic gaming moment. Surely things don't get much better than this, do they? Well, yes. Yes, they do. Yes, they do indeed.

LOCATION, LOCATION
It's due in part to the variation in environments - mixing up wide open arenas and tight corridors decorated wall to wall in increasingly interesting ways. Penthouse apartments, all glass and laser trip wires, and a spacious museum with a range of ancient artefacts to condemn to the history books, punctuate the more standard car parks and urban environments. The important thing here is that they force you to play subtly differently. You'll be blowing everything apart one minute and then cowering behind a crumbling concrete block the next.

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