Stranglehold – Xbox 360 review

I’ve absolutely no qualms with admitting that two of my most replayed titles from the last few years have been the Max Payne action based shoot-em-ups. It might lack the kind of depth and story that most gaming critics clamour for, but it made up for all that by just being so much damn fun that you’d be happy to play through each title over and over and over...

So without a third in the series on the near horizon, Stranglehold has stepped up to take the crown as the best all out action shooter currently on the market. A videogaming sequel to the much loved movie Hard Boiled in fact.

The story is, well, nothing to write home about. As Inspector Tequila, you play a rogue cop who’ll go against the law himself in order to get rid of the thugs populating the mean streets of Hong Kong. Certainly not Shakespeare, but who really expected, or even wanted, as much?

All you need to know is Tequila is handy with a pair of guns in his hands, and you’ve free reign to blast away all those enemies on screen in any way you see fit. In as brutal of ways as your heart desires.

You’ll certainly get to test out your itchy trigger fingers a multitude of times in Stranglehold. You’ll wield everything from Tequila’s default pair of pistols, through to machine guns, and even rocket launchers later on in the game's 8 hour lifespan.

Every level is absolutely jam packed with enemies to take out your brutal dreams on, with them jumping out from almost every corner, and eager to take a handful of shots to the chest for enjoyments cause.

Like Max Payne, the bullet-time feature (here called Tequila Time) which slows down the game world around you to a crawl allowing you to stylishly despatch enemies aplenty, is a huge selling point. You’ll find yourself rushing into rooms, purely in the hope you can get the opportunity to pull off as many bullet-time headshots as possible, before time speeds back up, and you’re simply left with absolute bloody carnage on screen.

Even the levels themselves are eager to help you out. Almost every bit of scenery can be shot at, or simply used as a cover to duck behind when the going gets really tough. Sliding over a table, before ducking behind a handily placed piece of scenery, allowing you to fire off a few rounds to drop a few planks of wood over a handful of enemies, is the norm rather than mere one-off moments.

You could conceivably take Stranglehold extremely carefully, merely popping out from behind cover and scoring a few pot-shots before ducking back to safety. However, then you’d be missing out on the “Tequila bombs”.

Pulling off enough stylish kills to fill up the on-screen meter allows you to unleash one of four different special abilities. Ranging from a simple boost of health, through to screen clearing levels of invincibility and unlimited ammo that’ll give you a huge boost when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Stranglehold doesn’t have everything quite its own way. It’ll only last you a weekend before you’ve completed the story, and the majority of enemies seem a little too stupid to put up too much of a challenge.

But despite its lack of length, Stranglehold is one of those – like the aforementioned Max Payne – that you’ll be eager to start again almost as soon as the closing credits have rolled. It might be little more than a one trick pony, but when that trick is so spectacular, you can’t stop yourself from wanting to experience it again, and again, and again.

Verdict

Leave your brain firmly in first gear, and you’ll love Stranglehold. It’s all out hectic action, without even a semblance of depth to dilute the sheer brutal action on screen. Expect anything more, and you’re missing out on why Stranglehold is such a stunning title.

So what if it does nothing new. Who cares if it’s a little on the short side. The weekend it’ll last you will be one of the best you’ve had on the 360.