Sunday, October 05, 2008


Ok, so far, I have three games for my Xbox.

I bought Star Wars: The Force Unleashed when I bought the console, bought Dead Rising nice and cheap a few days later (God Bless pre-owned games) and finally just a couple days ago, I took the money I’d normally use to buy cigarettes for the week and bought John Woo’s Stranglehold.

Heh… it’s the one good thing about the process of quitting smoking. Not only do I suddenly have more money because I’m not buying cigs…I can file games under ‘quit smoking therapy’. They keep my mind occupied, give me something to do with my hands and blowing stuff up in a game is a great way to work out that irritability.

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about Stranglehold for a minute, just because it was a pleasant surprise for me.

You see, I’m a life-long Star Wars fan, and after seeing the commercials and following all the tech-demos that have been popping up over the past year or so, buying Force Unleashed was a bit of a no-brainer.

After playing it, however, my overall impression was just ‘meh’. It’s a good game, but not a great game. It has some amazing set-pieces and groundbreaking new technology…but the story was incredibly predictable and there was nothing truly earth-shattering about it (although crashing an Imperial Star Destroyer with the Force did come close). While I do like it and I’m glad I own it…I’m wish I’d waited and bought it later when it goes Platinum.

Dead Rising is pretty much the whole reason I wanted an Xbox in the first place… and I almost literally jumped for joy when I saw it on the pre-owned rack for fifteen bucks.

The reason I’m writing this post, however, is that neither of these games even comes close in pure enjoyment terms to Stranglehold.

I bought Stranglehold because we took my Dad to Circuit City so he could buy one of those RCA mini-camcorders like mine. I had twenty dollars in my wallet so just went to look at the games while we were there. In the twenty-dollar price range, it came down to a choice between Saint’s Row (a GTA clone) and Stranglehold. I decided on Stranglehold simply because I’m planning on getting GTA4 at some point in the future…and I liked ‘Hardboiled’, the John Woo movie this game is a sort-of sequel to.

I put it on, played the first few levels and thought it was just an okay third-person shooter. A day later (after many hours of Dead Rising) I put it back on and after getting past what were essentially just the tutorial levels… I was completely blown away.

Stranglehold makes you actually feel like you’re in a totally bad-ass, over-the-top Action Movie. This is the game that ‘Enter the Matrix’ or ‘Path of Neo’ should have been. Think of every awesome moment from every awesome action movie you’ve seen and multiply it by a hundred and you’re getting close to what Stranglehold is like.

The part that really made me sit up and take notice was a part where I slid down a banister in slow motion, shooting twin pistols at the bad guys as I went, then, still in slow motion, I leapt from the end of the banister, landed on my stomach a desert cart…and rolled the full length of the restaurant, shooting bad guys the entire time in a hail of bullets and exploding vases, tables and chairs.

What more can you ask for?

Well, I’ll tell you…

After fighting through a multi-story car park, taking cover behind concrete pillars that slowly get destroyed Matrix-style by incoming bullets…then fighting my way through a bad-guy’s penthouse…I finally had the guy cornered…and he fired a burst at the outer window…and leapt out with a manic cackle.

WTF? I asked myself…until the helicopter came into view.

Running for cover as he opened up with a rocket-launcher, I realized this was going to be difficult. I needed almost pin-point aiming, but needed to be moving constantly.

Then I noticed the chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Let’s just say you’ve never experienced pure gaming joy until you’ve blasted away at a helicopter with a machine gun in one hand …while holding on to a swinging chandelier with the other as glass and fragments of furniture explode all around you.

I have to say I’m normally not a massive fan of shooting games, and I’m certainly not a huge fan of shooting games you play with a control pad instead of a mouse and keyboard…but at twenty bucks, Stranglehold is a game that should be in every gamer’s collection.

It’s a big chunk of awesome covered with kick-ass brand syrup, OMG sprinkles and served in The Ultimate Bowl of Ultimate Badassery.

In other words…it’s good. Buy it, rent it, borrow it…but play it.

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