Stranglehold Hands-On Preview

Level 1

The first level is the Teahouse. If the name sounds familiar it’s because it was the first level that was made playable to the press. Everything starts on a starry night, in a back street of Hong-Kong. Tequila is on a quiet walk (a gun in each hand). He’s suddenly assailed by a group of gangsters who trap him without even the common courtesy of a friendly hello.

This is where it all begins. Handling the controller is practically instinctive: one trigger to shoot, the other to crouch low to the ground, one button to launch Bullet Time, a joystick to aim and the other to move the character.

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Once these fairly elementary controls have been assimilated, all there is left is to do is gun down waves of enemies and destroy your surroundings to maximise the combos. Many moves were scripted just for the enjoyment of movement itself; they add another dimension to the character. A particularly enjoyable example is the ability to lean against walls to jump further and surprise your enemies.

It’s all combined with beautiful Hollywood-style slow motion and headshots for the more agile shooters among us. We can also throw ourselves across wheeled tables, just to add style or strike a pose as an Asian Tony Hawk by gliding down a banister in slow motion.

All of the decor is destructible, which immediately leads to players trying to kill thugs in the most stylish manner available. Accuracy and combos allow you to trigger special attacks, but we’ll talk about this in more detail later as there’s only one power available in the first level and it isn’t worth spending much time on for now.

Once the backstreets are emptied of your would-be assassins, you penetrate into the Teahouse itself, where you come up against the first boss. He’s in possession of the enviable combination of a near endless health bar and a missile launcher…

Level 2

The second level is opens in a coastal village with a small port. Players are tasked with taking out coke refineries (those of you thinking about the mineral coke are a little too innocent). It’s easy to appreciate the detailed water and the moments where you have to shoot certain elements of the environment to turn them into platforms, facilitating your increasingly questionable war on crime.

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Despite the fact the action is ubiquitous, you’re still forced to go around in circles to find those damned coke refineries. Fortunately, a pure shooting phase in a helicopter follows in short order, to soothe our taxed neurons and sate our destructive little minds.

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