Have You Played… John Woo Presents: Stranglehold?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Stranglehold wasn’t bad, you know? It’s funny how a mostly decent game, on release, is defended by furious pre-orderers who won’t allow negative aspects to be identified. But give it nine years and everyone will have forgotten it ever existed. But fluttery doves, everybody!

Actually, it was a game that suffered from collapse. It started so well, a riveting action game, drawing deep inspiration from Woo’s catalogue, and even is sort of a bit a sequel to the movie Hard Boiled. Chow Yun-fat appears and everything! And in those early Hong Kong levels, it was explodey, exciting and very silly. Sadly the game then moved to Chicago, and became about car parks, and dwindled away to drear.

But it seems a shame to let a game that was nearly great go forgotten. Especially one in which you can dive sideways with a gun in both hands, while doves flutter away, and it isn’t starring a man called Max. Sadly it’s very discontinued, although a huge number of copies can be found on eBay.


  1. Porkins says:

    I actually really loved this game, and one thing i noticed what that when blood gets on walls or the floor, it actually flows. It was such a cool thing that i wish more games would do. i know it’s a super tiny detail, but it really stood out to me.

    • SlugMan says:

      It sounds like you might enjoy ‘Strafe’ (when released). It looks like blood splattering and flowing all over the place will be a big part of the aesthetics in the ‘retro’ game.
      old dev blog posting: Gore Tech

    • Jinoru says:

      Get Painkiller Black Edition. You’ll love the gore in that.

  2. G-Lord says:

    What a nice surprise to see Stranglehold mentioned here. Always found it to be underappreciated, hoping for a GoG release.

  3. Eight Rooks says:

    It wasn’t bad at all. It didn’t have Rockstar’s bottomless money pit, it couldn’t keep up the initial level of EVERYTHING ASPLODE, and as a “sequel” to Hard Boiled it was pretty pointless, but it was still a lot of fun, and for a lot of the running time it was a much, much better game than any of the Max Paynes have ever been.

    • zxcasdqwecat says:

      So far both SH and the max payne series are all below max payne kung fu mod in terms of “game”; max payne 2 could be the kind but it’s actually horrible as a shooter with too much bullet time and movement speed as the main progression method to have any decision making going along with depth, no tension whatsoever and no room to enemy design.
      Max ponders to why everyone dies but who gives a shit the original game had a better level design and was a proper shooter unlike everything else mentioned. Just very clunky but you can fix that with the KF mod

      • rabbit says:

        Let’s not forget the amazing Katana mod for MP1! Took the Kung Fu mod framework + added Kill Bill style chip chop chawooey plus some muuuuch fancier shootydives and the ability to keep on shooting til yr clips ran dry before getting back up from a bullet dodge

        They’d planned two sequels, too. One was a squad based thingy in the Max Payne 2 engine which seemed to get fairly far along before dissolving & don’t konw that we ever found out about the third. But couldn’t recommend the Katana mod enough for anyone who fancies it.

  4. Boult Upright says:

    Yes I have and I thoroughly enjoyed the romp.

  5. w0bbl3r says:

    A great game for the first couple of missions. They had all the aspects of the game that were awesome, including the levels with nicely placed props to drop onto bad guys, and lot’s of Woo-ish action movie area’s that were great fun to fight across.
    Then, as stated here, the game moved location and it was like the level designers lost interest, and the game became a pretty generic feeling 3rd person shooter. A sub-par Max Payne kind of deal.
    I don’t remember any area’s later in the game that matched the asian marketplace area’s from early on, where you could drop neon signs on goons and slide down handrails rather than walk down the steps, shooting all the way.
    The closest came with the museum, where you could run up the T. Rex and see the bones getting smashed by bullets as you went.
    Such a shame. If the rest of the game had been on a par with those high points, it would have been an instant classic.
    Instead it fell into obscurity. Unfairly I thought.

  6. Bull0 says:

    Think there’s a bit of rose-tinted spectacle action going on here. I reinstalled this recently and it doesn’t hold up at all well.

  7. Frank says:

    Nope. It’s not on Steam, so I forgot it existed years ago.

    Shame, that.

  8. suibhne says:

    Whoa, I never even knew there was a PC version. I played it on PS3 and found it forgettably decent, but I always secretly suspect I was skewed by the fact that I’m an HK cinema aficionado.

  9. MykulJaxin says:

    This game made me cry because I was laughing so hard. It’s over the top of the top.

  10. Spacewalk says:

    I never even saw it for sale anywhere.

  11. ironman Tetsuo says:

    The biggest mistake they made was making it a follow up to Hardboiled when they should have gone with A Better Tomorrow 2….

  12. ironman Tetsuo says:

    I always get excited and then incredibly disappointed when I see Bullet in the Head pop up on the TV guide only to then realise it’s actually Bullet to the Head…

  13. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I didn’t enjoy this game for long, but I did really like how he’d slide over tables when you ran into them.

  14. Grim Rainbow says:

    Played this with two room mates as a joke on the 360. We then spent the next two or three days passing the controller round unable to rest or stop laughing until it was completed. Was always great when you’d try and do something cool and end up just belly flopping like a seal in front of the enemy. Also I found the game got better as it went on, not just because of the specials but I actually liked the later levels more. Nice shout out though, wasn’t expecting this one.

    • Grim Rainbow says:

      Oh I was so sorry to hear off one of those housemates when returning home from work, that he had spent almost a whole precious day of his life trying to find players in online mode. I think he was three years too late.