The G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip had a problem: What good was he when he wasn't gripping? In John Woo Presents: Stranglehold, Chow Yun Fat—reprising his role as Tequila from Hard Boiled—can swing from chandeliers, skid across the room on a drink cart, or enter the misleadingly named "Tequila Time," where the world slows down as he dives through the air and dodges speeding bullets. But in the first couple of missions, these moves feel like gimmicks. Games that trigger choreographed moves with a click of a button usually wear thin the tenth time you skate down a handrail; what really keeps Stranglehold exciting is its style.
What starts as a caricature of Woo films (right down to all the damn doves) picks up speed by the third mission, as the script finds a sense of humor and purpose, and the bullets start coming in torrents. The game rewards your flash as much as your accuracy: In several scenes, you'll spend more time shooting neon signs down onto your victims than targeting them straight-on. And Tequila's superhuman moves seem silly—like the one where you can't run out of ammo, and bullets don't scratch you—but as long as the bodies keep piling up, it's hard to care.
Beyond the game: If this can't compete against Halo 3, next time Midway could take it up a notch and make Quentin Tarantino Presents Vega Brothers, written by Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez with guest stars Pam Grier and Tom Sizemore, hidden severed ears, and a "hide the pocket watch in Christopher Walken" mini-game.
Worth playing for: New challenges keep the shootouts from getting monotonous. In one scene, you have to defend a jazz trio that's caught in the crossfire; every time a musician dies, he drops out of the backing track.
Frustration sets in when: All those wall-jumps and stunt moves could feel more fluid. Setting up a truly spectacular action setpiece takes a lot of practice.
Final judgment: Barely worthy of Woo, but well worth players' time.