Summary: Hard Boiled, the movie that made John Woo famous, comes to the gaming scene as Stranglehold. Plus, it's got Tequila Time!
FiringSquad: Now that Stranglehold is getting closer to its release later this year are you proud of what the development team has been putting into the game so far?
Alex Offerman: Definitely! Stranglehold is 100% still in line with our original vision of the game. It's an action/shooter that truly encapsulates the authentic cinematic John Woo experience, allowing players to engage in intense gun battles, while flowing seamlessly through environments and taking down enemies in a creative and stylistic way.
FiringSquad:How has it been working with John Woo and Chou Yun-Fat on a game continuation of Hard Boiled?
Alex Offerman: John Woo has been amazing to work with! He has contributed a lot of animation and cinema direction, and has been extremely involved in the writing of the story. Since we are trying to recreate his cinematic vision in the game, so we regularly meet with him to review the latest version of Stranglehold and get his feedback, which is always very insightful. It’s really a pleasure and an honor to work with such an influential action film director.
FiringSquad: How hard was it to make a game that was both inspired by Hard Boiled yet still held up as a good gameplay experience?
Alex Offerman: It’s been a challenge but I wouldn’t say that it has been difficult, in large part because we’ve had John Woo there to help and guide in matching his cinematic style and vision, both in the game’s cinematic sequences and during gameplay. As far as good gameplay experience Stranglehold allows for the Hard Boiled story to be told in new and different ways. Most other mediums are fairly static and non-interactive, while video games can be very dynamic and usually require a lot of interaction on the player’s part to advance the story.
Alex Offerman: Not at all, there is so much to game! To begin with Inspector Tequila is famous for his “six sense” of knowing where enemies are and using his environments in unique ways to get the edge over his opponents. For instance, using a banister to slide down stairs so he can get off clear shots at enemies he is pursuing, or sprinting along the tops of booths at a restaurant to get in point blank on a cop-killer, he is always interacting with the environment and the objects in it to give him the upper hand and to surprise his enemies. Players of Stranglehold will quickly discover that doing the same thing will give them an advantage in the game too, and we make sure there are not only tons of opportunities to pull off incredible stunts and interactions, but that they are intuitive and easy to perform. We do this by clearly highlighting what tequila can interact with in the environment and then a single button press kicks off a cool interaction stunt, and while doing almost any interaction, Tequila can smoothly continue to aim and fire his weapons. The player will also receive style points depending on how he killed his enemies that can be saved up for special attacks and moves. We also couldn’t do a John Woo game without a slow motion mode which we are calling “Tequila Time”. This is where time slows down to make aiming easier and adds a very cinematic flair to the action. Even this we approached in a novel way. We also included Mexican Standoffs, where two or more enemies find themselves face to face with guns pointed at each other, each wondering who will be first to pull the trigger. These are a staple of John Woo movies and we really wanted to make sure we included them in the game. During a “Tequila Bomb”, which is like a smart bomb that takes out all the enemies surrounding you, players earn these special moves by building up points from doing cool cinematic kills. The Tequila Bombs found in this game range from a Spin Attack to Precision Aim, to Barrage and more.. The choices that one can make in how to play throughout this game are endless!
FiringSquad:In terms of the storyline, what can you tell us about the plot and how it related to Hard Boiled?
Alex Offerman: In Stranglehold, Chow Yun Fat reprises his signature role as Tequila, from John Woo’s cult classic, Hard Boiled. Tequila, caught by a crime boss with a gripping secret and is forced to cross the line from sworn duty to bloody revenge. As Tequila, you engage your enemies with intense cinematic gun battles and cause massive environmental damage in real-time or in the revolutionary slow motion Tequila Time.
FiringSquad:What are the team's favorite weapons to use in the game?
FiringSquad:What are some of the more interesting situations the player will have to face in Stranglehold?
Alex Offerman: Because we have an unprecedented level of environmental destruction in Stranglehold and players can use the Massive D. to their advantage in game-play, almost every encounter in the game is unique and interesting. For instance, in one of the boss battles there are giant ornate statues in the room, and if the player shoots out a leg of the statue, it will fall over and damage the boss. We also have lots of cases were the player or enemies can utilize cover that erodes from fire, as well as many more places where an observant player can use the destructibility of the environment to get one over on the enemies.
FiringSquad:Can you talk about any plans for multiplayer features at this point?
Alex Offerman: We can confirm that there will be multiplayer in the game, but we are not ready to discuss details at this time.
Alex Offerman: The first step was to come up with a look for the game. Environments, characters and objects are visual tools and can be used to enhance the story and convey many different emotions. It was very important to create visuals that would affect a viewer’s perceptions and feelings. The game had to feel very cinematic. The Unreal Engine was very promising and opened up some great possibilities. Tapping into some existing visual material from John Woo’s cult classic “Hard Boiled” it was decided to create a unique visual palette for each environment. One of the first challenges was to choose, create or re-create unusual and compelling environments in Hong Kong and Chicago. A player would walk in, stop and say, “Whoa! I had no idea such a place existed.” Another challenge was to give each place its own unique mood and color signature. It was felt that as the drama unfolded and built up, these distinctive artistic ingredients would help pace the story and enhance its emotional content. These places had to be fun and exciting for massive destruction and offer great game-play. Another key ingredient of the game was the characters. There was the concept of pushing realism to a stylistic edge. The process was pushed one step further by creating highly detailed concepts for each face by using and manipulating high resolution photos.
FiringSquad: Will there be any downloadable extra content available for the game after its release?
Alex Offerman: We have not solidified our plans for downloadable content after the game ships, but we definitely hope to.
FiringSquad:Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Stranglehold?
Alex Offerman: Given that we are next-gen, we have a lot more objects which in current-gen games would make it difficult for players to navigate smoothly through the world, Add on top of that the massive destruction of the environments that stays around and doesn’t fade away and you have a sea of objects and debris to navigate around. So, one of the core design goals was to make sure that Tequila could smoothly move through even the most crowded environments with ease without having his ability to use his weapons compromised. What we came up with is a system where Tequila can run through a room, even one filled with tables and chairs and tons of broken objects, without being slowed down or having his combat abilities be interfered with. In fact, his abilities are actually improved as some of the interactions are automatic. For instance, when a player runs Tequila up against a table, he automatically slides across it, which keeps Tequila from ever getting stuck and also allows for the player to concentrate on the fun of targeting and firing weapons while the interaction is happening. These automatic interactions, along with the bigger controlled interactions, are almost everywhere in the game. Another example is all the debri that accumulates on the floor during a big battle will get pushed aside as Tequila moves through the environment so he will never get hung up on a broken chair or cement pillar piece. This works because all the objects are dynamic and have physics properly applied. The really helps the game play stay smooth even though the world around you is getting trashed.
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