Cult filmmaker creates game for a genre already heavily influenced by cult filmmaker’s original movie IP equals… blockbuster, or ironic so-so seller? I’ve been a fan of John Woo’s Hong Kong action films since forever, so I’ve had an eye on Midway’s Stranglehold; slated for May release for the 360, PS3, and PC, it’s an official game-based sequel to Woo’s action movie masterpiece Hard-Boiled, created with the participation of Woo and star Chow Yun-Fat (who lends his face and motion-captured action moves to the game’s animation.) View the Stranglehold trailer here, and revel in its explosive gameplay.
But will Stranglehold be a hit at retail? All else being equal, I’d say probably not. And ironically, that’s because John Woo has already had too big an influence on popular culture.
A cult classic in 1992 and big with the Gen X film geek crowd, it’s hard to believe Hard-Boiled has much brand recognition with hardcore gamers in their twenties, who are more likely to associate Woo with his Hollywood movies, like… uh, what was the name of that sci-fi movie with Ben Affleck again?
What’s even more worrying, Hard-Boiled was such a cult hit, it inspired young filmmakers to make movies with far more name recognition, as in The Matrix films, and young game developers to translate the Woo style to gaming, as in 2001′s hit Max Payne. (Insult to injury, Stranglehold includes something called “Tequila Time”, a slow-mo gameplay mode lifted pretty shamelessly from Max Payne’s “Bullet Time” feature. In other words, a game influenced by Woo movies is now influencing a Woo game.)
I’m pretty sure I’ll still end up playing Stranglehold, myself. But then, I’m in the astoundingly narrow market segment of aging gamers who fondly remember a fifteen year old Cantonese-language movie featuring a guy shooting his way out of an exploding hospital with a peeing baby in his arms.