games reporter

Midway offers double shot of Woo's 'Tequila'

Talk about convergence. When "John Woo Presents Stranglehold" leaps onto video games shelves the week of Aug. 20, it will be the first time a full-length movie will be packaged with a game on the same disc.

For $70, Woo aficionados not only will get the Midway action title but also a high-def version of Woo's 1992 film "Hard-Boiled," which inspired the new game.

The special collector's edition will be available only for PlayStation 3 consoles, and Sony is quick to point out that the inclusion of the movie is made possible only because of the 50GB storage capacity of its Blu-ray Discs compared with the lesser 9GB capacity of competing DVD-based systems. As a result, the movie will not be included in the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game.

The inspiration for the collector's edition came from Midway, chief marketing officer Steve Allison says. But the initial decision to build a game featuring Inspector "Tequila" Yuen, the maverick Hong Kong police detective who was the lead character of "Hard-Boiled," isn't an easy one to track.

Woo, who wrote and directed "Hard-Boiled," isn't necessarily a gamer, says Lori Tilkin, senior vp at Woo's Tiger Hill Entertainment. But he has a son who is a big fan, and Woo sensed that the two-fisted action of his movies might appeal to the same audience that enjoys gaming action.

"John had visited the E3 conference several years ago and had seen games like 'Max Payne' that utilized his two-gun-wielding style," she says. "It seemed to him that 'Hard-Boiled' could be remade into a similar type of game, an idea which we explored, shopped around and found that Midway not only saw the value in it but seemed equally excited about building it."

Allison recalls approaching Tiger Hill about several projects, but the one Woo seemed most passionate about was refashioning "Hard-Boiled" into "Stranglehold."

Development of the game was spearheaded by Midway producer Brian Eddy, who last created "Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy," a third-person action-adventure shooter released in 2004. His team of 30 developers — which eventually grew to 50 — worked closely with Woo, with Tilkin often acting as intermediary.

"John spent a lot of time just looking at the game, tossing out ideas, checking out the builds we brought him and commenting on them," he says. "We'd often hear things like, 'I wouldn't do it quite that way' or 'Try it this way,' which enabled us to hone in on what is his style of action."

Although "Hard-Boiled" is the first Woo movie to inspire a video game, Tilkin says there will be others. Woo has signed to direct and produce the movie "Ninja Gold" — about a ninja warrior forced to confront covert warfare in the modern world — for Fox Atomic. As he films, game designer Warren Spector will create a game to be released after the film.

Allison says that Midway has several movie-related projects in development, including "The Wheelman," which is in collaboration with Vin Diesel's Tigon Studios.

"People talk about this convergence stuff," Allison says, "to which they're usually referring to a game based on a movie that's coming out, which usually ends up being kind of crappy. But few people are doing it the way we're doing it. … It's a different take on convergence, for which we've injected extra-loving care and cinematic talent in order to create one cool, new, bad-ass video game."