One may hear alarms in their head when they hear that a company is releasing a game based off of a cult film from 1979. After all, itís taken three games and as many developers just to get Evil Dead right. Itís another thing when a franchise is put into the capable hands of a developer that knows what theyíre doing. Rockstar, the reigning masters of retro, bring us The Warriors a full 26 years after itís initial release (and subsequent DVD reissue) that manages to fill in the back story of what is a unique, enjoyable, yet somewhat shallow film. The result is a game that stays true to its source material and nulls the requirements of having any knowledge of the movie, not to mention offering some of the best beat-em-up action since the early 90ís.
The Warriors presents an almost over exaggerated view of gang life in New York in 1979. Over exaggerated in the sense that the story depicts gangs depicts gangs more gimmicky that what weíre used to and more in a pro wrestling kind of way. The story starts with Cyrus, leader of the largest gang in town, who calls a meeting and truce of all the factions to come together to take over the city, being that the gangs outnumber cops 3-to-1. One ballsy group takes it upon themselves to bring the truce to an abrupt end by shooting Cyrus. From here the story flashes back to some 80 days before the events of the film to fill you in on how things came about. The supplemental story helps to fill out the events of the movie and manages to make progression far more interesting as you near the events of the ill-fated meeting.
The gameplay breaks down into missions divided up by some optional free-roaming portions. Youíll take control of various members of The Warriors as you work, with the help of a few friends that accompany you as backup, towards completing different missions and work your way up the ladder. In the beginning youíll be looked at as a group of small timers but youíll eventually become both feared and revered by your rivals based off of your actions. After each mission, youíll be able to listen to the radio in your hideout while the mysterious DJ gives out a progress report on how each gang is faring which is a nice touch.
While the gameplay essentially amounts to a standard beat-em-up, the sheer size of the fights youíll get into help to set The Warriors apart from the others. At any given time youíll have up to 20 characters; both friendly and not-so-friendly, duking it out onscreen at a time. While youíll often find yourself grossly outnumbered, youíll have a huge number of makeshift weapons and destructible objects available to you to spice things up. Not only can you send rival members though windows and into piles of trash, but you can also pick up loose boards, crowbars, bottles, and baseball bats to help even the odds in any given situation. If youíre low on health you can keep your distance from the action and throw bottles and bricks to avoid looking like a coward and leave your respect as a man intact. No need in getting your ego all hurt over it. In the end, however, weapons eventually break and the law of the land is to let your fists do the talking. The battle system consists of light and hard punches and a variety of grapples. While grappling you can knee them in the face, drag them down to the ground and punch them, or throw them into some friends. As youíre beating people up, youíll fill an inanity meter that will allow you to let loose a stylish ultimate attack that changes from character to character with some pretty grisly results.
While playing through missions, youíre free to act as you please as long as the cops donít catch on to it. If you come across a store, you can either smash the windows and loot it or pick the lock on the back door and keep things on the down low. The AI of your friends is competent enough to fend for themselves and look out for you at the same time. If you find yourself getting arrested, your rescue will be their number one priority. Your friends can also hold their own in battle and carry their weight surprisingly well. While your friends act independently, you can give them commands using the R2 button to tell them to stay, cause general mayhem, watch your back, or beat everyone up. Youíll rarely find yourself having to give commands, however. While the bulk of the missions have you taking out anything that comes in your path, there are a good number of missions that require stealth as well. Any of those who have played Manhunt will be familiar with the stealth missions. Youíll know youíre hidden in the shadows when your name turns from the standard red to blue. Youíll almost always have a miscellaneous bottles and bricks to throw and lure unsuspecting foes and cops close enough to you to perform a stealth attack. The stealth gameplay is pretty no-frills, but works well enough. Acts such as mugging, picking locks, or wrestling with the cops are integrated through simple mini games. While youíre mugging someone youíll rotate the left analog stick to find a vibration and keep it there. The opposite is needed to avoid getting busted by the cops. Picking locks is a time-based mini game where you have to line up the different parts of the lock into a red zone. Some are executed better than others, but they all add some interesting elements and help to make things a little more frantic.
Aside from your primary goal you can complete optional objectives to unlock additional characters for the gameís rumble mode or unlock additional (and totally optional) flashback missions that help to fill the story on how The Warriors came to be. Your main objectives are displayed as yellow icons in the gameís mini map in the lower-left corner of the screen. Optional objectives donít show up which makes you have to do a bit of exploring to find them. The optional objectives range from tagging over other gangís ďpiecesĒ, trashing vehicles, or wrecking a certain number of rival gang members. While optional objectives arenít difficult by any means, the matter of finding them can be a little tedious. Missions themselves can be a little on the long side and can result in completing one primary goal just to gain another. Some objectives seem thrown in as busywork to draw the missions out longer, but those thankfully donít occur often. In all, youíre looking at spending anywhere from 20-60 minutes to complete an individual chapter which makes for a nice chunk of change.
In between missions youíll be able to explore your hangout, talk to your friends, and roam the streets of East Coney Island where you can complete optional side missions or raise money by mugging pedestrians and stealing stereos from parked cars. Side missions arenít too complex and usually consist of beating up a small group of members from a rival gang that are invading your turf to looting stores and raising a set number of money in an allocated amount of time.
The gameís boss battles all seem to use the same formula which is mostly battling their minions while they stand on a platform out of your reach throwing objects. After finishing with the lackeys, throw objects at them until they jump down. Give them a barrage of strong attacks. Repeat until dead. The repetitiveness of the boss battles does little to make them satisfying and all bosses seem to have the same three or four attacks which is a real bummer.
The gameís two player mode is both a blessing and a curse. Itís great to have another player to go through the single player game with you, but the mechanics behind it all are a little spotty. Both players are able to split up and do their own thing by means of a horizontal split-screen. While this is great during most portions of the game it tends to hinder during others; most notably is a particular sequence where both players are running from a gang of mimes across a series of rooftops that require perfectly timed jumps. Itís bad enough that the players tend to outrun the camera, but the horizontal split limits the visibility of things in front of you and doesnít help to make the ledges show up in time, causing you to fall to your death and require both players to start the sequence again. Thereís also a noticeable amount of slowdown during the two player game on the PS2, though it can easily be chalked up to technology constraints.
Aside from the one and two player story mode, thereís also a rumble mode which is essentially a stripped down fighting game where two players can go one-on-one or play co-op against another gang. Extra fighters can be earned by completing side missions, performing side missions, and optional objectives. The rumble mode can keep you entertained for at least an hour before youíll want to get back into the story mode. It is a perfect way for getting a new player used to the fighting system if you want to continue a two player game with a new partner.
The visuals for the game arenít great by any means, but the trade off for the amount of characters onscreen more than makes up for it. Characters will bruise and bleed depending on the punishment theyíve taken which is reflected in the cutscenes. The city environments are appropriately grimy and go with the style of the film really well. Aside from the noticeable slowdown, the two player mode also has some really bad camera issues and doesnít notice when the two players are next to each other to get back into full screen mode. The single player mode also sports some moments of slowdown, but with everything happening onscreen at once, it can be forgiven.
The gameís soundtrack has all of the music from the film, which is great if you know the source material. Voiceover work is reprised by the original actors and done really well and with feeling, though the cops only have a set number of lines and are repeated often. Every line of the movie has been reworked for the game. Sure, itís good to have consistency, but if you have a line that was said better in the movie, why not use that?
The Warriors goes to show that games based off of movies, no matter if theyíre a new release or 26 year old cult classics, always have the potential to be great. The best part about it is that Rockstar decided not to rehash the events of the original film and instead went the extra mile to fill in the back story, making the Warriors a game that can go well beyond ten hours of play. Whether you know the source material or not, youíll be sure to gain a new appreciation for the movie after playing this game.
- Brad Hicks (Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media