key review info
- Game: The Warriors
- Platform: Playstation
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
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You may have not heard of Walter Hill's The Warriors, the controversial film from the end of the seventies, but high chances are you've heard of Rockstar Games, the creators of the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto series, themselves no strangers from controversy. As the title suggests, this is a game made after the film and turns out it's one of last year's better efforts, the developers making excellent use of the license, not content to merely recreate the events from the film but crafting a tale that actually enhances it.
The film starts with the Warriors, a street gang from Coney Island, one of the myriad gangs plaguing a bleak New York of the seventies, preparing to go to a meeting called together by Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the largest and most powerful gang in all of New York. Pointing out that the various gangs of the city greatly outnumber the police Cyrus lays out his plan for a unified gang movement, intent on creating a single 60000-member gang that could rule New York. But just when he seems to have caught the crowd's attention a gunshot silences him and the Warriors, falsely accused of the murder, are forced to flee for their lives. The opening scene shows this exact sequence of events, but from this point forward the game shifts back several months prior to the events of the film, as one of the members, Rembrandt, is being initiated into the Warriors. The first mission serves both as an introduction to the mechanics of the game and to Rembrandt, and throughout the 23 story missions you will get to know all nine members of the gang, Swan, Ajax, Cleon, Vermin, Cochese, Cowboy, Snow, Fox and Rembrandt quite well, which is a very nice touch, as the film did not spend much time with constructing the backstory for these characters. You get to play as each of them at one time or another, and you'll learn how Cleon and Vermin created the gang, how each member came to join, even learn about the gang's rivalries, especially against Coney Island's other gang, the Destroyers, and how they built up their street cred enough to get an invite to the gathering of the gangs.
The Warriors is a "beat-'em-up" game which means throughout the course of the game you'll be doing an awful lot fighting. The combat system is easy to use and downright brutal, which is what you've come to expect from any Rockstar title. You have light and strong attacks, as well as a grab move which can be combined into a reasonable number of combos, with jumping and ground attacks thrown into the mix. There also are special attacks, especially violent, which can be triggered with well timed button presses and are shown as short cinematic shots in all their goriness, as well as a few context sensitive ones, like smashing one's face against a wall or any other solid object in the environment. You can also perform counter moves and team attacks, and you can use a number of weapons, from conventional ones, like shivs and baseball bats, to a wide variety of makeshift weapons, such as trash cans, bottles, bricks, boards or rusty pipes (no guns). There's also a Rage Mode which becomes available once you kick enough asses to fill a special meter at the top of the screen and which, when active, makes all attacks considerably more powerful.
Throughout the game you will play as each of the nine Warriors, and each of them has their own special traits and fighting styles. The problem is the enemy gangs in general are not as varied as your own gang is and they fight exactly the same. They aren't always the most challenging opponents to beat down (a good or a bad thing, depending on who you're asking) but they always have numbers on their side, however cops are another story. They also attack in numbers but, unlike opposing gangs, are incredibly tough to knock down and have the nasty habit of arresting your fellow gang members, forcing you to run and set them free with a quick button mashing mini-game.
You can issue orders to your fellow Warriors to help with the fighting, using six so called Warchief Commands, adding a little more tactical depth to the confrontations, particularly important on higher difficulty levels. These quick instructions will cause your team to do anything from scattering from police to simply breaking everything in sight, which is most objects from the environment (there are even missions in which you have cause a certain amount of destruction), or watching your back when you are under heavy assault.
The stealth portions of the game aren't the greatest around but they add a much welcome variety to the formula and being able to become one with the shadows when chased by angry cops is often a life saver.
The good checkpoint system is also worth mentioning, saving those times when you do bite the dust from the frustrations so often associated with console games. It doesn't mean the game does not have its share of frustrating bits, of course, such as the camera that sometimes has trouble keeping up with your character or gets stuck behind objects, but the overall experience remains enjoyable.
Aside from fighting, you can do a fair amount of things as means of gaining extra money for healing and spray cans during missions, such as looting stores by breaking windows or picking locks, mugging people, even stealing car radios, all of these requiring you to conquer a number of mini-games in order to succeed. Spray cans can be used for tagging walls with the gang's logo by tracing basic designs with the analog stick in certain predefined places, especially on top of other gangs' logos, which was one of the most annoying parts of the game for me. However, no mater how annoying some of these mini-games are, they are welcome distractions from the fighting which inevitably becomes tiresome after a while.
The main story missions are undeniably the focus of the game, but there's a lot of other stuff to keep you busy for hours. From the gang's headquarters, which acts as the game's hub, you can workout in an attempt to build stamina and power, practice against a boxing bag, access the tons of bonus features you can unlock while playing, or just head outside to explore your turf. One of the best bonus features is the flashback missions, which show how each member came into the gang, an excellent way of fleshing out the characters while staying true to the events in the film.
One of the most notable things about The Warriors is how well it manages to capture the atmosphere and mood of the film despite the obvious limitations of the engine. Over the course of the game it's quite impressive how Rockstar was able to recreate the gritty New York portrayed in the film, the streets and alleys having plenty of little touches that help make the game world feel more alive. Walls of buildings have tags marking off gang territory, garbage litters the streets, and there's a constant dirtiness to everything that helps create the feel that players are indeed walking through gang-ruled ghettos. However, the characters are rather low on the polygon side, no doubt a compromise to be able have a lot of them on screen at once, and it shows. Their animations are nicely done and varied, with convincing fence jumping, face punching, groin kicking and all sorts of other manly interactions, but those stone numb faces are creepy to look at.
Rockstar has gone to great lengths to lend authenticity to the title. About half the main cast from the film have reprised their roles for the game, including Michael Beck, James Remar and Dorsey Wright, and Barry De Vorzon's original score is fully intact here, as are many of the licensed tracks from the original soundtrack, helping to give the game that retro vibe that it so clearly seeks. The sound effects also do a great job of keeping up with the constant mayhem on screen, as things get hectic and start breaking apart all over the place, the din of battle quite deafening.
There are multiple multiplayer modes, including cooperative two-player for any story mission, as well as a few unique mini-games such as quick rumbles, which allow you to create your own gang then do battle in a variety of arenas, a capture-the-flag variation involving a girl instead of a flag, and king of the hill. The cooperative play doesn't involve a lot of actual cooperation other than two people standing next to each other, beating up a lot of dudes. It has a couple of nice touches however, as the camera will actually split if the two of you get too far away from one another, and a second player can jump into the game at practically any time, making it a lot more accessible.
There's never a shortage of things to do in The Warriors, the overall atmosphere of the game is very convincing, and the combat system, as obviously fighting is what you will mostly be doing, is complex yet easy to use. Simply put, if you like violent "beat-'em-up" games, this is one of the better ones.