Review by illogicaljoker

"Come out and pla-a-ay...."

I'm hip deep in bodies – Cochise grabs one of them, some punk gangster, in a full nelson and I slam my forehead into the thug's. As he drops, I kick the moron behind me who thought he could do the same to me, then I step out of the way of a pouncing gangster and deliver a steel-toed kick to his face. The blood splatters onto my jeans, which is fine, so long as the vest stays cool. Snow calls out for help, so I soldier up, grab a brick and break it across the thug's head. “Cops,” shouts Ajax, and I quickly head over to a wall to finish tagging over the Moonriders logo before they can get here. As they pile out of the car, stupid pigs, I launch a Molotov at the vehicle and tell my boys to Scatter, just before jumping over a chain-link fence myself, and sprinting off into the darkness of the back alleys. These are our streets, our turf, and if we can figure out how to take it... it'll be ours.

Believe it or not: that non-stop action is more or less how the better levels of Rockstar Game's new production, “The Warriors” shape up. Like other urban battling games (as gritty as “Manhunt”), you control one brawler in a fast-paced fighting environment while issuing commands to the rest of your pack. While these orders are not so necessary (the game is quite easy, even on Hard), if you're trying to be a perfectionist, you'll need to control your temper before the cops can cuff you. As for the rest, “Watch My Back” comes in handy when you're tagging up the city, “Scatter” helps avoid detection, as does “Hold Up” and “Follow Me,” “Wreck Everyone” and “Mayhem” are just generic excuses to do what The Warriors do best: brutalize the other gangs.

Had Rockstar kept to just fighting other gangs (or running from them when outnumbered), “The Warriors” would be a terrible game. However, they pack each level full of bonus features (some underutilized, some overemphasized): you mug civilians (or interrogate gang leaders) by finding their “vibrating” weak spot on the analog stick (a “hot coffee” mini-game begs to be made), you boost car stereos (by twirling the analog), you put up graffiti tags (tracing an outline) and pick locks (timing). How you choose to beat a level is, for the most part, up to you (though you'll have to be creative to make some of the high scores): you can sneak in the shadows or take on everybody in sight.

Also, in addition to all these features, because “The Warriors” is based on a movie, there's actually a compelling plot with good voice actors. While the main game itself may be short (10-15 hours, depending on how many bonus missions you do), it's quite entertaining and, save for a few short and repetitively anti-climactic scenes at the end, full of variety. What's nice is that the architecture itself of late 60's New York City is spot on: so much so that you'll want to take the time out to just walk around and look at it. (One flaw of the game is that you can only “free-roam” Coney Island, although to balance that, each level makes you focus and appreciate the architecture in order to lay your paint across other gang's burners.)

Let's get to the flaws though: “The Warriors” is a dark game, and the darkness often makes it difficult in larger brawls to tell brawlers apart. At the same time, these big fights, despite all the melee items scattered across the level, become nothing more than button mashing. There's only heavy and weak attacks (and throws), and while each character you control in story mode (not selectable) has their own special move when their rage meter fills (the more you beat down, the higher it goes), the realism dies when one gangster finds himself holding off ten to twenty Destroyers. Furthermore, the controls are sometimes un-responsive (trying to switch targets in a hurry) and when there are too many people on screen, there's unforgivable lag and slow-down. The character models aren't detailed enough to justify such a frame rate.

As for Story Mode, the majority of the game takes place before the movie, dealing with how “The Warriors” were created (bonus “flashback” levels) and how they made their reputation (14 of the 18 “main” levels). Just when the game should be heating up is when the game slows down – the final few levels just have you running away or fighting what passes here for “bosses.” For some reason, the designers like to make you throw things, so almost every boss is beaten by hiding behind something, picking up a bottle, and then hurling it at them. But the controls aren't all that intuitive, aiming is difficult when you keep getting hit/stunned, and it gets very boring, very fast. The meat of the game comes from giving you options on how to complete a level, and there's only a few stages that feel fully fleshed out.

Overall, “The Warriors” is still just a component of a larger game, like “GTA: San Andreas.” All the features are fun, but for a limited time, say, the course of a week-long rental. Two-player mode isn't all that fun, and the CPU challenges in “Rumble” mode, without the story backing it up, aren't all that compelling (fun as “Wheelchair Racing” might sound, it's designed very poorly, and the loading times are awful). And the bonus game, “Warriors of the Night” is so ill-thought out that it must be a parody of early brawlers like “Streets of Rage,” a side-scrolling beat ‘em up that's laughably bad. Still, if you want to stay immersed in the game, unlocking all of the “soldiers” (character models that you can put into your own gang for use in “Rumble” mode) can be a lengthy task, one that requires the perfection of every level.

Casual or hardcore, “The Warriors” is something new... for about fifteen hours. And then you'll want to put it down and never pick it up again. There's just no substance beyond the Story Mode: it's an all-too-brief initiation into gang warfare. So rent it, you'll find the experience well worth your time. And return it, before you find that you've gotten gypped because, in the real world, beating up people doesn't work quite so well.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/24/05

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