Gamestyle Archive intro: Andy takes us back to the video game of the classic film the Warriors. I know the film, but never played the game so maybe an overdue return myself? I do recall Manhunt though and those folks at Rockstar were never afraid of pushing boundaries.
It’s true. Gamestyle misses the beat ’em up – the halcyon days of Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. The genre was unable to make the transition to three dimensions without being marred by technical issues, and the few attempts to revive it have been badly received – both critically and commercially.
How odd, then, that one of today’s most influential publishers and developers, Rockstar (normally renowned for having their fingers on the pulse of gaming culture), have attempted to resurrect this near-dead genre. Even more curious is the fact that Rockstar’s latest effort is saddled to a film licence (think Catwoman or Bad Boys II). Oh dear. Can Rockstar breathe new life into two dead horses? Those who have seen the film (the viewing of which is by no means necessary to enjoy this title) will be impressed with the translation provided: given its fairly meagre 90-minute running time, the events of the film have had to be fleshed out to provide enough substance for a game and it’s here that Rockstar have excelled.
The developers have woven a compelling backstory which charts the rise of The Warriors through New York’s gang hierarchy, and which takes place three months prior to the events of the film. In addition, a number of ‘flashback’ missions are unlockable – which allows you to trace the very origins of the gang. This new material makes up for nearly half of the available missions, with the events of the film proper reserved for the last third of the game. Perhaps the best thing about The Warriors though is that Rockstar have succeeded in capturing the spirit of the celluloid original, perhaps more so than any previous film licence. The film’s opening intro is matched almost shot-for-shot in-game: the characters look just like their on-screen counterparts (even if their mouths do look like duck bills) and sound even better, thanks to nearly all of the film’s original cast reprising their roles.
The film’s unnerving score is also used to great effect, and the radio stations that provide commentary throughout can be listened to in The Warriors’ hideout (for example, to hear which ‘boppers’ – or gangs – are causing havoc). New York itself is almost as important stylistically as The Warriors. The city is portrayed as being dark and brooding: litter fills the streets, trains and buildings are daubed with graffiti, undesirable characters loiter throughout the levels; shops, car stereos and people’s wallets are all there for the taking, and passers-by will run for the police (or the local gang) when they see you misbehaving – but fear not as the streets offer plenty of secluded areas to hide until the heat dies down. However, regardless of how good the story and settings are, all good beat ’em ups need a decent control scheme. The Warriors doesn’t disappoint: the controls are deceptively simple, with only light and strong attacks and a grapple (although you can string together combos for added devastation and there’s a tutorial provided). Even better is that attacks are context-sensitive, so instead of executing a throw for example, you can smash your opponent’s face into a wall if you are close enough. It’s also possible to perform tag-team attacks with your fellow Warriors, as well as wield a variety of weapons – no guns though, although you might come across a knife (not to mention the assorted bricks, bottles and pieces of wood that are strewn about levels).
Sadly, there aren’t any whole roast chickens or hamburgers hidden in oil drums, but buying ‘flash’ can restore your health. Other Warriors will accompany you throughout your journey and they can be issued with commands – such as attack everyone nearby, or watch your back. Fortunately, their AI is pretty good and they can look after themselves in a fight (or handily destroy everything, should the mood arise). Of course, this being a Rockstar title, certain compulsory traits have exchanged hands: courtesy of Manhunt is the ability to hide in the shadows and use lures such as bottles and bricks to distract sentries (executing a particularly brutal attack induces a slow-motion close-up).
Courtesy of San Andreas, there’s a gym in The Warriors’ hideout – the use of which brings small stat bonuses – and completing the bonus missions scattered throughout the game earns you extra power-ups and items. It’s not all good news though. Inevitably, even with all of the attacks available, the action can become repetitive by the latter stages of the game, and the camera often struggles to keep up with the action (although it’s fully-adjustable by the player). And the two-player mode isn’t all that it could’ve been: the screen splits if you move away from each other and whilst this is a good idea, the execution is flawed (with the split being too small and the screens failing to merge quickly enough when players team up again). Still, at least the option is provided.
Despite these flaws, The Warriors is a joy to play. Yes, it’s incredibly brutal and vicious, but then what did you expect from a beat ’em up – especially one from Rockstar, who have never shied away from copious amounts of violence in their games? It might not be the deepest experience, but for a shot of pure action, you can’t go wrong. And yes, apparently Rockstar can revive two fallen genres with an almighty kiss of life and in doing so prove once again that they have the Midas touch. (Oh, and be sure to finish the game for an extra-special scrolling treat!)
Gamestyle Score: 8/10