Review: So this is where Vince McMahon got the ideas for all those goofy gimmicks of his.
Normally when you'd make a game on a licensed property, it would be based upon something either timeless (such as Star Wars
) or just the current flavor of the month. That's usually good for business. But Rockstar Games has demonstrated a knack for doing things on their own terms ? and not so much for the cash-in potential from such a venture, but simply to do things differently than the competition. So it's really no surprise that instead of grabbing the latest hot license, they went back in time ? 1979 to be exact - and pulled out something better suited to their philosophy, in The Warriors
- a movie so obscure that a lot of people assumed it was an original entity and not a licensed game. Not only is the movie old, this maiden project from Rockstar Toronto borrows a genre lost to time ? the beat 'em up. And by mixing in the atmosphere of The Warriors
and more modern gaming stylings along with the old-school action, they've crafted a surprisingly good game that captures the spirit of the source material, and then some. Rockstar knows how to pick 'em, and with The Warriors video game, they've just shamed all those publishers who phone in similar efforts just for the monetary reward. You can actually sense the people who made the game gave a crap about the license and treated it with legitimate TLC.
Perhaps the reason why The Warriors succeeds is because it doesn't actually follow the movie much. While the movie and the game start exactly the same, with all the gangs shuttling to the Bronx for 'the meeting' with Cyrus (and believe me, the game captures this part of the movie perfectly
), once the infamous shooting occurs, the game immediately shifts back to a few months before the meeting, to better introduce you to all these characters who you grew to dig in the film, in flashback setting. Eventually it does work its way back to the source material, but a great majority of the game shows more about the Warriors' rise to power, from the earliest days when Cleon and Fox were disgruntled Destroyers, all the way to their total dominance of Coney Island. When the game and movie do meet, it then lets you relive the events of the movie, with the gang hightailing it back to Coney, all the while fighting off other gangs who are after them for a murder they didn't commit. In many ways, the story Rockstar Toronto presents is actually better than the one in the movie, as it does a far better job of developing the characters and their tendencies. But that's one of the strengths of video games ? they're usually long enough to develop even the most generic characters.
The Warriors uses a mission-based structure, with one central hub where you can check your stats, play the mini-games in Rumble Mode (for both single and multiplayer), listen to the radio (like how in the movie you'd get an update from the DJ), do a few exercises to raise endurance, and speak to other Warriors. At the start, there's three different kinds of missions. Regular missions forward the storyline, as you move closer and closer to the date of the meeting, which introduce you to many gangs that don't get any real mention in the film, such as the duels with the Hi Hats ? a gang of mimes led by a stutterer named Chatterbox. In addition, there's flashback missions (yes that's right, flashbacks within a flashback!) that explain how the Warriors came to be, from those dark Destroyer days and onwards. Finally, there's the street missions that put you out on the streets of Coney Island where you can tackle objectives from random people or you can go around robbing stores, stealing radios, mugging people, etc. These aren't nice guys, you know. Neither the flashback or street missions are required, but they do unlock many goodies and go towards an overall completion percentage. When you do catch up with the movie, you then play out those events, so expect a battle in Central Park with the Baseball Furies and an epic brawl with the Punks in a subway bathroom.
It was only natural for The Warriors to be a beat 'em up game, and for the most part Rockstar Toronto has pulled it off. Though weapons get involved, you're usually using fisticuffs, of which there are many kinds. There's weak punches and strong punches, and you can press two buttons at once to deliver an even more powerful attack, and then climb on top of a downed enemy and pounce the hell out of them until they are KO'd. The fighting system is fairly deep and thus enjoyable, and really doesn't get repetitive since it's not endless enemies ? there's always other objectives. However, in traditional Rockstar fashion, the targeting system is wonky (seriously, this is like a running joke now with these guys and targeting) ? you automatically target one and it takes a lot to get another one in your sights who could be more dangerous ? in some missions where you have to run away from other gangs, it gets really frustrating because when an enemy gets close, the auto targeting kicks in and slows you down, so you have to press the button to break off the target lock, all the while you're getting a mudhole stomping.
However, you're never alone ? as Warchief, you have other Warriors with you, and they can be ordered around at your will, with 6 different commands. If the cops are after you, just order the gang to scatter and they'll all hide. If you want them to destroy everything in sight, just use the Mayhem command and it's on. It's as easy as pressing R2 and then using the analog stick to highlight the command ? no messy menus to deal with. You do have to watch out for fellow Warriors in battle, because they'll sometimes get knocked out or arrested and you'll have to save them by either using your Flash (the method of recovering health) or uncuffing them. Without teammates, your chances of victory reduce a whole lot, since the Warriors are almost always outnumbered. And since the game is not particularly easy, you'll need all the help you can get. When you're out doing street missions, you will encounter your other Warriors wandering around ? and you can recruit them into your group as you come up to them for backup purposes. The movie was about teamwork, and so is the game. It's a shame the cooperative play is poor, or it could have been a killer game with friends. At least the PVP is still good.
There's much more than fighting in The Warriors, as mentioned before. Whenever you're not fighting, chances are you're doing criminal things. You almost have to, since you need the cash to buy Flash and spray paint. Yes, spray paint. Naturally gangs enjoy tagging things to either mark their turf of make their presence felt, and such is the case here. So if you have some paint, you can tag over other gang tags, or mark a designated area on your own. It's all pretty simple; just write a big W using the analog stick, though you have to be precise or you'll waste paint and have to spend $5 for another can, unless it's a special objective where instead you have a nearly endless supply of paint at no charge. Anyway, when you're out on the streets, you can mug people, steal radios, etc. Mugging people is not always easy, as you must sneak up on them and then it becomes a game of vibration holding ? you have to find the sweet spot by moving around the left analog stick until it vibrates, then hold it until you can extort the money. If you fail, the person you tried to mug may just run away, or they'll call the cops which puts you in a tough spot. Stealing car radios is a bit easier, as you just need to find a car, bust the windows, and then twirl the analog stick like you might use a screwdriver to unscrew things. Again if someone catches you, the cops may show up.
Finally there's the robbing of stores. Just bust the glass to get in, and then pick up the shiny things on the tables or displays. Instead of actually getting the items, you get money (same goes for the radios), which then can be used to buy Flash and paint. Finding those particular 'dealers' is a challenge in itself, as they don't show up on the minimap during a level until you find them with your own eyes. However there's usually multiple dealers spread through most levels, and are usually hidden away in dark places where police wouldn't look. Speaking of the police, they can be a pain, but their presence isn't always a problem. They can be beaten up like a regular gang, but they do have one special ability ? the gift of handcuffs. In short, you can be arrested, and you don't want that happening. If you're personally arrested, the game is over, but if your fellow Warriors get busted, they can be freed. If you find a busted Warrior, just step over them and alternate pressing the R1 and L1 buttons to free them before other cops show up. It's easier to just tell the others to scatter and then hide yourself, as eventually the police will give up and just start patrolling the area, but sometimes you can't help dealing with them.
Typically beat 'em ups get tiring after a while, and sometimes The Warriors can feel that way, but for the most part the addition of all these optional diversions breaks up the monotony of fighting gang after gang. The variety in missions, from flashback missions to helping some bums raise money, gives purpose to what you're doing instead of just beating up everything you see. Even with the targeting problems, this is a solid fighting engine that believe it or not, doesn't borrow from Grand Theft Auto like a lot of other Rockstar games tend to do. Most importantly in this case, however, is the fantastic use of the Warriors license. Instead of puking out a crappy game that lasts a couple hours and contains half-hearted action sequences, this title merely fleshes out what you see in the movie, adding another wrinkle to the cult hit. It's not designed in a way to draw in non-gamers who like the film; instead this is a full on video game that just so happens to be a licensed product, and is built in a way where you just might run out to the store and plop down the money for the DVD (or if you're one of those
people, the UMD for PSP) and experience even more Warriors goodness. Which is a refreshing change from the norm.
In order to make best use of the license, it needs to look like The Warriors
, and it does a great job. But first, the bad. The graphics on the whole aren't that great, though this isn't a surprise considering Rockstar is not known for graphics on a technical level. The character faces look zombie like and freaky, even though they have some good expressions and have actual eye contact between characters. More bothersome than that, the game is very, very dark, with few areas having any sort of lighting to help out. The whole thing does take place at night, but if you're playing in the daytime and the sun is coming in your game room, it becomes really difficult to see even if you've boosted the brightness all the way up. Which is a shame because the large, lively levels would be much better if you could see them and you then would be able to take note at the run-down, gang-ridden streets. On the other hand, the presentation is fantastic ? from the opening intro being taken straight from the flick, to the cutscene designs, all the colorful gangs (in 1979 they were controversial!) and even the menu screens, the game simply oozes the exact style of The Warriors
movie. Like many other games from Rockstar, the artistic merit far surpasses the technological achievement.
Keeping on that presentation, the audio is surprisingly good. Even though the movie is 26 years old, they managed to bring back nearly every single important actor to reprise their roles. Sure this isn't a real surprise since none of them became huge stars, but it was really cool to hear James Remar return to Ajax and Michael Beck play Swan once again, for example. Age has changed their voices a bit but they still do a great job despite it, and brings that level of authenticity to this game. All the music comes straight out of the original soundtrack, with maybe a couple original themes here and there. Hearing one of the battle themes pop up brings back the memories. There's a lot of ambient sounds too, like pedestrian chatter, dealers pushing their wares, even the Warriors themselves blurting out stuff while you're wandering around or in battle. Combined with the visual presentation, this game is The Warriors
through and through.