"CAN YOU DIG IT?!"
A legendary line from a truly legendary film. "The Warriors" is Walter Hill's 1979 adaptation of a novel by the same name written by Sol Yurick. The film follows a New York gang on the run from police and other gangs after being framed for killing Cyrus - the head honcho of all of the crime in New York. It's an action - exploitation masterpiece that is campy, fun, dark, silly, and entertaining as heck. I mean - you've got a gang of guys dressed like pantomime baseball players. Come on! That's so ridiculous that it's awesome.
Ridiculously awesome is exactly what you can expect from the 2005 Rockstar games release of "The Warriors." For those who are unaware - Rockstar games is the company that brought you such classic games as the Grand Theft Auto series, Bully, Red Dead Revolver & Red Dead Redemption, and more. Sure, every once in a while they would put out a game like State of Emergency or Manhunt- but for the most part their record is relatively untarnished. They make action-packed games that usually serve up a bloody-good, politically incorrect time; full of car-chases, exploding heads, locker-room pranks, and wild-west horse-riding action.
Forget weapons! Wanna be bad - better do your situps!
While sharing some similarities to some of the later Grand Theft Auto games and Bully - the game has unique gameplay and some of the absolute best fighting mechanics in any Rockstar game before or since. The Warriors is an action beat-em-up in the classic sense. The game opens up on a cutscene showing the pivotal Cyrus scene from the film and then cuts back 3 months before and sets up the game as a prequel to the film. As with many games in recent years you start out on a training mission in order to get accustomed to the controls - in this case (in classic Rockstar Games form) you are tasked with beating up hobos. This is your first introduction to the fighting/control mechanics and for my money, these are some of the smoothest beat-em-up controls in many years. Similar controls were utilized in Bully about a year later - so if you're used to running around and putting the smack down on kids in that game you shouldn't have much trouble donning the denim red W and getting into it with a slew of bad guys. To me, the controls for Bully were perhaps a step or two backward, as they feel the smoothest here among all of the fighting mechanics from GTA 3 on. There are some rare occasions where your camera might get stuck in a funky spot or your joystick doesn't always respond the way you mean it to when jacking a car stereo or trying not to trip a burglar alarm - but for the most part the controls are balanced and responsive.
The graphic and music presentation is top-notch and really makes you feel like you're playing the film. Check out those myriad of cutscenes and just how crisp and cinematic they look! For starters, there are seemingly hours of cutscenes that play out like an interactive Criterion collection extended cut of the movie. For a game that's 6 years old and a gaming hardware generation ago - the characters are amazingly lifelike. Remember early PSX or N64 games where the characters you were playing were modeled after athletes or movie characters and they only looked like blocky, near indistinguishable blobs with pasted-on faces? This ain't that. The characters genuinely look like the actors from the film and the settings are skillfully recreated. Sure, old dirty buildings and alleyways are pretty easy to fudge, but once you get to Coney Island it's impressive just how much it looks like the Coney Island represented in the film. The cutscenes rival a game series I already reviewed on this site - Shenmue in their size, scope, and attention to detail. Just watch the opening credits and compare it to the opening of the film. It's practically a shot-for-shot remake of the film.
With my past reviews, let's face it; I've been reviewing a lot of 8-bit games. Describing the music has always been a bit challenging (which is pretty sad - seeing as I'm a musician.) Seriously - how many ways can I describe that bleepy-bloppy midi-style Nintendo music? However, with the advent of CD storage in games we got CD-quality music - and The Warriors takes full advantage of that. Rockstar games has had a wonderful track record putting eclectic and altogether awesome soundtracks in their games. Ever get nostalgic for cruising down the strip, getting chased by police, and rockin' some Judas Priest in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? You more or less get the same feeling here - though I must warn you ahead of time, the soundtrack is a lot less extensive than in the GTA games. What you do get is nearly 20 songs: half of which are taken directly from the soundtrack of the film. By the luck of the randomized fortune - I always wound up with a few songs playing more than others, though it's hard to get tired of the punk-rock face-melting of Fear's "I Love Living in the City" or the catchy, swinging hook (excuse the pun) of Dr. Hook's "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman." The soundtrack is just one more way in which Rockstar Games got it right. They captured the spirit of the movie by including darn near all of the original soundtrack and matched it with songs that fit the time period and mood of the film seamlessly. The voice work? Top notch. They seem to have gotten most of the cast back to record some lines for the game and in cases where they didn't they matched up well with recorded clips and voice acting to really capture the essence of the film. The attention to detail is amazing.
Like many of Rockstar's games, it's a relatively easy game but has a lengthy enough runtime to make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth. The game supports two-player action in a split-screen format and also offers several unique rumble minigames. You can crack some skulls in a King of the Hill style brawl where you toss other gang members off of the top and maintain your turf - you can rumble with a whole mess of gang members in Army-ing, you can have a tag-off in the Burner Battle or try your hand at a handful of other unique rumble modes. One of my favorite parts of the game is the bonus game you unlock after the main game is over. There's a classic Streets of Rage style brawler tacked into the game in the form of an arcade in your hangout called Armies of the Night. I mean, what's not to love about a beat-em up bonus game, crammed into your much bigger game? Even after your main-game experience is finished there's still plenty to do if you want to grab a friend and rumble down or crack into the arcade game and essentially get your Double Dragon on.
Where's Haggar, Cody and Guy when you need 'em?
The Warriors is a game that has a lot going for it. Sure, it isn't as glossy or well known as its Rockstar brothers Grand Theft Auto IV or Red Dead Redemption, but this game took a movie license and not only gave us a well-rounded action game - they improved on the license by providing backstory and additional plot points as well as a genuinely fun, well crafted interactive experience. It's my favorite movie-license game, my favorite Rockstar game, and quite possibly my favorite game for the PS2. Thumpin' skulls never gets old - so add yourself to the waiting list for this game on either the Xbox or PS2 and get ready to rumble. The streets are cold, the night is dark, and everyone wants the Warriors dead. Make 'em wish they never stepped on your turf.
Smackin' 'round hobos since 2005!