“Gamerrrss… come out to playyyayyy!”
David Patrick Kelly improvised the now famous five-word chant parodied above back in 1979, when Walter Hill asked him to come up with something to fill a “dead spot” in the flow of his gritty, dystopian vision of New York gang life, “The Warriors.” A quarter century later, that chant, with its accompanying empty-bottle-clanging noises, has become a classic line in film history; the kind of line you find your friends yelling out at a party when everyone has had far too much to drink. Both Kelly and co-star James Remar would go on to become Walter Hill mainstays (48 Hrs.) and the film itself is regarded as a classic suspense film that was slightly ahead of its time. Rockstar Games, with its penchant for peppering their titles with obscure references that bring smiles to the faces of anyone old enough to remember when The Warriors was a new film, has gone to great lengths to bring Hill’s vision into the minds and hands of today’s gamers with a result that feels like Rockstar themselves were “marking their territory.”
“Can you dig it?”
The story opens in the same spot as the film. The title sequence of the game even does its best to look like the movie (and its best is quite good), complete with the Paramount Pictures logo. What follows is a montage of various gang members spouting their ideas about the upcoming meeting being held in the Bronx by a man called Cyrus, the leader of the area’s biggest gang, The Riffs. Each gang has been ordered to send nine delegates to the meeting and to agree to come in peace, unarmed. Cyrus is assassinated at this meeting by a member of the Rogues, who quickly divert the blame onto The Warriors. The game shifts gears on the player at this point by going back in time a few months, and then the gameplay begins to tell the tale of The Warriors creation and the path that lead them to their current situation.
The story contained in this title is brilliant; truly an A-list attempt at expanding on the plot of a feature film, instead of just capitalizing on it as most games based on movies tend to do. You get to know more about these goons than the film could ever convey, and even though none of them are particularly likable you will develop empathy for them and their plight throughout the course of the game. If the parts written for the game were somehow retroactively infused into the film, you could have a powerful twelve-hour miniseries, and a damned good one at that.
Warriors need food… badly!
The gameplay is of the old-school beat-‘em-up style, reminiscent of such titles as Double Dragon (if you unlock the hidden bonus game Armies of the Night you’ll find another example of Rockstar’s obscure references in the game’s intro), brought up to date with a modern game’s presentation and features. Each gang member has weak and strong attacks, jumps, combos, take-down moves and finishers. There is plenty of pick-up weaponry to be found in the forms of bricks, bottles, boards and bats, as one would expect. There are no firearms to be found, however… and rightfully so in this setting.
A lot of the game’s levels are objective based, so there will be plenty of things the various members have to accomplish besides beating the living hell out of anyone that crosses their path. Spray tag a rival gang’s turf with the Warriors logo? Check. Burglarize shops and cars for money? Check. Buy drugs in order to replenish lost health? Check. Hunt down gangland rats that can’t keep their mouth shut? You betcha, Boppers!
“When do I get to be War Chief?”
Players will control each gang member at one point or another, and while you are in control you can issue orders to the various AI controlled members in your group. The mission objectives and side missions tend to have a “mini-game” type approach to them, so you’ll be picking locks and handcuffs, unscrewing radios and tracing paint paths with feather-touches of the thumbsticks, and finding the ‘hot spot’ that activates the dual shock’s vibration, indicating the right “touch” to accomplish your goal.
The whole gameplay set up has the control feel of the GTA series (especially its weaknesses) and the on-screen melee mayhem of State of Emergency. Add to the mix the occasional stealth elements of Manhunt (hide in dark areas and wait for your kill, throw items to distract guards) and you have a hodgepodge of Rockstar-style gaming. As a matter of fact, this is the game’s main weakness.
The Warriors is so jammed to the brim with elements of nearly every other Rockstar game to come down the recent pipeline, it’s almost like the license was chosen specifically to be able to utilize all of Rockstar’s tricks. Like a street gang comprised of psychotic members, when you attempt to create a whole from parts that volatile, you can usually count on your creation to destroy itself from within, and very quickly as well. Each part seems like it wasn’t fully fleshed out and as a result the game can become quite annoying or, dare it be said, dull and repetitive at times. This is particularly true in the control/camera department, but is blatant in other aspects as well.
Graphically, the game shines in its mediocrity. To explain further, the game’s graphics are sub par, with simple textures and slightly blocky models, but within the game’s dingy, disgusting, filth-ridden vision of New York’s underbelly, it works well. The whole era of the seventies had a visual sense of degradation anyway. The character models are just detailed enough to convey the differences in the characters, almost like they were created for the Dreamcast a few years ago.
The audio department really shines with this title. All of the sound effects are extremely satisfying and realistic, the voice acting is top notch, sporting performances from many of the film’s original actors (Beck, Wright, Remar), who seem to effortlessly slide back into characters they played almost three decades ago. The game also delivers the creepy, carnival-type atmosphere with the film’s original score, as well as some of the select tunes from the film (and hence the era). Let’s face it, game soundtracks are something Rockstar does brilliantly (they are arguably the best in the business in this regard), even if a lot of it is handed to them this time around.
The multiplayer aspect is fairly robust here, with co-op play for any of the game’s main missions, as well as king-of-the-hill style match-ups, quick rumbles, and capture-the-chick style scenarios. (Rumbling on a roof top and monkey-flipping your friend’s gang members off the roof has a certain visceral satisfaction to it.) This is where the real hearty, laugh-like-the-Joker fun from this game comes into play. Call a friend over to your house for a night of boppin’ and tusslin’.
In short, The Warriors is a mediocre game with an excellent story and audio design, based on a classic suspense film of the late seventies. All of the Rockstar staples are present here, right down to the flaws carried over from the features they borrowed off of their other titles. If you’re looking for some simple, straight brawling and are a fan of the movie, then this game is for you.