Publisher: South Peak Interactive
Developer: DC Studios
Release Date: February 21, 2006
Some people just want to be free. Yeah, maybe there's a few folks you can lock up and beat and generally treat them like refuse, and they won't fight back. But others, they'll grab you by the lapels and smash you head-first into the wall of revolution. Che, Malcom X, The Unknown Protestor in Tiananmen Square, Spanky...yeah, even bulbous gangbangers from out west appreciate the finer points of freedom. And he's back, to make sure he gets it this time.
State of Emergency 2 picks up some time after the end of the original. Even after it looked the Gang of Five had managed to cause enough chaos to bring The Corporation to the ground, things didn't work out. Now the government controls everything with just as heavy a grip as before, and there's no simple riot in a shopping mall to kick everything into gear; Libra and Freak are missing without a trace, Spanky and Bull are buried deep in the bowels of a maximum security prison, and worst of all, key chaos-maker McNeil is about to be executed, live on state television — death before a studio audience! It's pretty hopeless, only ... it isn't.
SoE2 is set to abandon a lot of its roots, especially in areas where the original was dragged down into simple arcade mediocrity. Forget the semi-free-form brawler with a few guns and lots of targeting issues, silly missions, and general sense of blah — this sibling is all about the guns. The hand-to-hand combat system of the original was given tons of flak over its repetitive special moves, difficult targeting in groups, and general lameness. SoE2 will pitch that all away by putting the emphasis on something completely different: firearms.
Right from the word "go," the characters are armed and dangerous. No more will you be forced to sprint blindly from rifle wielding Corporation Troops or dig around desperately to find a pistol in order to knock down a few gang members before they destroy you. Instead, with machine guns, 9mm pistols, automatic rifles, rocket launchers, and a screaming arsenal of revolutionary mayhem, the Gang of Five will pull themselves back together and explain exactly why you don't mess with a man's inalienable civil rights. Oh, and none of this "one gun, one clip" crapola; prepare to fill your invisible backpack with enough different weapons to make the ATF squirm in their seats.
The wishes-it-was-GTA-but-it-isn't mission-based gameplay will also take a sit-down on the side of the road. This go, it's all levels and objectives. While it's far more linear, this allows the plot to open much more effectively, not to mention letting the levels expand. And they're huge. The prison McNeil starts in covers at least three of the game's 12 chapters, starting with his daring breakout through a sniper-laden escape to a poorly guarded helicopter. Don't expect to stare at the same mall for 8 to 12 hours, since you'll be moving and grooving past guards every bit as heavily armed as yourself, and quite cheesed off about the whole "shooting everything in sight" gimmick you've brought to the table.
And that ain't all coming to the rally. Initially, you'll just be that one-man army known far and wide as McNeil, but once you pull Bull's fat, er, muscle out of the fire, he'll toe along under computer control. After they all hook back up, Libra, Freak, and Spanky do the same, creating a wrecking crew of truly frightening proportions. Each character has something on their side — Bull, for instance, handles explosives — and switching between them is a one-button operation. That's not getting into the engine, with its newer, better texturing, audio (no more silly announcer), and actual voice acting. There's a plot here, too, albeit a thin one, that slowly manages to unfold over the dozen levels.
Here's a simple way to sum up State of Emergency 2. Take everything bad you remember about State of Emergency — sloppy aiming, ponderous combat system that was simply not designed for 3D, hours and hours stuck in the same map (not to mention finding out there were only four!), the amazing advantage a gang of well-armed AIs had over your fists, the lack of armnaments for yourself, and the silly "arcadey" feel of the whole thing — and wipe most of that out. It's a different feel from the start, much darker and much more focused on the heavy munitions. If anything will make fans sad, it's the burial of that fan favorite, Kaos Mode. While Challenge Mode sort of strives for that, it's just not the same.
I know I may sound like a paid informercial for the latest Stateofemergency Co. gadget, but I really must say that this is a sound improvement over the original. If the level design holds up and DC doesn't make any last-ditch effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, then State of Emergency 2 will be one of my picks for a top game this year.
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