Publisher: Southpeak Interactive
Developer: DC Studios
Release Date: February 14, 2006
State of Emergency 2 starts off so well and so engagingly that I immediately thought, "Hey, this isn't too bad at all. This is surprisingly fun!" Your character, MacNeil, is just about to be executed for his involvement with the Freedom organization that struck back against the Orwellian "Corporation" from the first game. The span of time between the end of the first State of Emergency and the beginning of the second sees the Corporation rise from the ashes and virtually demolish Freedom, stamping out the riots and many of the major facilitators of the initial uprising. The news media is ready to broadcast the execution for the entire world to see, to teach an important lesson that rebellion will not be tolerated. However, something goes wrong; MacNeil gets aid at the last moment from his old friends in Freedom, and from that point, you are thrust into the action, armed with only an automatic weapon and an earbud with a friend on the other end.
The setup is great; I was instantly hooked. Three or four minutes passed, and I was still spraying dozens of enemy soldiers with glee. If the game could keep up this sort of tempo and visceral, though admittedly shallow, gunplay, I knew that everything would be fine and this review would be glowing like a brick of heated plutonium. Even the most domestic of dogs can show his feral side when extended a hand, however, and State of Emergency 2 was just that dog.
After the first five minutes of killing Corporation soldiers and destroying thousands of dollars' worth of expensive camera and lighting equipment designed to broadcast your execution across the planet, the game decides to ramp up the difficulty; throw incredible numbers of enemies at you; exploit your tiny, tiny health bar; and foreshadow what is in store for the remainder of the title, most of which involves cursing and shaking your head. Is this a game, or a punishment?
Thank goodness for small favors, notably in the form of an autosave function. Each of the levels offers a myriad of obstacles, whether they be clearing out hordes of Corporation foot soldiers, destroying crates of a mind-controlling drug called Empyrion, or piloting a helicopter and fleeing from a prison compound with enemies hot on your heels. After each mini-obstacle is completed, your game will autosave, which is a good thing, since you'll be dying a lot. A whole lot. See, the developers thought it would be prudent to send dozens of heavily armed soldiers at you simultaneously in order to see how well you fared with a miniscule health bar. This leads to multiple deaths, repeated attempts to finish a mission, and constant frustration. Trial and error; I hope you dig it.
Enemies are extremely easy to kill, but the placement of soldiers, your small health bar, and the fact that you need to periodically reload your weapon will end your life abruptly, extinguishing any optimistic flames you may have crackling. For example, as you mow down 10 troopers in front of you, you'll find yourself being shot from behind. You'll be so caught up in ending enemies' lives that another swarm will pepper you from your flanks. This isn't savvy artificial intelligence at play, not by a long shot. Poor developer decisions are at fault here. In the first level, about five minutes in, you stumble into the first of many instances where you'll be repeating the same mission. Enemies are placed in the corners of a large cell block, guarding switches you need to pull in order to free fellow prison inmates. You need to pull four such switches. While you are going for one lever, you'll not only be hit by the guys defending the switches, but from the other corners and balconies as well.
State of Emergency 2 looks dated, and while graphics don't necessarily create bad games, they don't aid DC Studios' creation either. The color palette is washed out, some areas are extremely dark and muddy, and levels have poor designs or repetitive modules. Enemy characters are not overly detailed, much like its predecessor, and this allows for many dozens of characters to be running amok on screen at once without slowdown.
There are now stealth missions, complete with sniper rifles, to spice things up. You can pilot vehicles such as tanks and helicopters. Every so often, the monotonous slaughter will halt, and you'll have an objective that involves dancing around tank fire in order to commandeer it for yourself, breaking down doors with rapid presses of the L1 and R1 buttons, or interrogating witnesses with your fists – punch too hard and they die, punch too softly, and they laugh in your face. With the exception of the horrendous stealth instances, these varying mission objectives are appreciated, but each is so short and underused – and reeks of a mini-game – that soon the detour has passed, and you are once again tossed into a veritable bloodbath of enemy soldiers.
The original State of Emergency had plenty of issues, but it also had tiny pockets of potential. Instead of building on the frail bones of promise from their first failure, DC Studios decided to add new instead of polishing old. The riot-simulator aspect of State of Emergency is now severely diminished, the weapons at your disposal are all firearms or incendiary devices, and even the characters are less endearing, if that is even possible. The story is pretty trite, too, and you never care about what is going on. These are not good qualities in a title. If this were a movie, you'd walk out of the theater or turn off the television. State of Emergency 2 has no hook, no bait to pull you in. There is no reason to keep on playing. The game doesn't get better. It's just more of the same.
Despite the pummeling I've given State of Emergency 2, I can't help but feel sorry for it. As an action title, it does nothing to stand out from an overcrowded genre. As a sequel, it abandons much of the epidermis of the former game and incorporates more gunplay, mission diversity, and story, with pretty bland results. Despite all of the game's faults, there are moments of fun to be had here. It is just too bad that most of them are buried under the failed debris of past action games. The frustrating ease of death, an uninteresting story and characters, washed-out visuals and uninspired gameplay do not a successful sequel make.
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