Back in 2005, Rockstar Games took a chance and made a video game based on the old cult film, "The Warriors." The game was an adventure/beat-'em-up hybrid that took the license and added more background to the film's story while providing plenty of deep gameplay choices to a genre that seemed to be on its deathbed. It was a gritty title that was fairly polished and a ton of fun to play. Sadly, unless you had an early PS3 like the 60 GB or 20 GB configuration, neither of the newer consoles could play the classic game Rockstar had crafted.
When it was announced that Paramount would bring The Warriors to the newer consoles via digital distribution, fans were elated that they'd have another chance to play a great licensed game. Once it was discovered that the game would be a new one and not based on the Rockstar design, the excitement faded. As more information about the game came out, the faded anticipation quickly became disappointment. After playing the final product, I'd say that it would have been a better idea to simply port over the 2005 game instead of making The Warriors: Street Brawl.
The premise of the game mimics the movie closely. It's 1979 in New York City, and a truce has been struck between all of the street gangs. Cyrus, the leader of the city's largest gang, called the truce and gathered all of the gangs together to form one large gang to take over the city. However, on the night of his speech, Cyrus gets gunned down and the street gang known as The Warriors has been immediately blamed for the crime. As one of the members of the gang, your job is to escape and head for the headquarters on Coney Island before the rival gangs get to you first.
The game follows your typical beat-'em-up fare. The game is split into seven levels, with three parts apiece. Aside from locations and a few environmental hazards like subway cars passing by, you simply have to defeat every enemy that comes your way. You can use your fists and feet to defeat the enemy or use weapons, like baseball bats and knives, to get the job done. There will be a few levels where there will be a boss character to defeat, but for the most part, all you really have to worry about are the gangs roving around and trying to get you. Unlike beat-'em-ups of the past, though, the fighting isn't limited to just left and right attacks, as you now have up and down attacks to worry about, too.
There are four different modes that Street Brawl offers for offline play. The Story mode has you going through all of those levels, with three different levels of difficulty and the ability to save your progress. Arcade mode is the same, except for the fact that there's only one available difficulty level and the ability to save is completely removed. Boss Rush mode has you fighting all of the bosses in succession, though it has to be unlocked via the completion of Story mode first. Finally, there's a versus mode, where you and three others can fight each other.
The first big complaint players will have with the game is that it's boring. Older beat-'em-ups have been about pummeling others to death, but at least the enemies acted as differently as they looked. In Street Brawl, everyone feels the same. Big guys have the same health levels, moves and speed as smaller guys. Different gangs fight similarly to one another, so almost all of the enemies encountered will always taunt you after knocking you down with a combo. The only enemies that feel different are the bosses, but since those fights are few and far between, combat will feel the same for most of the game.
Those same enemies all have a tendency to gang up at the spot where you've fallen, making comebacks much harder than they should be, even on the easier difficulty levels. Rage mode, which is supposed to make your moves stronger for a limited time, doesn't feel like it makes much of a difference since it takes the same number of hits to defeat an enemy in Rage mode in comparison to fighting without Rage mode. With all of these negatives on the fighting system alone, the only other positive to bring up — aside from complete 360-degree fighting — would be the ability to take multiple paths down a level. While the fighting will be the same no matter where you fight, at least you have a little bit of a choice on some of the backgrounds.
Multiplayer becomes one of the game's few bright spots. Even bad beat-'em-ups can be made fun with multiple people playing, and this is no exception. Up to four players can partake in both Story and Arcade modes, making them much more bearable than in single-player mode. The same can be said for online, which only has Story mode but contains level selection as well. The lag is non-existent, especially with four players and multiple enemies on-screen, but what's even more amazing is that it isn't impossible to find an online game occurring. It won't be as easy as finding a game in Halo 3 or Gears of War 2, but at least you won't be staring at a "no games available" message.
The controls work but not especially well. Movement is handled by the analog sticks while the face buttons handle the basics like punching, kicking and jumping. Users can also grab enemies easily and pummel them at close range with the B button, something that isn't all that hard to do. Sticking with hand-to-hand combat only gives you the impression that the controls are fine. The real flaw comes with picking up weapons. For some reason, the game has a hard time detecting whether or not you're on top of a weapon. This might not be as important in other games, but in a beat-'em-up, where weapons will always change the tide of a fight, this flaw becomes a huge factor in how good the game can be.
The graphics work fine for the most part. The character models don't look so bad and actually animate well during fights, as long as hand-to-hand combat is used. Weapon combat, however, doesn't look as good; the animation cycles don't seem like they should belong on a tough gang member. Worse yet is the running animation, which looks like a trot off a football field as opposed to a full-on run either toward the fight or away from it. The environments look fine but can be a bit too dark to appreciate what's there. Thankfully, the enemies are colorful enough to not get lost in combat, negating the brightness issue of the environments a bit.
The sound is a good example of minimalism at work. There is music present in the game and when it does play, it ends up being pretty good. None of it comes from the film, but they match the vibe of the movie score pretty well. Outside of the title screen and boss battles, the music rarely plays at all. You're mostly fighting in silence, which doesn't make for a compelling experience. Like the music, the sound effects are good. The problem is that those effects come out muffled, so the full impact of the hits and weapon swipes isn't felt because it feels like it's barely there. As for voices, there aren't any aside from the grunts of being hit and taunts from enemies. It definitely detracts from the overall experience when you have lots of drama from the cinematics and lots of action in the game but no voices to help amplify it.
The Warriors: Street Brawl isn't a completely terrible game. The online experience is lag-free, and the graphics aren't that bad. However, the gameplay is rather limited and the game AI feels cheap. Worst of all, the title gets rather boring rather quickly unless you know other players who are willing to share the pain with you. Fans of the movie are best left pulling out their old consoles and playing the 2005 game instead of this title. Beat-'em-up fans have plenty of other choices for their fix; this is more of an example of how licensed games can be misused instead of an example for how the beat-'em-up genre can return to its former glory.
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