A few translation imperfections aside, this is the same great beat-'em-up from 2005. If you never had a chance to play it on consoles, it's still well worth it.
- Satisfying, smart combat that can be enjoyably unpredictable
- environments bust up real good
- stretches out a two-hour movie into a well-written, entertaining 12-hour game
- plenty of extra modes, including unlockable games and co-op multiplayer
- It's only $20.
- A few quirks that are a result of the conversion to the PSP
- Core graphics aren't very attractive
- a few extremely frustrating sequences.
Back in 2005, Rockstar released The Warriors for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, a beat-'em-up based on Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic film of the same name. While it might seem like an odd choice for a developer to sink any effort into retelling such an obscure and weird movie through game form, The Warriors proved that such an endeavor could be well worth the effort. The Warriors didn't just retell the film--it added a huge amount of backstory to the characters and situations, and it was good backstory too. On top of that, the gameplay served as some of the best beat-'em-up action you could find in the 3D era of gaming, thanks to a steadfast dedication to making gang battles look and feel just right. Now The Warriors has gone the PS2 hand-me-down route and made its way to the PSP, but unlike so many of the previous PS2 ports to hit the system, The Warriors makes for a comfortable fit on Sony's handheld. The gameplay, storyline, and presentational elements have all held up with only a few little translation kinks here and there, and rather than shove in a bunch of unplayable extra content in a vain attempt to make the game look new and fresh 18 months later, Rockstar elected to keep the price low at a mere $20. If you have never experienced the game on other platforms, that's a hard deal to pass up.
The Warriors documents the trials and tribulations of, well, the Warriors, just one of hundreds of gangs bopping their way around New York City in the late 1970s. The movie from 1979 picked up just as the Warriors were on their way to a huge meeting, held by one of the city's biggest gangs, the Gramercy Riffs, and its enigmatic leader, Cyrus. At this meeting, Cyrus poses a single question to the hundreds of gang representatives in attendance: "Can you count, suckas?" Pointing out that together the various gangs of the city outnumber the police by a three-to-one margin, Cyrus lays out his plans for a unified gang movement--a single 60,000-member gang that could rule New York. But just when it seems like the crowd is behind him, a lone gunman fires, killing Cyrus and sending the crowd scattering as police surround the area. The opening scene of the game shows this exact sequence of events but shifts dramatically away from the movie from this point forward. From there, we hop into the wayback machine to a few months before this meeting, a time when the Warriors were still working to up their rep on the streets.
The film didn't spend much time with things like backstory and narrative beyond the gang's flee from the meeting and subsequent danger-filled trek back to their home turf on Coney Island. But the game goes back and gives these characters, as well as the many other assorted gangs that occupy New York, some context. You get to know the nine primary guys--Swan, Ajax, Cleon, Vermin, Cochese, Cowboy, Snow, Fox, and Rembrandt--quite well. Better than you might even expect. Throughout the 20-plus story missions, you'll get to play as each of them at one time or another, and you'll learn how Cleon and Vermin started the gang and how each member came to join. You'll even learn all about the gang's rivalries, especially against Coney Island's other crew, the Destroyers. What's impressive about this is that it feels like you're getting to know more about these characters, rather than just running through some tacked-on motions to stretch a two-hour movie into a 12-hour game. On some level, you start to get attached to these characters, which makes the course of the later game sequences (which are directly tied to the movie) all the more meaningful, as some members are knocked out of the picture, and the Warriors themselves are wrongfully marked for Cyrus' murder.
It helps that the script and storyline are both really well written, and the dialogue, though curse-filled and generally blunt, fits brilliantly with the hard-edged atmosphere The Warriors aims for. However, it bears mention that you shouldn't go into this game expecting to play as a bunch of Boy Scouts out fighting for justice. All the members of the Warriors are morally bankrupt in one way or another, and though they are the main protagonists and are generally likable guys, they're still street thugs, just like all the other street thugs out there. They vandalize, rob, and fight for a living, trolling for chicks and throwing down just to up their street cred. Throughout the course of the game, you'll be doing all of the above.
For the most part, The Warriors is a pure beat-'em-up, which of course means that you'll be doing an awful lot of brawling. Each of the Warriors fights roughly the same. You have weak and strong attacks that can be put together into a reasonable number of different combos, as well as a grab move for grab attacks and throws. Jumping and ground attacks are also thrown into the mix. Different types of weaponry will fall at your feet as you knock fools silly and break apart the scenery, and there's a wide variety of items to bop with, from simple bricks and boards to shivs and bottles. No guns, though. This is old-school gang fighting at its finest, and therefore firearms simply don't enter the picture--not for you, anyway.
The basic fighting engine found in The Warriors is mostly simplistic, but because of the unpredictability of the environments, as well as the sheer number of fighters that can appear onscreen at once, things can get very hectic, very fast. It's great, because while you do have only a few attacks to choose from, you still have to be somewhat methodical in your attack methods, or you could suddenly find yourself flailing wildly at air, allowing eight enemies to surround you and subsequently beat the hell out of you. During the biggest brawls, you'll sometimes find yourself doing something or seeing something in the periphery that strikes you as awesome. Whether two of your cohorts are ganging up with baseball bats on one guy, or you're tossing some punk through a window without even trying, there's a lot of possibility for unpredictable mayhem in this game.
Sometimes the mayhem can be made more purposeful, thanks to some tactical commands you can give to your gang members. Titled "warchief commands," these quick, easy instructions will cause your team to do anything from scattering from police to simply breaking everything in sight. If you're in a defensive position, you can command them to come in and get your back. If you've absolutely, positively got to get away, just tell them to follow you. Giving these commands on the PSP is more complicated than it was on consoles because you've got to hold down some different buttons to make up for the lack of a right analog stick, and selecting the proper command in the heat of a tense moment with the slightly oversensitive PSP analog stick is a touch obnoxious. Still, the mechanic works, and your artificial-intelligence-controlled cohorts seem to react to the commands remarkably well. Sometimes they'll get held up by opposing gang members or cops trying to stop them, but they rarely seem to get hung up of their own volition.
While many beat-'em-ups tend to get old after a few hours, simply because they rely so heavily on sending waves and waves of bad guys at you, The Warriors avoids this particular trapping by breaking up the action with plenty of other tasks. Sometimes you'll simply find yourself tasked with collecting protection money from Coney Island businesses, or stealing car stereos and breaking into and looting shops. Other times, you'll find yourself in a heart-pounding chase sequence, running from rival gangs or pursuing some rat who has wronged your crew.