THE WARRIORS / Rockstar / PlayStation 2
What I Expected: The gang element and open map w/ distinct turf segments of GTA: San Andreas but in an awesome gritty '70s dystopia version of New York, where you have to run around and use the subway rather than stealing cars

What I Got: The GTA engine kinda awkwardly converted into a mostly-linear and repetitive beat-em-up divided into distinct levels that does have awesomely grimy 70's dystopia ambience, but spent almost equal time alternating between being Fun and Not Fun to play

The Warriors was released between Manhunt and Bully in Rockstar's "GTA engine derivative" ouevre, and you can really tell both thematically and in the way the gameplay was structured. Manhunt was linear, Bully was almost totally open world after a point; Warriors has little dabbles in a small open-world version of Coney Island in between levels for some side missions, but there's never very much to do or see there. Mostly you're just funneled through linear and self-contained little segments of New York beating the shit out of anyone thrown in front of you. Manhunt was also dark to the point of horror, Bully is about as "light-hearted" as a game that's non-stop savage beatings can get; Warriors is plenty dark and bloody, but no one ever actually dies except for plot reasons, and the most "hardcore" and rare weapons are blades like a pocket knife or machete.

The game's biggest success by far is atmosphere and fidelity to the movie. If you're a big fan of the film, you'll want to play this regardless of any other faults just for that and because it actually serves as a viable prequel. It nails the look, tone and sound of the movie, complemented by Rockstar doing the same sort of thorough research to get atmospheric details and dialogue/voice acting that's authentic to the bad neighborhoods of 1970's New York (or at least rings true to the modern observer, anyway) that they did for the early 1990s gangsta atmosphere of San Andreas. Speaking of voice acting, what actors from the original movie are still alive were mostly rounded up to do VA here, and the stand-ins for the rest of the cast are pretty accurate too. Granted the original actors were in their 60s when this was recorded, so they almost certainly sound a little different, but I hadn't seen the movie in over 10 years before playing this and I never felt any of the VA sounded "old" or "off."

So atmospherically, the game is a triumph, and would get a 5/5 on that alone. We haven't talked about gameplay and level layout yet, though, and that's where it trips up and fumbles two full points away. It's a beat-em-up by trade, and any beat-em-up is destined to suffer from some level of repetitiveness; that's true here, but a robust fight engine with a good amount of moves and environments with tons of melee weapons littered around keeps that from being the central problem. Instead, it's Rockstar's ongoing curse of crappy, janky, overly demanding/frustrating mission design. But with such a rigid and linear structure, this is more of a problem here than it is in a GTA game, where there's always a ton of side stuff or just general mayhem to keep you playing the game until you feel like taking another crack. Here, when you hit a Janky Level Wall, that's it; if you've done the tiny handful of side missions out in Coney already, there is absolutely nothing else to do with the game aside from hotseat multiplayer battles.

A few minor annoyances layer on top to accentuate this central problem. First of all, the game is just too dark and low-poly for its own good; you'll have to crank the brightness up far past what the game recommends, and even then you're still often squinting at some poorly-lit rubble trying to discern how the game wants you to climb and jump onward (often while bottles and trash cans are being hucked at your head). The little mini-games scattered in for variety, which are often unavoidable as a key part of missions, range from boring and repetitive to unduly straining on your controller. Tagging is probably the worst, as you repetitively and slowly trace lines, made worse by one of your asshole teammates yelling derision at you any time you make a small mistake. Unfortunately, it's scattered through a heap of the mandatory missions. And I had a problem in two different missions with team members outright disappearing from the map, forcing a reset as you aren't allowed past checkpoints unless your full squad is with you. Any part where you are asked to sprint also usually sucks; simply getting the camera in the wrong position can cut you off automatically, not to mention that your character will stop to auto-engage with any enemy gangbanger or cop they get too close to.

As stated before, though, it's a mostly solid beat-em-up that becomes a can't-miss if you're a Warriors movie fan sheerly due to the aesthetic polish put into it. A proper Warriors GTA-style game would have been SO choice, though; this is really more like Manhunt: Warriors Edition.
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