The Warriors

The Warriors

Written by Cyril Lachel on 10/24/2005 for Xbox  

It’s easy to understand why people hate most games based on movie licenses.  For one thing they are almost always bad, with cliché situations, very little innovation, and a cookie cutter formula.  These are the types of games you usually pass over while searching for the latest sequel or remake, a group of games that has done very little good for our multi-billion dollar industry.  Thankfully the Warriors, Rockstar Games’ newest console experience, bucks that trend and creates a world that is both interactive and exciting.

Based on the 1979 film by Walter Hill (which in turn was based on the Sol Yurick book), the Warriors tells the story of a colorful street gang who call Coney Island, Brooklyn their home.  This is a rough group of street brawlers; men who have no problem mugging, stealing, vandalizing, and tussling with the New York Police Department.  When they aren’t illegally earning money and battling the fuzz, the Warriors are known to war with other gangs in the area – including long-time rivals, the Destroyers.

What sets this game apart is that its story actually begins long before anything from the movie.  The first dozen or so levels are brand new, setting up a believable story that eventually connects to all of the pivotal moments from the 26 year old film.  As your travel from level to level you’ll meet a number of unique gangs, visit all kinds of bleak locations, and grow to understand your place in this violent gang world.  By the time the game merges into the story from the movie you’ll have a much better understanding of the players, their motives, and the severity of the situations.

Regardless of the movie license, at its heart the Warriors is really just an update to games like Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage.  Despite their popularity in the 80s and 90s, these brawlers just haven’t found their footing in the 21st century.  Sega and Capcom continue to try to rejuvenate the genre, but when the efforts end up being Spikeout: Battle Streets and Urban Reign it’s hard to justify even trying.  Leave it to Rockstar Games to be the one who gets it right, combining everything we loved about those classic arcade brawlers with elements from their own titles (such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt).

True to its roots, The Warriors is an extremely easy game to pick up and learn.  Although just about every button on the Xbox control is used for something, fighting feels pretty natural and makes a lot of sense.  Each of the characters have a few different combos, but you aren’t going to confuse this with a stand alone fighting game like Tekken or Dead or Alive.  As you play through the game chances are your skills will improve, which will lead to more daring (and impressive) attacks – such as knowing when to smash your enemy against the wall or, better yet, throwing him off a building.

The Warriors has you switching between the nine “main” members of the gang – Cleon, Swan, Snow, Ajax, Vermin, Fox, Cochise, Cowboy, and the newest recruit, Rembrandt.  Although there are times when you will switch between characters mid-level, for the most part you are stuck with the fight the computer has chosen for you.  This is not all that bad of a set up, though, since all nine of the Warriors play pretty much exactly the same.  By the time you’ve beaten all 23 levels you’ll have seen the game from everybody’s perspective, which makes for a pretty interesting game.

When it comes to going through the levels you will never be alone.  No matter who you play as you will always have a computer controlled Warrior next to you to help you out.  Early on this may be nothing more than aiding you in your fights, but later in the game you will find that they do everything from distract guards, refill your life, and even take the handcuffs off if you get arrested.  Thankfully you get to order the computer-controlled players around, but you’re limited to only six commands – wreck ‘em all, mayhem, let’s go, scatter, watch my back, and the all important hold up.  For the most part these are the only commands you will need, but there are times in the game where you wish they could have fleshed this section out a little more.

Part of the reason the Warriors works so well is that you are always doing new and different things.  In some levels you’ll be doing nothing more than fighting and running from the police, yet in other areas you will be robbing stores and collecting loot.  There are also a number of levels that require you to mark your territory with a spray paint min-game, a bunch of stealth levels, and even a few moments where it’s your job to start riots.  It’s a testament to the experience that some of the most tense segments of the game have nothing to do with fighting, including one of the most cutthroat tagging competitions you’ll ever see.

The Warriors is also easy to get into because you often have a lot of freedom when it comes to taking your enemies out.  A lot of people will rush right in and simply fight a collection of baddies all at once, but the game leaves it open for you to toy with your prey, to use some strategy and take them out as you see fit.  Each of the areas you visit has a lot of little places to hide and escape to; including some secret spots that will give you the jump on anybody you want to knock out.  It may not hit you the first time through the game, but the Warriors has some pretty cool level designs … even if it’s not nearly as ambitious as Grand Theft Auto or Rockstar’s other titles.

Of course, a lot of people are here just to see the gangs, and those people are not going to be disappointed.  The Warriors features well over a dozen different gangs, each with their own logo, uniform, weapon, style, and attitude.  You’ll run into Moonrunners, Hurricanes, Orphans, and the Jones Street Boys.  You’ll battle the Destroyers, the Hi-Hats, and even an all-girl gang called the Lizzies.  If it was a gang in the movie then it’s recreated here in slightly-detailed polygons.  Yes, that means that fan favorites the Baseball Furies make an appearance (or two).

Games like Final Fight and Double Dragon are notorious for being extremely short affairs, often only lasting an hour or two (if that).  Thankfully this is not something you will have to worry about when it comes to the Warriors, depending on your skills the game will last anywhere from 15 to 20 hours, which is a lifetime compared to other games in the genre.  And once you’ve beaten it chances are you’ll want to go through and finish all of the bonus missions in each level, collect as much money as you can, and even go through the game again with a second player.

That’s right, the Warriors is a two-player game as well.  In fact, a second player can join game at literally any time, which can be really useful in some of the harder levels towards the end.  When both players are next to each other the game keeps the action on one single screen, but as soon as the characters split up so does the screen.  Although the split screen takes some getting used to, it’s easier to manage than the sometimes buggy single-screen set up they have going on.  Luckily you can customize this (to a certain extent) in the game’s option menu.  Unfortunately the game has no Xbox Live support, so your two player experience is going to require some adjusting on both players part.

The Warriors greatest strength is how accurately the game captures the overall tone of the movie.  Each of the Warriors looks just like they did in the film, heck, most of the original actors are back to reprise their roles.  The graphics aren’t as detailed as what we’re used to in the newest generation Xbox games, but the atmosphere is exactly what the movie was going for, all the way down to the sounds and incidental music.

One reason the tone is so accurate is because the Warriors game wisely uses songs from the Warriors movie, as well as a few other tunes that fit the era and mood.  Sure most of the songs are pretty cheesy by today’s standards, but they go a long way to making it feel like you’re in the middle of 1979.  The breakout star of this game is the radio host, played by Pat Floyd, who not only recaps everything that happens in each level (like a sportscaster recapping a day of baseball games), but has something to say every time you die.  And it’s not just the same quote over and over; it’s something new for just about every situation you could get yourself into.  She has a soothing voice and a delivery that is unlike anything else I’ve heard in a video game.

Beyond the game’s involving story mode, gamers will have a lot to do if they intend to earn 100% in this game.  If you’re interested in seeing how the gang was formed, you can play some of the bonus levels that take us back before the events in the story mode.  By the time you’ve managed to see every sight and fight every gang you’ll come away with a better understanding of the Warriors, an understanding that the even the movie wasn’t able to provide.

Unfortunately not everything is rock solid in the world of the Warriors.  The fighting system, while good, is often hindered by the camera system.  Since you’re forced to manually move the camera (with the right analog stick) you will sometimes have trouble hitting enemies or running in the right direction.  Worse still, the game’s lock-on function seemed more troublesome than helpful.

It’s also worth noting that the computer-controlled Warriors can be a little on the brain dead side, especially when you’re working with four or more at once.  You aren’t able to order just one at a time, so getting your team to do what you want them to can be a challenge.  One level towards the end of the game is especially frustrating because it makes you rely on your team, a team that seems more set on alerting the cops of your whereabouts than hiding in the shadows.

Thankfully these problems aren’t bad enough to ruin what is otherwise an amazing experience.  And if you are able to make it past the one or two excruciatingly frustrating sections you’ll be rewarded with one of the all-time best Easter Eggs … a special faux-2D version of the game called the Armies of the Night.  Using the characters from  the Warriors, this new mode attempts to recreate the experience of playing Double Dragon – that is, everything runs from left to right, the game play has been slightly changed, and it even recreates the opening of Double Dragon.  No, I’m not kidding.  If you’re old enough to remember this movie, chances are this mode is going to bring back fond memories.  It is, in a word, awesome.

The Warriors is a surprising game, not just because it’s one of the best games based on a movie, but because it manages to raise the bar on a genre that has been stuck in mud for over a decade.  This game offers something to both fans of the movie and those who have never seen it; it tells a unique story that is well suited for an interactive forum like gaming.  It’s great to see Rockstar Games mine the cult classic aisle of their local Blockbuster Video for game ideas; one can only hope that the future will bring us games based on A Clockwork Orange and Repo Man.

Rockstar Games delivers yet another solid game with the Warriors, a beat-em-up based on the 1979 movie. Can the Xbox version of the West Side Story be far off?

Rating: 8.8 Class Leading

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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