When The Warriors was first released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox it was hard not to be impressed by its inventive use of the movie license and great presentation. But this Rockstar beat-em-up was more than just a fun movie game; it was the first 3D brawler to really elevate the genre in a full decade. Games like Final Fight Streetwise, Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance and Spikeout: Battle Street all tried to reinvent this once popular genre, but it was The Warriors that managed to set a new high water mark.
In a surprise move Rockstar Games has decided to port the rock solid 2005 game for the Sony PSP and release it at the budget price of $20. While it's easy to complain that this is nothing more than just another PS2 game shrunk down for Sony's portable game system, it's difficult to be too upset when you're getting a high quality game like this for such an attractive price. The Warriors isn't without its fair share of problems, but this is a great deal for what has to be the single best 3D brawler released in some time.
The Warriors is based on Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic film, the 90 minute movie that introduced us to the gangs of New York City. The movie revolves around a rag tag group of gang members known as the Warriors who are framed for the murder of an influential gang leader. For an hour and a half we watch the Warriors fight their way through one bizarre gang after another, ultimately trying to make it back home and prove to everybody that they are not guilty.
Unfortunately this plot, while thrilling, is hardly enough to base an entire game around. Thankfully Rockstar Games had the presence of mind to flesh out the story into something that is actually bigger, better and more fulfilling than the classic movie. The first two-thirds of this PSP game takes place well before anything you see in the movie, so what you're playing is the entire back story. Not only is this an incredibly cool idea, but it also fills in a lot of the history for these characters making this a fantastic companion piece for the film.
The Warriors is split up into 23 different levels, 18 for the main story and 5 bonus levels that go even further back to show how the gang was originally formed. What sets The Warriors apart from most of the other 3D brawler games is that you will be performing a lot of different tasks as you fight your way through New York City. This isn't like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage where all you do is walk around and beat people up, in this you will actually have to rob storefronts, mug people, use your can of spray paint and run (there's an unsettling amount of running found in The Warriors universe).
But don't worry; even though there are plenty of other objectives, your primary mission is to beat the snot out of other gangs. Thankfully the fighting engine is perfect for this kind of game, it's not overly complex or anything, but there are enough different moves to keep you from simply doing the same thing over and over for ten hours. I suppose you could play most of the game by simply button mashing, but you would be missing out on slamming your enemies against the wall, throwing your foes into crowds, double teaming the gangs, and using your spray paint on their faces. And let's not forget all of the crazy weapons you can pick up and use, while this is not at the same level as Dead Rising, there's no shortage of cool weapons and items to pick up and make your fight easier.
True to the movie there are no real stars in this game. Each of the different Warriors members will have their time to shine, which gives the game a little more diversity. For the most part these different characters don't control or feel that different, but they do have their own stats and it is cool to see the nine or so main characters (including Swan, Cowboy, Ajax, Vermin, Cochise, Rembrandt, etc.) well represented. Another thing that sets this game apart from most of the other brawlers out there is that you are rarely on your own, in most of the levels you will go in with one or two other Warriors' members. They do a good job of aiding you in the various fights and you will even be able to order them around.
But the real reason you play a game like this is not for the protagonists, instead it's for the diverse (and often very cool) enemy gangs. And The Warriors is overflowing with exciting enemies to beat down, including The Lizzies (an all female gang), the Boppers (Harlem's own stylish gang), the Hi-Hats (who dress up like mimes), and of course the Baseball Furies (who all sport baseball bats). And that's not even half of the list, in total there are sixteen different gangs for you to do battle with, which means that you are rarely going to be battling the same character twice. The diversity of the characters works to the games advantage because it also means that you will be traveling to unique and interesting locales, and you will always want to know where you're going to go next.
The game is sewn together seamlessly by a number of well produced cut-scenes that further the story. What may seem like a simple task quickly turns into something bigger and crazier than you would have ever expected, some of the levels may take you the better part of an hour to get through, thanks in large part to the varying mission objectives and sometimes punishing difficulty. The emphasis on story really adds something to the game, you really feel like this is connected to the movie … something that not every movie game can boast.
While some might complain that this is not a very good looking PSP game (it is based on a 2005 PlayStation 2 game, after all), I personally found the graphics to be solid for the most part. The in-game graphics are actually pretty solid, especially when you look at the details in the various backgrounds. Where the graphics fall apart is when you see the characters up close in the cinema sequences, this is where the blocky faces and weird looking lips are apparent. But part of me was ready to accept the somewhat dated graphics, we're talking about a property that is based on a 28 year old movie, I think the dated graphics fit in perfectly with the theme of the movie's revival.
Graphics aside, there are a few problems when it comes to the overall control of The Warriors. If you happened to play the original Xbox or PS2 version of the game you will no doubt remember that The Warriors used just about all of the buttons (as well as the second analog stick). As is the case with so many PSP ports, Rockstar had to go back and tweak the controls so that this could be playable on the portable game system. Thankfully Rockstar has done a good job retaining the feel editing the control scheme, but from time to time you will wish that the PSP had a few more buttons. The main combat and running around controls are all good, but it is sometimes too easy to get stuck auto-focusing on one enemy when you're really trying to go after another. For the most part this kind of complain (and others) can easily be worked through, but I would be lying if I was to say that I didn't miss having an easier way to look around and disengage from my enemies.
Once you get started with The Warriors you will definitely want to stick with it until the end, because not only does it have a solid story and presentation (which includes almost all of the original actors reprising their characters), but it also offers one of the greatest extra features of all time. Complete all of the missions and you will be able to play a very special bonus game called Armies of the Night, a faux-2D that turns The Warriors into (and I'm not kidding) the original Double Dragon. Armies of the Night features all of the gangs and characters found in the original 3D story mode, but you will be walking from right to left giving off the impression of those classic 2D brawlers like Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Best of all, it even features the famous Double Dragon intro recreated with The Warriors characters, which will excite and amuse anybody old enough to remember fighting Abobo with Billy and Jimmy Lee.
Although this may have a simple concept and arcade-y game play, The Warriors is a surprisingly large game. The entire quest will take a good ten to twelve hours to complete, and you're going to be looking at close to twenty hours if you hope to do and see everything that the game offers. There's also quite a bit of replay, since you can warp back to any level and go through it a second time with a friend (using the PSP's WIFI ad-hoc connection). And even if you're all by yourself, each of the levels give you several bonus objectives that you will want to finish up if you're the type of person who is a completist.
The PSP version of The Warriors does have a few problems, but they are hardly worth worrying about when you're dealing with a game that is this much fun. There aren't a lot of games like this currently available on the PSP and the price tag (at $20) is just right. If you never had a chance to go through The Warriors on the PS2 or Xbox then this is a no-brainer, it's a rock solid action game full of exciting missions and some really cool bonus material. This game is just as much fun on the PSP as it was on any of the consoles, which is really a testament to how good this game really is.