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PSP Review: The Warriors

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Finally launching in nearly two years after its initial release on the Playstation 2 and Xbox, The Warriors takes beat ‘em up action on the road with Rockstar’s recent port. While the port-over brings almost nothing new to the table and measures pound-for-pound with its above average console predecessor, it proves that a PS2 to PSP conversion doesn’t always end in disappointment.

Re-releasing at an attractive $20 price tag, the PSP’s attempt at housing The Warriors should warrant at least a consideration from those who never played the console releases. Fans of the console versions will notice a handful of nuances thanks to the control scheme change and a small hit to the game’s appearance, but, nonetheless, the title fills in the gap of niche genres and further aids the recent surge of quality PSP titles.

The Warriors re-accounts the story of a New York gang of the same name that star in the 1970s cult classic film. The game starts akin to the movie with a meeting of all the gangs in the city, gathered by the Riff’s leader, Cyrus. He points out with a unified gang front, the attendees of the meeting far outnumber the city’s police front and the city is theirs for the taking. However, amidst Cyrus’ rallying, a concealed gunman opens fire and takes him down for the count.

Unfortunately for The Warriors, through the chaos that ensues, the deadly deed is stamped on them and the quest for redemption begins – at least in the movie. The best thing Rockstar did for the scripting and story telling of The Warriors is through the decision to not just re-tell the story, but also expand it. Following the cinematic event of the rally, the game actually rewinds time in order to explain the formation of The Warriors and detail its rapid rise in street cred.

Through the course of being introduced to the members of the gang, players will actually be able to control a variety of characters who not only feature their own fighting styles and moves but also strengths and weaknesses in tasks such as lock picking, spray painting and other illegal activities. Much like a player would expect out of a Rockstar title, breaking the law is the way of survival in The Warriors, requiring thefts of car stereos, muggings and breaking and looting in order to scrape up the cash needed to purchase goods.

With the switch to the new hardware, The Warriors definitely takes a hit graphically. While the toned-down environments look as grungy as they should, the characters are the real sore thumbs that stick out in the game. Each of the characters features their trademark appearances but end up looking blocky and lacking in detail – something that is further exaggerated when the characters are in motion.

Fortunately, sound wise, the sound and dialogue really redeem the presentation of The Warriors. A portion of the movie’s original cast reprise their roles in the game (of course, some of the original cast have passed away since the ‘70s) and the voice work, while fittingly filled with explicative, is top notch. The surprisingly deep and well-scripted expanded storyline is nothing but strengthened by the title’s voice talent.

The battles are ripe with the sound of violence with each blow thundering upon impact and the fighters verbally threatening each other. The ambience continues outside of battle as police officers will yell for you to surrender, mugging victims will struggle angrily and dealers will call out to players to sell their wares. In the backdrop, music fitting to the time period (some of which was featured in the movie) rounds out the appropriate and well-done sound in The Warriors.

Thanks to a relatively robust fighting system, The Warriors carries on where other beat ‘em ups wear thin. With a combination of light attacks, strong attacks and grapples, players have a surprising amount of moves in their repertoire, especially when counters, rage modes and special moves are thrown into the mix. By mixing up button combinations, grappling in different positions and utilizing environmental throws, The Warriors actually goes beyond the simple mashing of a single button.

Players should be thankful for the tools at their disposal as The Warriors is about gang warfare – swarms of enemies will be encountered at once and they will work together to bop you good. Playing dirty is the name of the game on the streets and double-team moves and melee weapons add to the fighting depth in the numerous fights for survival.

To further stray from the repetition that plagues the genre, missions are broken up with other tasks, which include robbing stores, stealing car stereos or mugging citizens to round up money, running from pursuers, bailing gang members out of trouble or using stealth to sneak into enemy territory.

While the stealth mechanics aren’t exactly the most exciting (or fun) moments of the game, they do their job to keep the fighting from wearing thin. On my play through of the game, the stealth segments tossed a few bugs my way, with a couple of checkpoints not appearing on the screen until I restarted from a previous checkpoint.

The game’s most glaring setbacks unfortunately come in play due to the translation to the PSP. Without the right analog stick, camera controls and issuing “war chief commands” (to direct A.I. allies) don’t feel as fluid as they should and can lead to potential frustrations when legions of enemies are on your case.

Rotating the camera requires players to hold the L button while manipulating the view with the infamously oversensitive analog stick. To further aggravate matters, the camera only seems to be a problem while in battle and asks a player to balance out simultaneous tasks with the left hand while keeping tabs on the action around their character. The commands have been mapped to holding the R button and selecting with the analog stick – not as big of a deal as the camera, but it’s not as fluid as the console versions and can feel a little clunky.

The Warriors also implements the always-bad Rockstar auto targeting system. Holding the R button auto targets somebody, in which somebody could mean anybody. Why someone would want to target a member of his or her own gang is beyond me, but there were a number of times where I got sucker punched because the auto targeting focused my player on my own teammate. Utilizing the feature, while it works most of the time and is necessary, can at times be a gamble.

Overall, The Warriors is a decent $20 portable outing that brings the movie’s premise into the video game limelight once again. Gamers expecting a number of exclusive features to bring some novelty to the title will be disappointed, but it isn’t necessary as the PSP version provides everything the console versions introduced and makes them immediately playable – including the throwback brawler mini-game Armies of the Night (my favorite) that heavily borrows themes from classic arcade brawler titles. The PSP version also gets the benefit of multiplayer ad-hoc play for co-op and versus modes without the implementation of the console’s split screens

While it has a few translation frustrations and minor nuances, The Warriors is satisfying for at least one play through, even if you’ve taken a swing at the console versions in 2005. The Warriors will provide quick action in short bursts with a total playtime of about 10 hours, which extends if players make use of the extra features.

In Rockstar fashion, the title makes good use of a movie license and reproduces a semi-deep brawler that mixes things up to damper down the genre’s repetitive nature – two things that don’t happen too often in gaming. The result is a solid console to PSP port that translates an above-average game to another above-average portable game.

The Warriors is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol.

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