The Warriors is Rockstar Games' movie licensed beat 'em up. The film itself, released in 1979, became a cult classic, and is remembered for its brutal action. Telling the story of a gang - The Warriors - on the run to their home town after they are blamed for the murder of a notorious gang leader, it has been untouched by the videogame world until now. The kings of controversy seemed like the ideal people for the job, and this game captures the essence of the film superbly.
The game is a pretty basic beat 'em up at heart, but it throws in a number of mini-games and diversions along the way to prevent things from becoming too stale. Set over twenty levels (not including side missions) and spanning a longer time period than the movie, you'll be fighting as a group, running from enemies, playing cooperatively with a friend, playing a number of mini-games and generally having a good time. This fun isn't for everyone, though, as it's of the brutally violent type and there's an awful lot of bad language. If you wince at the sight of blood or detest strong language, you'd be better off looking elsewhere for your beat 'em up thrills.
Starting a while before the movie picks up the action, the game gives you a nice insight into the early days of the gang, making the game ideal for die-hard fans of the movie, but also great for total newcomers; there is absolutely no need to have seen the movie before playing the game as the game's narrative is strong enough to exist on its own. If you've seen the film the familiar characters and locations will raise a smile, though, and a few of the game's problems will be more tolerable.
Combat is simple, with weak and strong attacks, and a number of combos that can be made using different button sequences. You can also grab and throw enemies, jump, and pick up weapons from around the environments. There are no guns in The Warriors, though, with weapons limited to short range projectiles - bricks and bottles etc - and objects that can cause some damage when put in the hands of hardened gang members, such as planks of wood and shivs. As you fight, your gang and the rival gangs fight on their own accord, making for some really entertaining moments where you weren't even directly involved - catching a few baseball bat-wielding gang members beating on a helpless enemy out of the corner of your eye raises a rather perverse smile.
The biggest problem arrives about five levels in, when you realise that the depth to combat is pretty limited. While there's some gang management that allows you to issue basic commands, you'll be doing the same thing for the majority of the game, with only slight variations along the way. As is usually the case, these 'other' sections aren't as entertaining as the core gameplay, with the stealth sections being particularly dull. A shorter game focussing on what the game does well would have made for a more enjoyable overall experience.
Aside from the repetitive combat, the camera also causes a few problems, particularly when you're fighting in an enclosed space. It's also far too easy to hit or be hit by members of your crew, and considering you fight in large gang battles for most of the game, this becomes more than a little annoying. Thankfully checkpoints are distributed fairly frequently throughout missions, and restarting from a checkpoint will give you an energy refill.
The main game will take a fair while to get through for a beat 'em up, lasting ten hours or more, but even when complete there are a number of unlockable modes to play around with. While most of these are only fun for a few minutes - such as the king of the hill and capture the flag games - the Double Dragon alike side-scrolling beat 'em up 'Armies of the Night' is great fun. Co-op play through any of the story missions is pretty enjoyable, and even lets the second player jump into the action at any time. If you become separated from your friend the game will even adopt a split-screen display so you both get a good view of the action. There's no real co-op play needed though, with each player simply battering enemies on their own.
Rockstar aren't really known for creating great looking games, but they always go to town on presentation. The Warriors is no different, featuring some pretty rough visuals, but a wonderfully authentic soundtrack and atmosphere. The story is excellently written and some of the original actors even reprise their roles. Nothing can really be faulted on the audio side of things, but bar some nice destructive environments, the game isn't all that attractive. While some compromises had to be made to allow for so many characters to be on screen at once, character models are basic, and most look pretty ugly. The Movie's drab, rundown look is captured perfectly, though, so you can easily overlook the shortcomings of the game engine.
The Warriors is an excellent videogame adaptation of a classic movie that actually uses the license to do more than a simple retelling. Combat may be simple, but it's the story and overall authenticity that will keep you hooked. Fans of the movie will appreciate the added depth to the story and newcomers will have no trouble understanding what's going on. Some annoying problems do start to grate towards the end, but you'll be so engrossed that you'll stick with it to its conclusion.