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Mxyzptlk avatar 7:02 PM on 04.13.2008  (server time)
Licensed Games That Don't Entirely Suck - #5: The Warriors

Rockstar Toronto's The Warriors (released on PS2, Xbox, and PSP) was based on the 1979 film by Walter Hill, which was based on the 1965 novel by Sol Yurick, which was based on the text Anabasis by Xenophone, which was based on some bad shit that happened to a bunch of ancient Greeks. While the film never went much beyond cult status, it's had a phenomenal influence on popular culture. References to it can be found in everything from hip hop music to Rugrats. Catch phrases such as "Can you dig it?" and "Warriors, come out to play!" are often familar even to those who have never seen the move.

The plot goes basically like this: New York is overrun with gangs who are in a constant state of war with each other. The Warriors are a gang based in Coney Island who have a Native American fetish. Cyrus is the charismatic leader of the Gramercy Riffs, New York's most badass gang of kung fu brothas. He calls a midnight conclave and invites nine representatives from each gang to attend, unarmed. Here he gives a speech that essentially says "Hey retards, why are we fighting with each other, when together we outnumber the cops three to one? If we call a truce and join forces, we'd own the city". Pretty much everybody can dig it. Well, except for Rufus, leader of The Rogues. He blows a hole in Cyrus and blames it on The Warriors. You know, for the lulz. The cops crash the party, and everyone scatters. Word gets out that it was The Warriors who killed Cyrus, and everyone gets hella mad. The Warriors try to make it back home to Coney Island, forced to fight their way through hordes of pissed off cops, pimps, skinheads, evil mimes, Yankee fans, lesbians, roller disco aficionados, and leather daddies. The real question is, why did it take so long for this to get made into a video game in the first place?

The title is an adventure-brawler that is sort of like a cross between Bully and Final Fight. Throughout the game you'll play as the Warriors featured in the film, each with their own varying attributes and fighting style. Combat is very well done, this title is easily one of the best 3D beat 'em ups I've ever played. Unlike most brawlers, you actually fight alongside several of your fellow gang members in each mission. You can issue several offensive and defensive commands to them, and if they fall in battle you can revive them using "Flash" (Winners Don't Do Drugs!) or free them if they're busted by the cops. They'll also do the same for you, because they're sweethearts. The entire story can be played two-player co-op, which is an absolute blast despite a slightly disorienting split-screen that pops up whenever one of the players leaves the screen. Actions such as boosting car radios, avoiding police capture, and spraying graffiti tags are accomplished through a variety of minigames making good use of the analog sticks and rumble feature.

The story begins several months prior to the events of the film, with gang member Rembrandt's initiation serving as the combat tutorial. As you progress through the game, you'll be doing a variety of missions that include defending your turf from rival gangs, taking turf from rival gangs, participating in riots, looting, competing in graffiti contests, beating the hell out of a lot of people, and kart racing. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Between missions you're kicking it in the Warrior's Coney Island hangout, where you can replay previous levels, select unlockable side missions that go even further back into the Warrior's history (starting with the founding of the gang), and work out to improve your abilities. There's even an extra "Armies of the Night" minigame that plays much like a typical classic arcade beat 'em up (including a great intro parodying the beginning of Double Dragon).

Approximately two-thirds of the game is made up of prequel material (with the last third based directly on the film), and it's excellently done. The main characters have their backgrounds and personalities fleshed out, so by the time the movie storyline begins you know who everyone is and care even more about the Warriors' plight. The story is well written and the atmosphere fits perfectly with the film. Much of the movie's soundtrack appears, along with several other licensed songs from the era. Nearly all of the original cast reprised their roles for the game, and the few that didn't are replaced with perfect soundalikes.

You can still find copies of The Warriors fairly easily, so if you're a fan of the movie, brawlers, or Rockstar games I highly recommend it. This is one of the best examples of how a licensed game should be done, and it's extremely evident how much love the creators had for the source material. If you haven't seen the movie this game is based on, I highly suggest renting it, inviting some friends over, having a few drinks, and basking in late 70's cinematic awesomeness.

Okay, so this LGTDES is extremely late. Work and home life have made it difficult for me to get much writing done. I also like to replay a bit of the titles I'm covering, and my lack of a working PS2 forced me to go by memory on this one. I'm hoping to get the next installment out much sooner and keep the series going with greater frequency in the future. So as an apology, I'm letting you guys decide which licensed game I'll cover next. Leave me a comment with your pick, and assuming I've played it or have access to a copy I'll go with whatever game gets the most popular response.

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