The Warriors (Xbox, PS2): Does It Hold Up?
Given that video games based on movies are often incredulously heinous, there's something special about a title that provides a worthwhile experience for players and fans of the source material. The Warriors managed to do that when it launched for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2005. But it was more than just a game based on a movie — The Warriors was successful in translating the spirit of the 1979 cult classic over to the video game medium while simultaneously building on the the film's lore.
The game follows the movie's story closely, taking only a few minor liberties here and there. If you revere the film like I do, chances are you'll meet those liberties with a raised eyebrow. Even then, the main narrative is almost identical to the point where you should be able to overlook any undesirable plot modifications. In addition to sticking closely to the movie, The Warriors also provides you with back stories on most of the main characters and villains, essentially expanding the history of the license as a whole.
Before the events of the movie begin to unfold in the game, you play through a series of chapters that take place prior to the big gang meeting. You get to see exactly how the Warriors formed and why they're rivals with other New York gangs. The way in which you become acquainted with Swan, Cowboy, Ajax, Rembrandt, Fox, and the rest of the crew is executed superbly. You get to play different missions as each of these characters and really get to know them. It's a way of familiarizing with these characters' attitudes and personalities that a cutscene would likely fail at.
In addition, you also get to know a lot of the rival gangs that weren't exactly seen throughout the film. My personal favorites are the Hi-Hats. Aside from the fact that they're a bunch of ridiculous mimes who think they're cultured, they're headed by Chatterbox, an obese clown with delusions of grandeur who makes for one hell of a villain. The Warriors also provides a good story for the pimp-like Boppers, ninja-esque Savage Huns, and sleazy Hurricanes. As you play through the game, you encounter each of these sets and others and, more often than not, are tasked with taking them out.
Once you bop your way up the turf war ladder, jack some money, and win a few rumbles, the Warriors officially become a solid unit in the New York gang scene. That's when the game begins to retell the events of the movie starting with the iconic Van Cortlandt Park meeting. Hundreds of thugs show up to hear the powerful words of the Gramercy Riffs' leader Cyrus as he hopes to assemble the biggest unit in the city by combining all of the major gangs. Never one to pass up the opportunity for chaos, Rogues leader Luther shoots Cyrus following his final words: “Can you dig it?”
From here on out it's a trek back to Coney Island for the Warriors. You play through the film's biggest brawls and chases, all the while engaging in some truly slick and rewarding beat 'em up action. These days, we see 3D action games quite a lot, mostly from Japanese studios like Grasshopper Manufacture. In 2005, however, this style of game wasn't as prominent. As such, The Warriors was probably more unique back then than it would be now. Still, there's just no denying that this game offers up a raucous round of fisticuffs-heavy action that's just a blast to play.
While the melee, grapple, weapon, and combo gameplay is absolutely awesome, Rockstar Games also nailed it with the game's world. The depiction of a trashy, gritty, crime-infested New York is spot on, and the game shamelessly revels in its almost-dystopian setting. Rumbling with large waves of bad guys in alleys, on streets, behind apartment complexes, and within train stations is both fascinating and thrilling. It's insane how much 1970s New York manages to hold up as an effective setting for a video game, but it really manages to create this weird quasi-nostalgia for the city that you may not have known existed within you.
Sadly, while the grimy vibe of the environment is fittingly unattractive, the visual style is just plain ugly. The Warriors isn't a game that holds up especially well as far as graphics are concerned. If you're the type who can't stomach blurry textures and blocky character models, you'll probably be massively put off by the game's visuals. The camera is also a bit weak in spots, though it's nowhere near as bad as the game's look itself. Hopefully that doesn't deter you from actually playing The Warriors, though, because graphical hideousness aside, this is still an action-packed ride.
The verdict: The Warriors holds up as a standout beat 'em up and one of the best movie games of all time
Luther's ominous words as he invites the Warriors to “come out to play” continue to resonate with the film's legions of fans to this very day. That's because said film is a largely unique and inspired take on the gang landscape of the 1970s. Rockstar's rendition of the cult hit isn't without a few blemishes, but aside from some sporadically poor camera angles and undeniably bad graphics, the game as a whole succeeds.
It's especially rad that a lot of the original cast members returned to lend their voices to the game. That impressive feat, some great beat 'em up gameplay, and a stunningly spectacular setting make The Warriors a worthy movie-to-game experience, an enjoyable standalone game, and one of the finest examples of a licensed work done right. It's been several decades since the film's debut and nine years since the launch of the game, but The Warriors is still pretty damn awesome. Like the Riffs said: "You Warriors are good. Real good."
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