reviews\ Feb 23, 2002 at 7:00 pm

State of Emergency - PS2 - Review

In recent months Rockstar Games has definitely made its mark on the gaming industry.  Surely, many would agree that the now legendary and still highly controversial Grand Theft Auto III is among the best games ever made.  They've obviously taken advantage of the fact that (mature) gamers are captivated by violence, death, and destruction - and why shouldn't they?  Now with their newest release, State of Emergency, Rockstar has presented the gaming industry with the most intensely chaotic game ever produced.

To be honest, it's almost impossible not to enjoy State of Emergency.  This is primarily because all humans, by nature, are unexplainably attracted to chaos.  Although most people don't act on this notion (luckily, for humanity's sake), games such as this are the ultimate way to fill such rebellious desires.  It's obviously rated M (mature) for a reason, so I wouldn't recommend letting the kids play it.  The overall violence is among the most graphic ever, and this is what makes it so entertaining.

The underlying storyline in State of Emergency is as follows.  The year is 2035 and democracy as we once knew it has ceased to exist.  Freedom is a word of the past, as "The Corporation" now has complete control over every facet of life.  As surprising as it may seem, most people have put forth little resistance to this seemingly unstoppable force; simply for the sake of economic prosperity and so-called progress.  However, a few groups have recently started to revolt and consequently, The Corporation has sent out troops and declared a state of emergency in the city.  As a result, people have rebelliously taken to the streets and are now looting and ensuing destruction.   It's now up to you and the rest of the Freedom force to battle against The Corporation in order to take it down once and for all.

Now that you know the basic premise of the game, you have to imagine literally hundreds of people on the screen at one time.  Most of them just run around wildly, but some carry computers, safes, VCRs, and other stolen properties.  While it's not possible to interact with them, besides being able to injure them (of course), it's still quite an amazing site!  Indeed, there's no other game that matches State of Emergency when it comes to the sheer volume of characters on the screen, and this is one of the most impressive aspects of the game.

Keep in mind that the Freedom group is no organized army and therefore it's necessary to fight the opposition with any weapons that you can find, including at times, your own bare fists.  Some of the awesome weapons include: a bat, knife, shotgun, AK-47, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, flame thrower and many more.  Among them the flame thrower has to be the most impressive (though not the most effective), as it's blue/orange flame and resulting smoke look amazing. 

In revolution mode, there are an astounding 175 different missions, all of which take place in four main areas of the city.  These missions are given to you by various members of the Freedom group, who are stationed around the city.  In order to get to your destination, all you have to do is follow the handy mission arrow and a map can be used as well, but the levels aren't very complicated.  The missions typically require that you either kill certain members of The Corporation, demolish their properties, escort an ally to safety, or pickup certain objects and bring them back to the safe house.  This is the major problem with revolution mode: practically every mission is extremely similar to something you've already done before.  Lacking variety, the missions get a little too tedious, especially as the difficulty level increases and the simple missions get very hard to complete.  Additionally, good weapons are usually very hard to come by in revolution mode and admittedly, the game is not as fun without easy access to serious firepower.

Luckily though, chaos mode comes to the rescue and makes State of Emergency uniquely entertaining.  It is more of an arcade mode, as the objective is to score the most points possible by killing Corporation soldiers and gang members, destroying buildings and other objects, and completing objectives.  How long you play depends on your health, time limit, or both, depending on which mode is chosen.  By killing Corporation forces, you can obtain more time and health in order to continue.  As you are playing there's an announcer who will tell you what the current score multiplier is.  These give you bonus points if you perform certain specific acts, such as blowing up cars, breaking windows, and smashing objects.  The best part about chaos mode is the fact that there are weapons scattered all over the level.  Since it's only possible to carry one weapon at a time, in this mode you can always have an awesome weapon, which helps when trying to destroy everything you possibly can.

When you first start playing State of Emergency, there's only one level open, which is The Mall.  But either through progression in chaos mode or revolution mode, it's possible to open up the three others.  These include: Chinatown, East Side, and Corporation Central.  All levels are very detailed and realistic, though a little bit confining.  By this I mean that they're just not very complex and it's not possible to go in any of the stores/buildings so you have to stay in the open areas for the most part.  Additionally, it's not possible to interact with many of the objects found within the levels, which is somewhat disappointing.  Typically glass is the only thing that can be noticeably broken on buildings, and certain other objects, such as tables remain unscathed, despite repeatedly shooting at them.

There are five distinct characters who can be used to progress through the game, but only two of them are available from the start.  They include an ex-cop, a lawyer, an ex-gang member, a hacker, and an ex-sports star.  Each has their own fighting style, but none of them are necessarily better than the others.  The detail level of the characters is exceptional, including those who are simply one of the hundreds of innocent civilizations.  The various gangs, such as the 3rd Street Killaz, who scream "break yourself" when you scuffle with them, are also very unique and noteworthy.

State of Emergency is a game that you can pickup and play fairly easily.  This is because the controls are very easy to learn, but unfortunately as a result of this, the weapons can't be aimed too precisely.  The basic combat moves are punch, kick, grapple, and spin attack.  As previously mentioned, each fighter has their own style, but all the buttons function in the same manner.

The biggest flaw in the game, which greatly affects the quality of the gameplay, has to be the loose camera.  This poorly designed camera cannot keep up in many situations and therefore a great deal of time is spent messing with it that shouldn't have to be.  As a result, in many tight situations it's very difficult to target enemies or see exactly where you're headed.  It would have made more sense to offer a variety of fixed camera views in addition to the floating camera, so that gamers could choose which suits them best.

As previously mentioned, the graphics in State of Emergency are quite amazing due to the hundreds of characters present on the screen at a given time.  Incredibly, despite there being so many objects present at once, the frame rate never slows down.  This is quite remarkable and it seems that Rockstar is ahead of the pack in this respect.   Although most objects are detailed, they're not very crisp, but instead they seem to have a cartoon style to them.

The sound effects are very realistic and appropriate.  Accordingly, they effectively help set the overall chaotic mood.   From the screams of the innocent bystanders and the orders from Corporation officers to the powerful booms caused by explosions, they're all great.  The music on the other hand could be better than it is, but isn't terrible either.  It consists primarily of very basic (generic) techno beats and seems to repeat more than most of us would like.

State of Emergency is a game that's thoroughly addicting and sickly entertaining, both of which make it a great addition to Rockstar's impressive lineup.  The nonstop action and an unprecedented violence level result in complete and total madness on screen.  Although it has little depth to it and lacks variability in revolution mode, if you take it for what it is and don't expect another GTA3, you probably won't be disappointed.  Think about it, it's a game that encourages you to break stuff - what could be more fun?

This game is rated "M" for mature and it takes up 164 KB on your PS2 memory card.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
State of Emergency is action packed and provides an unmatched gaming experience.  Although revolution mode is fairly disappointing because of its repetitiveness, chaos mode makes up for it nicely.  The major issue that plagues the gameplay is the loose camera problem that results in having to push one of the shoulder buttons all too often to turn the camera around.

Graphics: 9
No other game has managed to pack so many characters and objects onto the screen at one time - all without causing the frame-rate to decrease.  Although the graphics aren't particularly sharp, they don't at all look bad.  The explosions and damage effects look great and the characters are all distinct as well as detailed.

Sound: 8
The sound effects are perfect for the chaotic game, but the music is a bit lacking in quality.

Difficulty: 7.5
Although State of Emergency is easy to pickup and get rolling with, as the game modes progress they get a little too difficult for most.  Fighting off endless dozens of enemies is fairly taxing, especially since you can only carry a single weapon at a time and it's easy to run out of ammo.

Concept: 9
The concept is very unique and the result is a game that's unlike any other.  To no one's surprise, Rockstar has done it again.

Multiplayer: 7
Although the game doesn't have a multiplayer mode, I gave it a 7 because I think that the game would have benefited significantly from such a mode.

Overall: 8.3


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