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The Warriors

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Released: 2005

Genre: Beat-'em-up

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Developer: Rockstar Toronto

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

The Background
Rockstar’s first and, to date, only game based on a TV or movie property, the company chose to adapt The Warriors partly due to the film’s overall similarities to a videogame. That is, the journey of a wanted gang moving across a volatile New York on their way back to the safe turf of Coney Island, avoiding the other colourful gangs along the route. In an interview with The New York Times in 2005, Rockstar VP Dan Houser explained that it took approximately 50 people to make The Warriors over a four-year period.

The idea was to create a brawler that paid homage to the likes of Streets Of Rage and Double Dragon, but making it accessible to anyone who was new to the genre, as well as making the most of being able to operate in a 3D space. Despite keeping rookies in mind, however, Rockstar wanted The Warriors to be complex enough under the surface to encourage strategic play.

Scale was important to the fighting, too – The Warriors would be able to support a lot of units on-screen at once, capturing the essence of the fight scenes in the film. Many actors from the film reprised their roles, including James Remar, but perhaps just as importantly, the memorable music from the 1979 picture made it into the game, including Joe Walsh’s iconic ‘In The City’.

Warriors-01The Game
Few videogame adaptations of movies actually build on their sources, but The Warriors convincingly sets three quarters of its span before the actual movie section begins – at the start of the film, gang truce figure Cyrus is shot dead during an impassioned speech, before The Warriors’ leader Cleon is wrongfully blamed and killed for the assassination. In the game, we flash back to several months before that, seeing how The Warriors became a force in Coney Island and made enemies out of their fellow anarchists, as well as letting players steep themselves in its decayed, almost post-apocalyptic vision of New York.

It’s a perfect excuse to let players bottle people, break into stores, steal car radios and perform other satisfying acts of mayhem in environments where a fight could kick off at any second. The Warriors is great fun due to the fact anything on the ground, from a pipe to a beer bottle to a pair of brass knuckles, can be employed in a brawl to deal some real damage. Contextual and co-op-centric attacks, too, deliver deadly moves where enemies can be ploughed into walls with devastating animations to match. It’s so gratuitous, but you can’t help but enjoy it, aided by the vaguely amusing presence of about half a dozen characters who have the exact same Mark Hamill haircut.

The film itself was over-the-top and a little throwaway, so the game celebrates the inventiveness of its fictional gang culture, turning infamous sequences like the the fight with the Baseball Furies into massive showdowns where the gang’s bats are viciously turned against them. The variety of set-piece is far stronger than critics gave The Warriors credit for – from lootings to king-of-the-hill brawls to smash-and-runs, vandalism and even a Matrix-style rooftop escape sequence, it carries a modern design intent with gameplay that is deliberately retro and easy to get to grips with.

It’s so faithful to the accomplished art direction of the films, too, that it keeps the trashy Seventies quality intact. The Warriors looks great, not necessarily on the technical side (Rockstar’s use of RenderWare was starting to show its age), but in the way the developers captured the grim, colourful gang culture of the film’s Manhattan. Levels take place in large hub areas, where exploring back alleys and attacking side missions sees some of the GTA-style exploration and dynamic action creep in, as well as being tremendously co-op friendly: being arrested by the police, for example, means that the other play will have to stage a daring liberation attempt in the face of law enforcement.

That sense of danger is again true to the movie. Yet The Warriors’ appeal always comes down to the bloody simplicity of the fighting, and the way experimentation is encouraged by the sometimes labrynthine hub levels and scattering of objects waiting to be belted around some poor sucker’s head.

warriros-02Why It’s A Future Classic
The Warriors succeeds in two vastly different ways; first, as a credible companion piece to the pretty-decent-but-not-amazing film that it’s based on, but also as a co-op brawler where using the tools around you in a 3D space could be a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a refined, satisfying bloodbath that actually makes sense in the context of the licence that it’s based on.

The extra 75 per cent of the game’s story almost feels like the part of the movie that wasn’t there, the build-up to Cyrus’s death that never happened because the film was in such a rush to fit all the different gangs in. It also doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the game whatsoever if you’ve never seen The Warriors before. By itself, as a result of balanced fighting mechanics and an oppressive atmosphere, it’s a distinctive brawler that illustrates the merits of picking the right licence to all developers.

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