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Sixteen years ago, back in 2005, the almighty Rockstar Games released what is for me, one of the best video games ever and my personal favorite video game; The Warriors. The Warriors is a beat’em up video game released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 based on Walter Hill’s 1979 film of the same name.
I think it’s the only time that Rockstar was interested enough to develop a video game based on a film, and they did it extremely well. The Warriors didn’t just retell the film, Rockstar added a huge amount of backstory to both the situation and characters. On top of that, the game presents you with one of the best beat’em up gameplay styles you could find in the 3D era of gaming.
Later, the game was developed and published for the PlayStation Portable, and unlike the previous PS2 ports to hit the system, The Warriors was perfect for the PSP. The storyline, characters, presentational elements, and gameplay have all held up well with only a few translation kinks, and rather than adding a bunch of extra unplayable content to make it look fresh and new (18 months later), Rockstar elected to keep the price at only $20.
The Warriors tell us the story of, well, The Warriors, a Coney Island gang in the late 1970s. The 1979 film picks up when the Warriors are on their way to a huge gang meeting held by New York’s biggest gang, the Gramercy Riffs and its curious leader, Cyrus. At one point of the meeting, Cyrus points out that working together, the gangs would outnumber the police by a three-to-one margin; Cyrus plans to unify all the gangs into one giant 60.000-member gang that could rule New York. But just when everyone seems to like the idea, a shot is fired by Luther, leader of the Rogues. This sends the crowd wild as the police surround the area.
In the game, it shows this sequence but shifts dramatically away from the movie from this point forward. From this moment, we go back in time to a few months before the meeting, to a time when the Warriors were working on their reputation in the streets. The thing is, the film didn’t spend time on the backstory of the gang or the characters before the Cyrus’ meeting, so, the game spends its time giving additional context to their characters and other gangs. In the film, you don’t learn very much about the 9 primary guys (Swan, Ajax, Cleon, Vermin, Cowboy, Snow, Rembrandt, Cochise, and Fox), but in the game you get to know them better than you might expect.
Throughout the 20+ missions, you will get to play with every single one of them at one time or another, and you will learn how Cleon and Vermin created their gangs and how each member joined the band. Also, you will learn about the gang’s rivalries, especially against Coney Island’s other gang, the Destroyers; Cleon and Vermin’s previous gang. What’s more impressive about this is that it feels like you are learning more about the characters while playing and you genuinely start to get attached to them which makes what happens in the later game more meaningful. A little spoiler here, some of characters don’t make it to the end, and this helps make the story more impactful.
For the most part, The Warriors is a pure beat’em up, which obviously means that you will fight and brawl a lot. Each of the Warriors fights the same. You have strong attacks and weak attacks which can be put together to create different combos, as well as a grab move for throws or grab attacks, even jumping and ground attacks can be done. There are different types of weapons you can pick to deliver more damage (bricks, bottles, bats, knives, boards), but no guns, though. This is old-school gang wars so firearms don’t enter in the picture. You have tactical commands you can give to your gang members titled “warchief commands”, which are quick and easy instructions that can cause your team to do anything from breaking everything on-site, defending you or running from police.
There are plenty of times where you have to play things stealthy, especially when there are zones with large amounts of enemy gang members or cops. Don’t worry about it, if you don’t like stealth scenarios the stealth portions in The Warriors are probably the weakest and easiest to complete, but the stealth attacks are really good by the way. Some zones are more manhunt-esque than Grand Theft Auto-esque, because of the level design and dark scenarios.
What the game does best is tie together the game and the film. The film is not very famous so it is normal if you haven’t watched it until now, the film is almost a parody of the New York gang scene of the 70s. All of the gangs presented in both the game and the film cause havoc while living on a depressive, bleak and an almost post-apocalyptic version of New York. Everything presented in the game, every car, tree, and building perfectly capture the look and feel of the film. As I said before, the game expands on the gangs, giving them more screen time and backstory.
This video game is a diamond hidden inside a box, The Warriors is a game where you genuinely have fun alone or playing with a friend thanks to the brilliant and well-crafted co-op mode. The Warriors is not short, but its not long either; you can complete the game in 9 hours, but this game is not made for speedruns. It’s a game made to be played and enjoyed. Whenever you play it, take your time, savor it; look at the buildings, understand the dark comedy inside every piece of dialogue, enjoy every punch you land on your enemies, and most importantly, allow yourself to become a part of the gang. The Warriors is a true masterpiece.