By Matt Carey
The story of The Warriors stretches back all the way to 1965 when Sol Yurick released his novel detailing gang life in New York City. Fourteen years later, with his help, the book was turned into a movie which immediately garnered cult status. Then, in 2005, a video game adaptation was released, covering the events leading up to and including the movie. The game, like its source material, was praised by critics for its deep combat and control and breathing life back into the long forgotten brawler genre.
And now we find ourselves in 2009 and a new “Warriors” game, complete with original story.
The general look of this game feels like a graphic novel. There is an interesting mix between action and still screen – complete with speech bubbles I might add – set pieces and you feel as though you are a spotty 13 year old, generously pumping 10p’s into the arcade machine. It really does conjure memories of playing Double Dragon in the local chip-shop. Graphically things are far more advanced than the days of the sprites, and the environments and character models are nicely realised, staying true to the gritty and sombre source material, just in a more cartoony way.
The nostalgia doesn’t end there either. Taking its cues from classics such as the aforementioned Double Dragon, Final Fight and Streets of Rage, The Warriors: Street Brawl is a sideways scrolling beat-em-up. For those too young to remember, your character walks from left to right across the screen, doling out beatings to multiple groups of enemies as you progress.
There are several game modes on offer too. Needless to say, there is a story mode to work your way through featuring level after level of button mashing. There is also an arcade mode, which is for all intents and purposes exactly the same as story mode. Once you have finished the story, a boss battle mode unlocks too. And to top it all off, a multiplayer mode, which is the arcade mode but with up to four people. I’m seeing a pattern here.
“So what is it like?” I hear you ask. Well, in a nutshell, dull. Sure, it all looks very nice, and is accompanied by a not too bad soundtrack, but the actual game-play is marginally less fun than hacking off your hand with a blunt instrument. Yes, there is nostalgia by the bucket full, but the game adds nothing new to the genre. The side-scrolling beat-em-up has been invigorated by such games as Castle Crashers in recent years, along with countless online flash games, and in this basis, TW:SB looks very dated.
It really doesn’t help either that it is so damn hard. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know beat-em-ups of this nature are meant to be. They always were. But this is ridiculous. The fights themselves are unbalanced, and whilst there is a block feature, it is rendered pointless when, immediately after a block, you are punched or kicked again. This means that the act of blocking is just something to fend off the inevitable rather than gain an advantage. The bad guys are also over-powered. Often I found myself surrounded by three or four guys with far too much health in comparison to myself. Needless to say, four lives had been used by around half way through the first level.
The game also has its share of glitches. One example being the big bad guy that got himself punched behind the scenery. I’m sure he was happy, as it meant he couldn’t be touched, but for me and my online compadres, it meant we couldn’t progress and the game was aborted.
It is a shame really. The reference material has been examined closely, and lovingly recreated to a point, but the end product is unimaginative and overly hard. There is still a market out there for this kind of game, although smaller, and they do still love the challenge. But for the mass market, and for those with a fondness for the original book or movie, this just doesn’t cut the mustard. It is a good effort, and you can tell it hasn’t been thrown together in somebody’s lunch break. It does have its merits, but these are few and far between I’m afraid.