Reviewing old games is a bit like listening to the politics of OAPs – they both come from a different time and place.
It’s best to look at re-releases within the context they were originally bequeathed to us by their developers. So, how does Rockstar’s 3D beat ’em up hold up after over a decade? Certainly still not a knockout, but far from a limp fist. Dig it?
The first half of the game’s narrative is essentially a prologue to the events in the film. It details the scrapes, spray-paint battles and general anarchy that The Warriors indulge in.
Each chapter deals with the “war chief” Cleon, new recruit Rembrandt and the other members of The Warriors gang. The setting is a Kubrick-esque dystopian New York. Gangs roam the streets and protect their turfs, cause beefs with other gangs and freely exhibit their destructive impulses on shop fronts, muscle cars and dive bars.
When the narrative arrives at its half-way point, it functions as more of an adaption of the film’s events.
The Warriors attend a meeting of all the cities gangs at Van Cortlandt Park where Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs and mediator of the truce, attempts to promote harmony in the city. This however goes dreadfully wrong, a shot rings out through the park and The Warriors find themselves on the run, trying to make their way back to their hideout alive.
It’s not necessarily apt to call the game an “adaption” as a whole, but it does include key scenes and characters from the film while providing interesting additional exposition. It portrays the events of the film well and Rockstar include enough additional action to provide accessibility to whom have never seen the original film.
The Warriors’ greatest asset that remains is the atmosphere of a late 1970’s New York cultivated by Rockstar. Much of NYC’s boroughs are explored and rendered in their spray-painted greyness as gangs roam the streets playing craps and mugging teenagers.
The style of The Warriors transfers from the big screen faithfully. The game shows enough leather jackets and denim vests like its a secret Village People: The Video Game but it’s still keeping with the cultish tone of the story. The tone of the game world is very much a C.B.G.B.’s New York: pre-tourism and pre-Big Apple. It’s a New York of adult video stores, ultra-violence and disco balls. It’s perpetually night-time and the environments are brutal and hard. Yet, from Coney Island to Soho to Spanish Harlem – the game’s atmosphere is still immersive as it was years ago.
Adding to this aesthetic immersion is the excellent sound design. Choice cuts from the era of funk, disco and Blaxploitation compliment the original score of deep and moody synth. Radios play in the background as The Warriors work out in their hideout, the Pam Grier-like announcer retelling the events of the previous levels. Overall, it’s an impressive and well orchestrated sound design that compliments the game perfectly.
Graphically, the game is marked by pixelated and unexpressive character models, rough textures, and an unstable frame rate (seemingly not remedied with a patch since the PS2 version). Often, the graphical limitations somewhat detract from the enjoyment of certain sections of the game. But, for the most part, they’re not difficult to overcome.
Gameplay is still repetitive but satisfying nonetheless. The hand-to-hand combat, which takes up the bulk of gameplay, is simple and brutal. Although combo chains are kept to a minimum and there is little more than bonus missions and mini-games to keep the player occupied, the game runs a satisfying length. What is surprising is how the combat is a reminder of how violent the game was then and still is now. Bricks and bottles are smashed against heads, gangs are set on with knives and thrown against walls. Even just half-way through, there’s more blood and head wounds than a weekend at A+E.
Although the gameplay is satisfying, there is a distinct lack of activities to enjoy. The release of Rockstar’s latest GTA shows how far they’ve progressed in terms of creating massive worlds with high levels of content and giving players the agency to indulge in that content. The Warriors simply comes from an era in Rockstar’s history where that was either a) not fitting within the narrative of the game or b) simply because the game was under-developed in terms of additional content.
While The Warriors maintains a great atmosphere through a reconstructed moody New York, it is ultimately very dated. The combat remains fun and accessible, yet never as intuitive as other fighting mechanics that came after it. Although it doesn’t contend with other Rockstar heavyweights like GTA or Red Dead, The Warriors is still a little gem that is worth the £11.99 to revisit it.