I'm not afraid to admit it; I actually enjoyed the first State of Emergency. As a budget game with arcade game play the first game was enjoyable in the same sort of way Crazy Taxi was fun. If you could get past the silly story, shallow control and tedious game play, then you could be entertained for a short amount of time by some mindless fun. It certainly didn't measure up to the hype that was built around it, but the original State of Emergency was a fun guilty pleasure that I'm proud to have in my collection. State of Emergency 2, on the other hand, throws away everything that was fun about the first game and turns it into an ugly beast of a game that has almost no redeeming qualities.
Believe it or not, State of Emergency 2 has had quite an adventure just getting to store shelves. Announced years ago, this State of Emergency has gone through three publishers and a bankruptcy, but here it finally is … for better or worse. After all this time I had to wonder why anybody would even bother finishing the game, the game does not feel fresh and has an extremely dated look. But regardless of why they decided to finish the game, here it is, State of Emergency 2 in all its glory.
Although this game shares its name with the 2002 action game, State of Emergency 2 has a completely different look and feel. Now the game controls much like a first-person shooter, except that it's stuck in the third-person. You use the left analog stick to run around while using the right analog stick to control your aim, allowing you to shoot any direction you want. This is a perfectly good control scheme that has been used well in many quality video games, but the frantic pace of State of Emergency is not the place for this type of control set up.
New to this sequel are the crazy missions you need to go on in order to beat all twelve levels of the story mode. Things start out strong, you play an inmate who gets a little help escaping the his death sentence. After avoiding what seemed like inevitable death you kill about a hundred prison guards and ultimately start a prison riot. Other levels reward you for sneaking around, working as a team, and other third-person shooter clichés. The game even features crazy turret gun levels and drivable vehicles. Of course, none of these missions are very good, with terrible vehicle controls -- no matter if you're using a helicopter, a speedboat, or a tank. The best you can say is that State of Emergency 2 has a surprising amount of variety; unfortunately none of it is very enjoyable.
The problem with this game is not the variety of missions; it's how uninspired most of them seem. There is not one part of this game that hasn't been done better by literally dozens of other titles. To the developers credit there are a couple of ideas in the game that come as something of a shock, I enjoyed being able to switch between characters in some levels and while playing as Spanky, the Latino gang leader you may remember from the first game, you are able to issue commands to your hommies on the street. None of this stuff is really new to the genre, but they took me by surprise when they were introduced. You can sometimes see glimpses of potential in this game, but there's just too much in this game working against your enjoyment.
For one thing the game is just a little too tough for its own good. State of Emergency 2 is ready to throw a lot of enemies at you while making you fight for much-needed health packs. Couple this with checkpoints that seemed tossed in at random and you have a few really frustrating levels with very little reward. There are levels where you can just run and gun your way to victory, but much of the game requires you to use some sort of stealth. The problem with the quiet killing is that it's not very interesting and forces you to do the same thing over and over. The game also has some technical problems when you hug walls and peer around corners. If you're determined you can overlook these problems, but with so many better games on the market why should you have to?
Another problem I had with the game was its AI, or lack there of as it seemed most of the time. There are moments in the game where an enemy is literally watching me shoot his friend that is no more than a couple feet away and doesn't seem to notice. For the most part you can use this to your advantage, but the stupid artificial intelligence is apparent throughout the entire game. If it weren't for the fact that there were so many enemies at once this game would be a breeze.
But since there are so many enemies to contend with you will likely have to replay many of the sequences over and over again. The game relies heavily on trial and error gameplay, to the point where you wonder if the game was designed to be entertaining or to turn gamers off of video games permanently. The levels in the game require you to die a few times in order to know what not to do, only that when you finally figure do figure out where you're going you still have to die a few more times until you figure what you're supposed to do next. The fact that there aren't many health packs or checkpoints along the way only makes the game that much more frustrating. Throw in the tired game play and bland missions and the game ceases being fun real quick.
The game's overall look is quite a bit bleaker than that of the first State of Emergency. Part of the appeal of the original game was its colorful graphics and cartoon-like violence. This sequel is a lot grittier, to the point where the levels are dreary and overly depressing. There's just not enough sunlight in this game, the colors and cartoon look of the original is replaced by something that made me feel dirty.
Also gone are the riots that made the first game so memorable. Most of the game is you against a group of guards and police officers, not the hundreds of citizens running around creating hell. There are a few times in the game when you take part in riots, but they are on a much smaller scale than what you saw in the original game. Even stranger is how these civilians act, they really just run around shaking their fists. Absent is that feeling of urgency the original had, this just feels like your basic third-person shooter with crummy controls and bad graphics.
Speaking of graphics, the look of State of Emergency 2 is just awful. When the original game was released in 2002 it was technically quite impressive, featuring what seemed like hundreds of characters running around on screen doing all kinds of damage. Four years later this effect is somewhat less unique, but since this sequel rarely matches the amount of characters (or detail) it just feels like a big step backwards. None of the main characters look good; they have this unflattering blocky look that makes the game feel real dated.
Also bad are the game's backgrounds, most of which use repeating textures with only a little detail. The game's dark look leads to too many levels that simply look the same, and none of them are areas you really want to visit (in real life or in a video game). The original game's wacky sense of humor is left behind for a gritty look at good vs. evil.
Although the game is difficult (and extremely frustrating) it's not very long, most people will be able to bust through it in only a few hours. The story mode has a few predictable twists and turns and lets you play as four different characters, but it's still awfully short and disappointing. To the game's credit there is also an arcade mode with a number of unlockable challenges to be enjoyed. There are a few free-for-all missions in the arcade mode, but too many of them end up being the vehicle and turret missions that were no fun in the story mode. If you're desperate you can scrounge together some fun in the arcade mode, but it ultimately feels tacked on at the last minute.
Almost not worth mentioning is the extremely dull multiplayer games. State of Emergency 2 gives gamers a chance to play a four-player split screen version of the game with modes that range from the standard deathmatch to the standard capture the flag. You and your friends may be able to get a few fun matches out of this mode, but chances are your guests will be screaming for something better before too long.
My biggest gripe with State of Emergency 2 is that it tries a little too hard not to be like the original game. It's shocking out different this game is from the first game; to the point where it probably shouldn't even have the same name. Everything that made the first game so much fun has been scrapped in order to feature humdrum missions that are never worth your time. I'm disappointed by the game's dark tone, new control system, lame story, and trial and error game play. The first game may not have been the high water mark, but this sequel manages to get everything wrong. Folks, there's no good reason to get in the middle of this riot.
State of Emergency is messier than the day after a riot. New gamers will be turned off by the trial and error game play while fans of the original won't recognize this mission-based sequel. Either way, just avoid this completely average PlayStation 2 game!