The Warriors is one of those games that shouldn't have worked. It's a video game based on a thirty year old movie with next to no story and very few likeable characters. Yet the developers managed to not only turn this 2004 Xbox/PlayStation (and eventually PSP) game into a competent action game, but they actually eclipsed the film by offering a much longer, fuller experience that dug into the origins of the film and what led up to the fateful events contained in the cult classic. It was an incredible game that proved once and for all that with the right team on board you can turn a traditional street brawler into a modern classic.
Unfortunately The Warriors: Street Brawl, Rockstar Games' brand new Xbox Live Arcade game, completely misses the point and turns in one of the most disappointing games of the year. Instead of giving us a deeper appreciation for the critically acclaimed movie, The Warriors has been reduced to a paint-by-numbers brawler straight out of the 1980s. Fans of old timey brawlers like Final Fight and Double Dragon may get a couple hours of enjoyment out of this game, but it's far below the standards set by Rockstar Games.
Unlike the original 2004 game, The Warriors: Street Brawl doesn't attempt to go back in time and rewrite the origin story. Instead it closely follows the story of the movie, from the events at the conclave in Pelham Bay Park. The story goes like this, Cyrus, the leader of the most powerful gang in all of New York City, has gathered all of the other games in the city together to call a truce. Together they will all work as one for the betterment of the gang, that way they can control the city and not be marginalized by all of the petty gang warfare. Unfortunately somebody kills Cyrus and blames the assassination on The Warriors. This leads to an all-out gang war against our heroes. Will The Warriors have enough lucky and skill to make it back to their safe house before sunrise? Will the real killer ever be brought to justice? These questions and more are clumsily answered in The Warriors: Street Brawl.
The game plays almost exactly like Double Dragon, a game that clearly inspired the original 2004 game. In fact, the developers were so influenced by Taito's 1987 brawler that they included a remake of the game using Warriors characters and locations. If I recall correctly, I called this mini-game one of the "all-time greatest Easter Eggs" when I reviewed the 2004 game. In a lot of ways this Xbox Live Arcade game feels like that mini-game, only instead of being a fun extra, it's a full laborious product that sucks all of the fun out of the property.
The first thing you need to know about The Warriors: Street Brawl is that it's dark ... very, very dark. Practically every level in the game is covered with the darkest of darks, making none of the levels stand out in any significant way. From time to time you'll see neon lights and other forms of illumination, but they are few and far between. What's frustrating is that games like Streets of Rage and Final Fight have managed to convey the dead of night while still allowing you to see what's going on. Heck, even the 2004 Xbox game didn't suffer from this problem. After awhile I wondered if they were covering everything in darkness because it was night or because the graphics were unacceptably bad.
Outside of the game's use of 3D polygons, The Warriors: Street Brawl feels exactly like your average 20 year old brawler. You have a punch and kick button, a jump button and a block button. Your character (who you get to choose at the beginning of the game) has a few combos and a rage meter that fills up (and unleashes more powerful attacks), but outside of that there's not much depth here. After seeing all of the fun combos and moves in the 2004 game, I was disappointed to see how limited this Xbox Live Arcade game is. It's not just the fact that the original Warriors game had more depth; even Super NES brawlers from the early 1990s had more to offer.
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