Reviewed: May 2, 2003
Released: March 25, 2003
When State of Emergency released for the PS2 last year it was met with mixed reviews from gamers and press alike. There were several “issues” with the game, both technical and gameplay related that had it falling far short from the anticipated hype generated by Rockstar's much-acclaimed Grand Theft Auto 3 that was still storming the PS2 community.
While GCM didn’t officially “review” the PS2 version that’s not to say none of us played it. I for one spent countless hours terrorizing innocent shoppers and other civilians, but at the end of the day I was left with an empty feeling from an unrewarding experience. One reason that I suspected and have now confirmed with the Xbox release is that State of Emergency is best played as a multiplayer experience with as many people as possible. The PS2 was limited to only two players, but the Xbox supports up to four and takes the multiplayer experience to a whole new level of intensity and fun.
The premise is simple. It’s you against the “man” as you engage in huge riots and acts of violent rebellion. The single player game is still intact and has you receiving your assignments from various cohorts then trying to complete that mission. It’s a very linear experience where death or mission failure simply has you restarting from the last mission.
Missions range from assassination (oops, I mean “elimination”) to good old-fashioned thievery, escort, rescue, protect and vandalism. What else would you expect from a Rockstar game? Along the way you get to engage in endless combat using punches, kicks, and a variety of weaponry including firearms and just about any object that can be ripped from the floor and wielded as a weapon.
The entire experience is non-stop adrenaline-infused action and violence. Check your brain at the door and rely on instinct and reflexes. And while this mode of gameplay is fun for a while, without a validating story to back it up it all becomes repetitive and mechanical after a few hundred deaths. Even the mission objectives aren’t all that varied.
What the PS2 version did well the Xbox only improves upon; namely the game engine that delivers an unprecedented amount of seemingly random riotous acts by hundreds of individually AI-controlled characters. The actual numbers of rioters hasn’t increased but the framerate and overall smoothness of the camera panning is as close to perfection as it could possibly get, which does serve to improve the overall game experience.
The Xbox improves upon the original with some much-needed multiplayer content. Join up to three friends for some split-screen action, either in versus or cooperative modes. All of these modes are timed and you decide how long to play and whether you are scoring off kills or vandalism.
Deathmatch mode is perhaps the best multiplayer mode you can play in State of Emergency. Even though you are playing in fully populated environments you are only scored for kills on the other human characters. The clever spin on this particular deathmatch game is that you can get other random individuals to join up with you by running up to them and pressing the white button. Once they are on your team they will loosely follow you around the level and engage your opponents or anyone that your opponents may have recruited. It truly is gang warfare at its finest even though you only score when the leaders are killed. The levels are large enough that you can organize some impressive gangs of 20-30 members or more and when they clash on the streets or in the mall or any of the other levels it is an impressive display of violence.
The graphics are pretty much unchanged from the PS2 version with the exception of a better framerate and some slightly sharper images. It appears the resolution is the same as the PS2 so I can only attribute the improved visuals to the nVidia chipset and whatever subtleties are involved getting the game graphics from the disc to the screen.
The levels are colorful as are the characters and everything has a distinct stylized look like it was ripped right from a comic book. The sheer numbers of people on the screen at any given time is both a visual treat and a curse. With hundreds of people in any given scene it only becomes that much more apparent when the same character model is used and reused to excess.
Nothing has changed in the audio department, at least in sound effects. You still get the cries and yells of the rioters, the shattering of glass, the whoosh of flames, the thumps of punches and kicks, and the boom of explosions. The most intense sound is easily the clock that ticks by incessantly as your time slowly drains away. The amount of pressure this can invoke in a gamer is surprising.
Aside from the theme song performed by Smash Mechanics, there isn’t much memorable about the soundtrack. Fortunately, the designers have included support for custom soundtracks and you can’t begin to imagine how much better this game is when you play it with your favorite rebel-rock thumping in the background. I never thought I would be ripping my Twisted Sister CD to my Xbox hard drive, but destroying a mall to the cheery tune of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” couldn’t be more perfect.
State of Emergency was arguably overpriced when it released on the PS2. Now, you can get this slightly improved version for only $20, which eases the sting a bit. Even so, this game is a novelty, a party game for drunk and rowdy friends to enjoy with a case of beer when there is nothing better to do. The single player game will keep you mildly amused for 10-15 hours assuming you have desire or motivation to even finish it. The true staying power is in the multiplayer modes.
Chances are if you played State of Emergency on the PS2 and liked it then you will certainly enjoy this new release, but then again, there really isn’t enough to justify purchasing a second copy unless you can unload your PS2 version on eBay.
Of course, if you only have an Xbox and are starving for a violent action title then this is one of few choices you have, especially if you want to enjoy some of the best multiplayer carnage available on the Xbox.