State of Emergency
If This game looks familiar, it's because it's the PC port of a mediocre, two-year-old PlayStation 2 game. Quite why Rockstar thinks there's a market for such a thing, we don't know, because there isn't much here to tempt the average PC gamer.
State Of Emergency sees you engaging in frenzied bouts of cartoon ultra-violence as part of an uprising against a fascistic global corporation, with each of the four stages being set during massive civilian riots. You can play either a mission-based story mode, or rack up points against the clock in chaos mode. Whichever you choose, the gameplay for this consists of little more than smashing things and beating/shooting/stabbing people to death. All this violence is undeniably fun for a while and the visuals are decent, but after a couple of hours you'll have seen all there is to offer.
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Some hopeful fans consider it a potential Grand Theft Auto 3-killer. Rockstar claims that it "reinvents the old-school street brawler genre." EGM even deemed it "most controversial game ever." As the clouds of prerelease hype dissipate, what's left' behind is a funky, bloody cocktail of different genres that never quite comes together. As the first game to focus on riots, SoE recreates the frenzied, insane atmosphere of the real thing. Hundreds of crazed rioters run amok in the game's urban environments. Looters make a break for it with TVs, stereos and cash registers atop their heads. Warring street gangs fight to the death. The sheer chaos occurring in these environments takes your breath away. On the gameplay front, it's truly a piecemeal product, snagging various aspects from other games. The underworld theme, excessive violence and mission structure is straight outta GTA3. Hand-to-hand combat lifted from antique beat-'em-ups like Final Fight and the fast-paced, arrow-guided urgency of Crazy Taxi. This blend of beatdowns and run-'n-gun tactics works well in the arcade-style Chaos mode, but the longer Revolution mode bogs down with slower, less exciting missions. Making it through this story mode requires extreme patience--you'll likely spend over 20 hours running around the game's four areas.
Although SoE doesn't offer the captivating missions and freedom of GTA3, it sets the new watermark for gore. As you play, limbs fly, heads tumble to the ground, and crimson pools fill the gutters. It's excessive, brutal and hilarious. Sure, the intended bad guys are "Corporation Cyborg Enforcers," but when the bullets start flying, innocent civilians tend to get in the way. Concerned parents should definitely heed the ESRB rating on the box, because this will undoubtedly be the hottest topic on the playground.
Boot it up, jump into Chaos mode, and unleash your pent-up rage, but be forewarned: These first 30 minutes of playtime will probably be the most fun you have with SoE. After the blood-soaked honeymoon is over, you'll see the game in the harsh morning light and wonder if it was really worth it. Revolution, the game's interminably long story mode, suffers from a dire fun shortage. Its four levels seem awfully small when you're forced to run 50 dull, repetitive missions in each one. After escorting 37 helpless gang members, delivering 28 documents and defending 31 storefronts, I began to seriously question my future as a freedom fighter. Riots shouldn't be boring, right? Thankfully, the aforementioned Chaos mode offers more enjoyment. This gameplay method ditches the dopey quests in favor of pure, arcade action. It's quick, carnal and gratifying--in small doses. Both modes would benefit exponentially with the addition of multiplayer options. It's baffling why the developers didn't conceive of making at least one of the other 250 people on screen controllable. Inexcusable. Technically, I must commend VIS on stuffing the screen with hundreds of characters. It's a neat trick, but similar care should have gone into fixing the seam-filled, flickering floors and messy camera angles. But gamers seeking an ultra-violent stress reliever should still bloody their hands with Soe.
The first time you see this game's seething mass of humanity in motion, you will giggle, gather your buds around the tube to oggle the mayhem, then grab a rocket launcher and blast everything in sight. Hey, we don't blame you--chaos is fun. But State of Emergency's "Whoa, lookit all the people!" gimmick wears a little thin about a halfway into the game's mission-based Revolution mode. That's when you notice the rough edges: maddening escort missions, tricky aiming controls, and beat-'em-up gameplay that gets repetitive. Still, the cathartic play modes make this a handy game to have around after rough weekdays in the real world.
Society blows, especially for the residents of State of Emergency's Capitol City, so you feel pretty good playing the instrument of its very collapse. And VIS' technical achievement in re-creating a riot scene is second to none, delivering simple, fast arcadey fun that's a great way to mindlessly let off some steam. But people expecting more than shades of GTA3 will be sorely let down, basically because your relationship with every part of the SOE world is relegated to destroying it. Sadly, no real exploration, strategy or character interaction exists. Even if you haven't tried Rockstar's other controversy magnet, you're bound to find SOE pretty shallow.
Reworked and redone for Xbox, this third-person anarchy simulation shakes the very firmament of modern thought: Put simply, State of Emergency disproves the scientific theorem that it's impossible to polish a turd. The ultraviolent premise of its PlayStation 2 forebearer lives on--you'll find explosions, fire, gunfights, beatings, and carnage aplenty. It makes the Roman Circus seem like a Family Circus cartoon. As a freedom fighter, players wreck stuff, kill people, and try to avoid authority's skull-crushing truncheon. Gameplay-- whether open-ended or mission based--generally tips the scale at frenetic, with hundreds of cops, looters, citizens, gang members, and rebels choking the screen. Developer Vis screwed the pooch by making the PS2 version single-player only, which proceeded to sink thanks to poor A.I., a dearth of mission types, and unbalanced challenges. The Xbox version has had its single-player action tweaked to little effect; characters in need of protection still charge foolishly into gunfire, and the improvements to the game's balancing may have been done by chimpanzees. Luckily, a new multiplayer mode offers salvation. Here, players need not worry about repetitive missions, impossible tasks, or computer-controlled dolts who don't understand this simple equation: bullets + flesh = bad. With four players, the carnage quadruples and the state of euphoria increases exponentially.
Anyone who nuked a few food courts in the PS2 version of State of Emergency knows this game plays dirty, with its cartoony ultraviolence and gimmicky mass of humanity that's fun to watch for a few hours but soon loses its novelty. That's when you sober up to the game's shortcomings--mainly, there's not much of an actual game here. Escort missions in the story-based Revolution mode become maddening (prepare for endless do-overs), and singling out targets in a crowd is no laugh riot. The developer did add tweaks that make the game suck less, but the real lure here is the multiplayer. Get four pals to split the $20 price, and this game's a steal!
Man, I never thought I'd be playing this again. Last year's disappointing PS2 version was a total bore, so Rockstar's fighting a perilous battle trying to make Xbox owners give a damn now. I'll give them some credit, though--the improvements here (moderately fun multiplayer modes, a rebalanced single-player game, and custom soundtrack support) definitely sweeten the deal, and shipping this thing at $20 is a wise choice. Problem is, the underlying experience is still riddled with subpar visuals, frustrating aiming, dippy A.I., and lots of tiresome missions. Pick it up if you're desperate for some brain-optional four-player mayhem, but don't bother playing it solo.