• State of Emergency Review - Sony PS2

    Just as Shigeru Miyamoto probably has a room full of Disney characters and Fischer price toys to try and get inside the head of a ten year old, Rockstar games probably have a room full of Al Pacino gangster movies to try and get inside of the head of a 17 year old. They disappear in there, listen to "Fire starter" by the Prodigy over and over again and then come outŠ With an idea for a game that involves being chased by the Police. Again. This time Rockstar's attempt to horrify the Daily Mail and satisfy the blood lust of their teenage fans comes in the form of State of Emergency


    Boasting super smooth graphics, up to 200 characters running around on screen at once with no drop in frame rate, State of Emergency certainly seems worth a play, but does it have the deep gameplay to back up it's flash graphics?
    And yes, dear Daily Mail reader you can use the arms, torsos, and legs of characters you've blown up as weapons, machine gun crowds, decapitate executives with axes, blow up police cars and smash windows. It's controversial as hell, just what Rockstar intended. Riots are far from funny, but as Jamie King of Rockstar games says, State of Emergency is far from being a realistic game. It's very much an Itchy and Scratchy take on a riot.

    The story line and mood of State of Emergency owes a lot to the anti-Corporate feel of movies like Robocop, and a little to the recent WTO bruhaha, but as you can imagine there's no McDonald's or Starbuck's window a'la Crazy Taxi to throw a dustbin through. It's set in a dark future world where government has ceased to function and giant mega corporations with squads of hired goons run the country. Unless you play by their rules you don't get work, food or a place to live. Citizen Smith style you arrive on the scene to bring power back to the people.

    As for it's graphics, the game has a cartoon feel all of it's own. You'll see gang members carrying looted TVs and video recorders away, hired company goons, men in black, and ordinary citizens running around like headless chickens. It recreates a riot very effectively, and demonstrates that even with these shiny new consoles coming out PS2 still has the power to amaze. The game gets a lot of brownie points for including both a wide screen and 60 Hz option. The graphics are very smooth and look full screen anti aliased. Rockstar are long past the days of Grand Theft Auto 1 and trying to sell a game with inferior graphics on the basis of controversy alone. It's difficult to imagine just how they've managed to fit all those textures into 4 MB of texture ram, Vis have made the PS2 sing a very sweet tune, all in the name of chaos.

    You not only need good graphics while you're stamping your enemies into pools of bloody goo, you need atmospheric sound too, and the sound in the game is terrific throughout. It's presented in full surround sound, and it's great fun to drop a grenade and hear it exploding behind you on your back speakers, although in strafe mode the surround sound gets a little buggy. The opening titles feature a commissioned song which is as good as the tunes you'll be used to hearing on the radio stations in the Grand Theft Auto series of games. The atmosphere of the game is enhanced by company slogans sounding over the tannoy speakers in a fake cheery mall rat voice as you play, and the background music of low key funk and rock sets the mood perfectly. It works very well and is very good atmospheric stuff.

    The gameplay itself is straight out of the Final Fight genre and mostly resembles the under rated Fighting Force on PlayStation 1 and PC. It has two modes, Chaos and Revolution. You get two characters to play at the start of the game, a retired cop and a female lawyer, Libra. Further play unlocks characters such as an ex football player and a Biggie Smalls style gang banger.

    In Chaos you're free to run around and cause as much destruction as you like. In order to make the mayhem more fun there are bonus periods for carrying out certain actions, such as blowing up cars or smashing windows, and mini missions to carry out. In the first chaos mode you can run riot as long as you keep picking up time and health bonuses. In the timed mode you go for the highest score in a set period of time. Score high enough and you unlock the full horrors of the last clone standing mode.

    I have seen many appalling sights in video games. Flesh eating zombies in Resident Evil, inhuman creatures squirming on the ground in Silent Hill, and choosing the wrong camera angle in the Spice Girls game,but nothing has unsettled me quite like Last Clone Standing mode in State of Emergency. You have to kill 200 clones, and don't clones still need love too? While you're killing them with Uzis, flame throwers and AK-47s they scream "God help us" and beg for mercy. All the while the bodies pile up. The clones never fight back, the just run like frightened cattle, it's not really explained well why these clones have to die. I have as strong a stomach as is possible without getting diagnosed with a personality disorder, but this was too much for me. Vis just went too far with the mode.

    Disposing of our sick bags and returning our tables to the upright position we move onto Revolution mode. In Revolution you take a mission based approach to rioting. Over all 4 maps you have to complete 175 missions, which mostly come down to picking up items, chasing down executives, stopping security guards from entering a building or escorting people valuable to the revolution. The missions can be a bit monotonous and there isn't an involving story as in Rockstar's gangster masterwork: Grand Theft Auto 3. I spent all my time looking at the completion rate until I opened up the next map rather than wondering what happened in the riot next. There's always some hacker tapping a phone or some store keeper who really digs looters who needs protecting, and there just aren't enough new ideas introduced to keep it fresh. You just seem to spend all your time running in the direction of an on-screen arrow, and in difficult missions the outcome seems to depend a little more on luck than planning.

    The control owes a lot to Fighting Force, with the addition of a very useful strafe mode for spraying those security guards and gang members with bullets, and a 360 attack, a grab, dash tackle and mini combos. The 360 attack depends on holding down a button for a while and doesn't really work as intended in tight spots, but the mini combos work well enough. The key to doing well lies in finding where the right weapon respawns and finding out which are the really high scoring items to destroy, rather than any fancy finger work. The armoury of weaponry at your disposal is very impressive too: Uzis, flame throwers, tear gas, swords, axes, AK-47s, mini guns, you name it.

    The main reason to mark down State of Emergency is it's criminal lack of a 2 player mode. This is a huge omission and makes the game a whole lot less fun. Also the level design peaks with the first level with multiple levels connected by escalators. The other levels just aren't as good.

    In this game developers Vis have attempted to breathe new life into the corpse of scrolling beat em up, only to rip off it's arms and use them as weapons. It's a great game as long as you accept it for what it is and compare it to similar efforts such as Soul Fighter on the Dreamcast or Dynamite Cop 2 on the Dreamcast. It's a much better game than either of these, and behind the controversy is a brave attempt to revitalise the once great scrolling beat up up genre that reached it's zenith in Final Fight. It's more fun than yet another Shaun Palmer's Alien Transworld SSX or Colin Macrae's Sega Rallisport 2. The graphics engine is a masterwork, scottish developers Vis have produced something they can be very proud of. Like Fighting Force before it the fighting engine suffers from a lack of depth. We're still waiting for an enhanced version of Tekken Force, and Vis have decided to not deliver it this time.

    State of Emergency works best as a casual and fun armchair riot, and falls down when it's dull mission based single player modes fail to deliver. Even with these faults State of Emergency is a fun game anyone can get their aggression out on in a way you never could in Dynamite Cop 2. Vis have fired the first shotgun blast in their own new genre of games, the riot simulator, and a sequel with the deeper gameplay and multi player features we need is no doubt in the works, although I wonder if they can ever get it looking better than this. For an experience like no other, try this game, although it may not be everyone's cup of tea, or should that be molotov cocktail?

    A review by Hugh Allen

    Buy this at Play-Asia
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