State of Emergency
When I first heard about State of Emergency I was not even mildly excited. Then something happened to me – Grand Theft Auto 3. I bought it casually with my PS2 after reading a quick preview the day it came out and couldn’t stop thinking about it for the following two months. It was a milestone in my gaming life and the first Rockstar game I had ever given my attention to. So I decided to give that other game a shot. Associating SoE with GTA3 made me expect the world from it but I quickly learned that two kids from the same house can be very different people indeed.
seems everybody at Rockstar agrees on the violence and crime thing
(Smugglers Run, GTA3 etc.) and the explorable 3-D environments but its
clear that the team who made SoE was not looking over the shoulders of
the GTA3 team too much. And
if they were, they should have taken a pointer or two.
SoE was made to cater to a much shorter attention span than most console games – more the arcade crowd than anything else. This is never more evident than in the cheaply devised story tacked onto the game. A corporation has taken control of the country and you, a new member of a freedom-fighting group, are fighting back with your comrades in four sections of Capitol City. While it’s intriguing and innovative conceptually it’s delivered the in the shoddiest way possible through pop up text windows almost completely forsaking cut-scenes, dialog or any sort of character development whatsoever.
SoE illustrates very well how much polygons are like a rubber bands – the further you stretch them, the more diluted they become. Yes, it’s impressive that there are up to 200 characters on screen at once. Yes, it’s amazing that each one of those characters moves around independently of the other. But the overwhelming amount of on-screen activity reduces greatly the overall resolution of the game to a saucy mess at times and the many independent characters running around all seem to have the collective I.Q of a Pringle. The
pedestrians on the street never stop
running unless they’re
cowering under a nightstick or they’re gunned down in the street
creating a verifiably chaotic scene but only by way of an unrealistic
character design is pretty cartoon-ish with loose definition and more of
an emphasis on animation than detail.
There are five pretty unexciting characters accept for the obese
gang-banger draped in gold chains and throwing up gang signs.
The backdrop on which all the chaos happens is solid but useless
and non-interactive besides the various weapons scattered around and the
ability to blow down any building by throwing a bomb through its window.
Ultimately, a riotous scene is well crafted with fleeing
pedestrians carrying VCR’s and TV’s but the scenery wants for more.
the setting is set sufficiently, the most important aspect of any game
is the actual play itself. Unfortunately,
this is where SoE loses its balance and falls in the wrong direction.
It’s fun to create havoc with the many weapons (including a
handgun, AK-47, pepper spray, grenades, a shotgun and a rocket
launcher), to smash buildings, bring stick to skull, explode cars and
shatter windows but unlike freestyle play in GTA 3, this gets old quick
and you end up looking to the actual story for entertainment.
After the first 15 story missions you begin to realize that each
mission is simply a variation of the exact same formula as before –
find the crate and bring it back, protect the freedom fighter,
assassinate the corporate suit, blow up the building etc.
It gets no more or less complicated than this. They’re
certainly entertaining to a point but way too superficial to make an
entertaining console game.
missions would be more weighty if they involved more skill, strategy,
timing and variation than they do but you find yourself basically
chopping or shooting through literal hordes of guards and gang members
and splattering body parts about on your way to and from your
destination to accomplish the same thing you accomplished a couple of
missions ago. Moreover, as you move along through the hundreds of
missions, they become so thumb-snapping difficult you end up wondering
why you’re even wasting your time.
Hundreds of guards descend on you and you’re not given the
weapons you need to defeat them. Some of the objectives you’re made to
complete are so unrealistically hard to pull off you wonder if they even
played the game to see they were even possible. Missions end quickly
when your character is shrouded in a throng of enemies and suddenly two
or three shotgun blasts ring out.
Chaos mode is basically structured free-play. You run around a set area smashing things for points and completing small goals. Theoretically this aspect of the game adds months of replay value but the de ja vu of it all just kills it.
of the game is played on foot so running is important.
Each character has a speed boost that lasts for a short while but
fades away quickly. During
melee combat you can punch and kick opponents like in most street
brawlers and each fighter has a “clear” button that knocks down all
in the vicinity. The camera
angle is painful until you understand how to control it with the right
analog stick but the game suffers from the lack of a behind the back
view which is sorely needed when you’re being chased.
It’s nice and easy to acquire and use weapons and objects –
Rockstar apparently wanted to make SoE easy for anyone to pick up and
go. This was done well as was the sound. The game has a nice techno
soundtrack that fits the scenery and content pretty well overlaying the
screams and united reactions of the crowds. When shots blast out
pedestrians scatter and shriek, windows crash and the passion of a riot
is conveyed well through sound.
I really tried to like this game. The best thing about GTA 3 was that each one of its flaws was excused so neatly by its brilliance – for SoE it’s the other way around. This was clearly a great idea but it was executed poorly. The good features were buried underneath shallow game play, an underdeveloped story and pathetic character development. But still, SoE rode the wave of GTA3 success into millions of people’s homes without warrant. Hopefully in the end Rockstar will take a look at the game and revise it the way they did the GTA series. Otherwise, the next revolution will not be televised. At least not at my house.
- Doug Flowe
(May 21, 2002)
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