State of Emergency (PS2)
Reviewed by: Zach Rounds
As the world of gaming evolves, we the gaming public are treated to a growing number of gimmick games. These games are based on the concept of adding one or more twists to a pre-existing genre to create a new type of game. This method of design creates the opportunity to allow a game to transcend its genre and become something new and exciting. Thief: The Dark Project is a wonderful example of this. By taking the pre-existing genre of the First Person Shooter and implementing the gimmick of forced stealth, Looking Glass was able to create a highpoint in gaming. What is important to realize, though, is that the gimmick made Thief what it was. Take out the stealth and all that remains is a standard FPS with a serious need for gamma adjusting.
This method of game design also allows for thinly disguised clones. All too often a game will be hyped as "new" and "different" with only a modicum of actual innovation. Kingpin: Life of Crime exemplifies this problem. Merging a FPS with swearing in an attempt to appear hip and edgy to teenagers ultimately had little bearing on the actual game itself (unless you find someone saying "Fuck" every two minutes to be a highly immersing experience). The gimmick in Kingpin was flawed because removal of the gimmick had no actual effect on the game itself.
State of Emergency falls into the same trap that Kingpin did. Hyped as the closest thing to a riot simulator you can get, VIS Entertainment (makers of Powerpuff Girls and Tom & Jerry for the PSX) took the basic concepts found in classic beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage and Final Fight, shoved them into a 3D engine, and as a gimmick, put two hundred crazed civilians on the screen, all at once. This results in one hell of a technical demo, but little in the way of a game.
The idea behind the game is simple. The player is given control of one of five different characters (three of which need to be unlocked). The player is then allowed to run rampant in four different locations, each filled to the brim with pedestrians, security forces, and various gangs. In Kaos mode (the most entertaining part of the game) the player is given a set amount of time to cause as much destruction and mayhem as possible. Extra time and points are awarded for blowing up cars and killing security forces and gang members, while points are deducted for killing civilians. During the rampage players can find a variety of weapons ranging from simple baseball bats to rocket launchers and flame throwers. These weapons allow for speedier destruction, granting the player more time and points to play with. This mode of gameplay ultimately plays out like a hyper-violent version of Crazy Taxi, with the player replacing fares for kills. The other mode of play is Revolution. Revolution lets the player complete missions in the four levels, slowly but surely advancing the anarchist plot. Unfortunately, the missions get dull very quickly, and with nearly two hundred missions, extreme tedium sinks in before the end of the second level.
The problem with the game is that there really isn't much of a game to begin with. By removing any sort of benefit for killing the many civilians, VIS has turned what could have been a slightly interesting gimmick into a totally worthless one. This problem stems from the fact that the civilians do nothing more than run around and get in the way of bullets. All points and time are gained from killing the much less common security forces and gang members. The civilians could be completely removed from the game and there would be almost zero difference. This problem could be ignored if the underlying game was any good. Unfortunately, the underlying game consists of mashing the X button in order to take down sterile and uninteresting opponents. The weapons are neat, but the controls are not handled in a way to facilitate accurate targeting. On top of that, the levels are not very interactive. Cars can be blown up and windows can be smashed, but, with a few exceptions, buildings can not be destroyed, nor can any significant change be made to the surrounding environment. The only thing worth doing is taking out enemies, and it just isn't that fun after a few hours. Kaos mode was fun for a while, but after an hour or two of playing the shock value had worn off and I had managed to unlock all the levels and play modes, leaving little incentive to continue playing.
Ultimately, State of Emergency is a good tech demo. It shows that the PS2 is capable of handling a lot of stuff on the screen without any slowdown. But I do not buy tech demos. I buy games, and if you are going to add a gimmick to a pre-existing genre, at least be sure that the new game is as good as the original, quality gimmick or not.
Unnamed Gaming Review recommends spending no more than: $18