Rather like books-of-films, games-of-films are often meant to give players a way to relive or complement their experiences on the silver screen in an entertaining way. In the case of The Warriors, however, the film came out in 1979 and now Rockstar's making a game of it. It's due to be reissued on DVD around the time of the game's release, currently set for late October, but realistically the audience for the game is likely to be split between long-term fans of the film and people who just want to kick the crap out of things. Hence Rockstar's decision to remake key film scenes in-game - something that it seems to have done very capably.
With this in mind, we took advantage of a recent press showing of the game in central London to look at it from a couple of perspectives - those of ardent Warriors fan-girl Ellie Gibson and clueless psychopath Tom Bramwell. Here the two of them relate their feelings about it after an hour's hands-off experience.
In much the same way that Manhunt drew on the feel of Grand Theft Auto's third-person sections to fuel its tense and vicious frenzy of unapologetic slaughter, The Warriors clearly draws a lot of influence from Rockstar's past projects. Character movement, gang-mate control, sneaking through the shadows, snapping necks and kicking people repeatedly in the testicles all figure regularly, and although it's an ostensibly linear experience your general progress is complemented by the chance to wander off-piste and rob locals for cash and Flash - the latter being a drug-like substance used to top up health.
Indeed, the idea of looting shops or mugging people to buy drugs which replenish health and visibly wash away the signs of battle aren't so much hallmarks of a Rockstar game these days as the things the company seems to want to define itself by.
The set-up of the film, apparently, is that New York is being fought over by a number of oddly-named gangs of oddly-dressed ruffians who like nothing better than to head out into the streets at night and try and kill each other whilst dodging the attentions of the local constabulary. The game is split half-and-half between sections of imagined prologue, where the gangs tussle and the elaborate combat, stealth and gang-control systems are explained and tested, and then a second section that follows the events of the film. Following a hugely enjoyable in-engine remake of the key opening sequence, one gang - The Warriors - are wrongly accused of bringing mayhem to an otherwise sensible parlay and have to make their way home through miles and miles of perilous enemy territory.
Playing the game demands a mixture of strategy and dextrous violence. On your own, you can grapple, punch, kick and all the rest, and perform all sorts of grisly moves customised for each character's fighting style - this writer's favourite being the one where you grab someone and then hurl them over your thigh before winding up straddling them and making mincemeat out of their face, followed closely by the one where you whack them to the ground and anchor your arms on their chest and perform swinging knee-to-the-head moves that presumably "disincentivise" them from getting up again. All the while people are shouting obscenities at each other.
But you can also sneak through the shadows - your level of visibility indicated on-screen - and chuck bottles and the like to distract enemies so that you can get them to turn their backs to you. Then you can sneak up behind them, grab them by the neck and, complete with Manhunt-esque close-up, pop their heads. And we do mean pop - the sound effect is chillingly similar to that noise you make by clicking your tongue. More complex sections see you darting between other gang-members' patrol routes.
Sometimes you operate as a group, so the idea is to direct people to wait or follow, and back them up in battle. You can even grab enemies in a full nelson and then have your mates punch them in the gut, which is always pleasant. And rather like the oft-ignored PS2 fighter Mark of Kri, you can target multiple enemies as they surround you and give each of them a pasting. Then, when you've done enough of the basic shoe-ing, you may find you've filled up your Rage meter, which allows you to go into a red-tinted frenzy and land swooping roundhouse kicks and other finishing moves. It's all very friendly and we feel certain that the American press will love it to bits. Hillary Clinton is thought to be an unlockable character.
[Following a suggestion from our lawyers, we've deemed it necessary to point out that this is a lie. Hillary will only be available in a hidden sex-game called Lukewarm Satire. - Ed] [Following another suggestion from our lawyers, the entire editorial staff has been fired for lying repeatedly and making up false editor comments to try and get us in trouble. - Real Ed]. [Enough of the bracket humour already - Real Real Ed].
The Warriors certainly shows promise. The mixture of stealth, hand-to-hand combat and team mechanics make for a slightly more exciting game than some of the other 3D "Streets of Rage Revival Committee" attempts we've started to see popping up on release schedules, like Capcom's slightly dodgy-looking Final Fight Streetwise. Even so, watching the game played by one of Rockstar's handy demonstrators didn't fill us with the utmost confidence - it's clear that it's still very rough around the edges, technically, and that it'll be hard-pressed to achieve the lofty standards that govern the upper echelons of our marking scheme if it really is coming out this October.
Rockstar reps made a point of telling us that there had been no rush to get this done. Rockstar's owned the licence for seven years, and the game's been in development for at least three. But whether it'll stir the thumbs of fighting game veterans is still very much up for debate. As for whether it'll capture the attention of fans of the film... Well, that's why we took Ellie along. Ellie?
Thanks, Tom. Well, as you've explained, The Warriors game - like the film - is all about gang rivalry on the streets of New York. Think West Side Story with less finger snapping and more attempted rape, or Gangs of New York with less hilarious moustaches and giant top hats and more hilarious leather waistcoats and giant afros, or Home Alone II: Lost in New York with less Macaulay Culkin and [Okay that'll do - Ed].
As fans will know, the movie begins with a gathering of gangs from all the five boroughs at a secret location in the Bronx. The meeting has been organised by an enigmatic gang leader named Cyrus who cleverly points out that since there are 60,000 gang members in the city and only 20,000 police, they could all have the run of the place if only they stopped battering each other over the head for five minutes and turned on the po-po instead. And all this whilst managing to look impossibly cool despite the fact he's wearing a kaftan.
But just as the crowds start to cheer a shot rings out, and Cyrus and his now bloodstained kaftan fall to the ground. His true assassin publicly blames the Warriors for the murder and they instantly become the most wanted men in gangland NYC - and then, to make matters worse, the po-po turn up and the whole place descends into chaos.
It's a great scene and arguably the best in the entire film, so we weren't surprised to learn that Rockstar has recreated it almost shot-for-shot in the game - but we were surprised, and pleasantly, to see how well they've done it.
The attention to detail is simply superb - the crowd is brilliantly represented, the characters really do look like their big screen counterparts and the lighting and filter effects are spot on. But it's when the coppers turn up and it all goes off that your jaw really drops - it's fantastic to see all those nicely detailed characters running about the place and pushing past each other as the Warriors realise just how much trouble they're in. We find it hard to believe that any fan of the film would be disappointed by what Rockstar has done here.
Of course, it doesn't matter how good your cut-scenes are if the actual game isn't up to scratch. While it's too early to make a final judgement call on gameplay, we can confirm that Rockstar is doing a great job of capturing the spirit of the movie - and not just with the FMVs.
As Tom pointed out Rockstar has owned the Warriors licence for years now, and they told us it was something of a "pet project" for company bigwigs who are huge fans of the film. What's also apparent is that those doing the grunt work genuinely care about recreating the world of the Warriors accurately and in great detail, and making sure there's plenty of stuff that will make fellow fans happy.
So there's the giant pink neon Wonder Wheel from the film's opening shot, and there go the subway trains rattling the fences as they thunder past, and there are our old friends Swan, Ajax, Cowboy, Rembrandt and all the rest - looking just like they do in the film. There's a real atmosphere of menace and impending danger hanging over the whole thing - again, just like in the movie.
But one of the key factors that will determine how authentic it all feels is the audio, and worryingly this is yet to be locked down. The build we saw used music and voice tracks from the film, which works brilliantly. But Rockstar is still attempting to secure the legal rights to the soundtrack, and though they're also trying to get the original actors to do the voices, they may be hampered by contractual wrangling, the fact that many of them sound a lot different these days and the fact that some of them are dead. Tricky.
With regards to the actual gameplay we were pleased to see that the Warriors fight just like they do in the film - i.e. in a rather stylised manner, using a variety of combat styles and tag team attacks. We were also excited to learn that you not only get to 'be' a Warrior - and indeed all of them at different points throughout the game - but that you can also take on the role of War Chief, instructing your fellow gangsters to loot shops, smash up police cars, watch your back and so on as you see fit.
As Tom noted The Warriors is a game of two halves, and the film's big opening scene actually takes place mid-way through. Which means that Rockstar has a whole half a game with which to expand the Warriors universe, throwing in entirely new locations, characters and events.
On the one hand, we find this an intriguing and exciting possibility. But on the other, we are wary of the dangers of creating new content for an original product (cf. the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, in which we learn that Chewbacca's father and son are called Itchy and Lumpy, Luke Skywalker has a video phone and storm troopers listen to Jefferson Starship. A dark time for the Republic indeed).
But from what we've seen so far, Rockstar truly appreciates the elements which make The Warriors such a great film, and is truly committed to creating the game tie-in such a film deserves. To paraphrase good old Cyrus: can we dig it?
Yes, we can.
The Warriors is due out on PS2 and Xbox this October.