I'm sure there are at least one or two people out there that remember Pogs. Pogs were briefly a youth epidemic in the nineties, much like striped shirts or herpes. They were collectible milk caps that had corporate logos, pictures of cartoon characters, or whatever the creators felt they could glean money from. I'm fairly certain there was some sort of game you were meant to play with them, like throwing fistfuls of playground sand into your opponents eyes and stealing his collection while screaming "POGS!" at the top of your lungs. Despite the ingenuity of the Pog, this fad lasted approximately two weeks and was promptly replaced with collectible Ross Perot action figures.
Although I missed out on the Pog craze while beating Chrono Trigger for the 14th time with Luminaire now doing like 7000 damage, I think I know how former Pog owners feel about their investment. I went out and bought a brand new copy of State of Emergency, was pleased with my purchase for all of a day, then waited in disgust for a good day to return it for store credit.
Below the surface, State of Emergency delivered very little of what I expected from the previews that I read. I was expecting a lot more AI variety from the horde of rioters. This game had so much potential for things that rioters could be doing. I imagine a VIS design meeting went something like this:
Designer 1: Ok, ok. We've determined that one thing a citizen rioter should do is run around aimlessly with arms flailing, with some of those citizens carrying stolen goods. Any other ideas?
(Uncomfortable twenty-minute silence passes)
Designer 2: Hey, the pizza's here. Let's call it a night.
During the entire duration of the time I played State of Emergency, a citizen never bothered to fight back. People in the midst of a riot refuse to strike back. I can't imagine how this game was released in good conscience. Attacked civilians respond in the following creative, uncountable variety of ways:
- Cringe in fear, then proceed running around aimlessly and purposelessly
- Take a fighting stance, don't throw a punch, then proceed running around aimlessly and purposelessly
- Scream, and hopefully awaken the now bored and drowsy player, then proceed running around aimlessly and purposelessly
And finally, unlike Grand Theft Auto 3, civilians no longer participate in any sort of comical dialogue or interaction with one another.
Now that I've vented about the civilian AI, I'd like to briefly address the game's "Revolution Mode", which it refers to as its "Story Mode". I hope there weren't too many people that suffered a cerebral hemorrhage trying to understand the story. The setting of the story is vividly and intricately described in about 3 sentences on the second page of the instruction manual. Sadly, you don't learn too much more from playing the game.
After starting revolution mode, you walk into a mall and are greeted by one of the revolutionaries, who oddly enough is dressed like one of the villains from the NES game "Gunsmoke". He briefly invites you to join the revolution during some short dialogue that didn't merit my memory; I think the conversation revolved around croquet or something.
Anyway, lackluster story aside, I was at least hoping for some interesting and fun missions, a la Grand Theft Auto 3. I was disappointed to find out that there are in fact only three missions in State of Emergency:
- Kill Corporation member
- Kill Corporation member and retrieve item
- Escort revolution member to point on map while frequently ambushed (note: adding to the challenge is the fact that your escorted friend plunges into peril, apparently hell-bent on being bludgeoned to death)
These three missions are then looped in succession to make up the four thousand missions you need to complete to unlock a new playable character and advance to the next area. Congratulations VIS Entertainment, you've redefined the word fun!
I fully understand now why none of the rioters bothered to steal a copy of State of Emergency.