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State of Emergency

Developer: VIS Entertainment | Publisher: Rockstar Games
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 07/23/03 | Genre: Action

While State of Emergency certainly garnered enough press after it was initially announced early in May of 2001, a good deal of its recent hype can be blamed on Grand Theft Auto 3. After all, once the critically and publicly lauded GTA3 was released, everyone was waiting with bated breath for the next original release from publisher Rockstar Games. Ports of Max Payne simply weren't enough to satisfy, and gamers looked straight to VIS Entertainment's "riot simulator" as the product of choice to carry Rockstar's flag into the new year, and give the PS2 an old-school arcade brawler in the vein of Final Fight with a healthy dose of comic violence added in for good measure.

For better or for worse, that is almost exactly what State of Emergency is: an arcade beat 'em up with a lot of over the top blood and gore. The game doesn't try to be anything more than this, and on that level, it succeeds admirably. But it's rare that someone sinks $50 worth of quarters into an arcade machine, so console games typically need to have noticeably more in the content department than their arcade brethren, and this is where State of Emergency starts to fall on its face.

The paper-thin story puts the setting in 2035, where an evil corporation known creatively as "The Corporation," has taken control of the government. You play as one of five selectable characters and join the Underground Resistance Movement as a freedom fighter. Your mission is to destabilize and eventually destroy The Corporation.

The story is pretty bad, but thankfully the manual is really the only place it can be seen. While the game's Revolution mode has you doing missions for the prosperity of the underground movement that you've joined, no cut scenes are provided to further the plot, and there's little continuity between the game's four areas. In fact, the story is so non-existent in State of Emergency, it's almost a wonder why they bothered providing backgrounds on the playable characters and didn't just replace the text with stats for things like speed, attack power, and damage absorption.

General gameplay is as basic as the plot. The X button is used to punch, the Square button is used to kick. Pressing both buttons together will make you grab an opponent, at which point either button does a grapple attack of some sort. The simplicity of the control scheme keeps things flowing quickly and smoothly, as dispatching the opposition is a breeze. State of Emergency differs from classic brawlers like Final Fight and Double Dragon in that it surrounds you with a large number of enemies at once. This takes out the need for any advanced AI, and instead places the challenge in emerging victorious from odds stacked against you. This is most apparent when taking on various missions, as the number of forces that come after you can be staggering.

One of the heights of State of Emergency is found in the graphics and animation, and more specifically, the lack of slow down. It's rare to see the frames per second drop in any way, and when it does happen, you can bet that hundreds of bodies are caught in an explosion. The number of people that run freely on screen is impressive, and the small hit that character models take to maintain speed is well worth it. That's not to say the character models look bad, they're just not up to par with what else is available on the PlayStation2. The graphics have a stylized look to them that's somewhat realistic while at the same time comical, with the gore being pretty excessive and over the top. Overall, it works well for the game, as a realistic look would've made State of Emergency disturbing to play.

The actual missions that take place in the Revolution mode are numerous and repetitive. While there might be slight catches tossed in, each mission boils down to hordes of enemies attacking your character, with the only course of action being to take them all on. While this doesn't seem like such a bad thing at first, the lack of variety becomes tiring before the first level is complete. Beating the game from this mode ends up feeling like a chore more than anything. It's unfortunate that out of the five playable characters, three have to be unlocked by completing levels in the Revolution mode, which serves as the only motivation for continuing.

To relieve the boredom of the Revolution, there's the Chaos mode. Chaos is divided into a few different modes that each has their own twist on the gameplay somehow. One called "Kaos" proves to be the most fun, and can either be played with a time limit that can be extended as you hit certain score marks (or collect time power ups dropped by Corporation forces), or in set three or five minute time limits. You choose which level to play in, and then run around killing things and racking up points. A random voice will occasionally be heard, notifying you of random score bonuses, such as getting five times as much as you normally would for smashing windows. This mode does an excellent job of making you feel a part of a riot, as throngs of civilians run past and the Corporation forces get more and more deadly as time ticks down. The other primary section of the Chaos mode is called Last Clone Standing. This throws your character into any one of the areas, with the level being populated by 200 genetically engineered clones that run around and don't fight back. The object, of course, is to kill all 200. There's also a timed version of Last Clone Standing, which has the same objective but gives you only three minutes to complete it. Lastly, Chaos has a self-explanatory Unlimited Time mode, which just gives you the freedom to run through the riots without the restriction of a clock.

Chaos mode provides the most entertainment, and it's easy to get into the game for hours, competing with friends for the highest score. Unfortunately, that's really the only fun to be had from State of Emergency. Once the initial novelty of the game wears off, there's little in the way of content to keep you coming back for more. State of Emergency makes for a great rental in this regard, as it is certainly entertaining for a short period of time. But it's definitely not a game that's worth the full price of admission, and it's a disappointment to gamers that were hoping for the next Grand Theft Auto.

By Derek Williams - 02/20/02
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Violence
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Screenshots for State of Emergency

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