State of Emergency Review
To be disappointed with a product is something I always expect from a game that receives an overhauled amount of press. Games such as Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Gran Turismo 3 and Devil May Cry are all the perfect examples, as they are recognized as the six best games of the year. Originally set to join them in mid-December was Rockstar's/Vis' State of Emergency, the game that had arguably the most buzz at E3 2001, and picked up the most awards. Seemingly, the game appeared to be the perfect mix of action/adventure, which put the gamer into the shoes of characters surrounded by mayhem. State of Emergency drew crowds and lines, execs from other companies wanted to see what the entire hubbub was about. Back at E3, SOE was shown as a demo, and the amount of simultaneous occurrences do not compare to what the final version displays. Nevertheless, my question is: "what is all the hub-bub?"
I'll start this off slow, as I always do. State of Emergency is not exactly a polygon crunching game with 10,000 polygons per character, tri-linear z-buffered, double-layered and mip-mapped environments with multi-rendering bump-mapping, and supercalifragilistic visuals (try saying that 3 times in a row). All joking aside, State of Emergency can be used as a showcase to demonstrate the fantastic cache and streaming RAM prowess that the PS2 features, all with absolutely no hint of slowdown. It should be mentioned that SOE is boasting character counts of up to 250 simultaneous bodies per location. None of them pop-up, so the game-engine is not rendering them as you encounter them, rather they are all ready, in place, as soon as you are. Incredible technological achievements aside, SOE looks average for the most part. The characters are composed of a moderate amount of polygons, guestimates would point to roughly 300, far below PS2 standards, but considering the simultaneous actions it's acceptable. The characters aren't jaggy and neither are the backgrounds. The environmental texture work is done in low-res, but the results don't look washed out or anything close. Rather, the game looks pretty clean for the most part. The details are obviously simplistic, and not overwhelming, with that in mind once again, it must be noted the amount of simultaneous actions this game produces is phenomenal. The explosions, bloody scenery, and the riots are a spectacle to watch. Simple looking, but isn't average, not by any means.
While surely, many critics do agree that SOE is a technological achievement that can pretty much simulate any Canadian riot after a hockey championship gone awry. As enticing as that may sound, the final outcome falls short, and it should've come to be expected. Redundancy is one thing I've speculated about this game. At first, when I picked the game up and dove in, I liked what I saw. Throwing in missions and objectives was a nice touch. But after spending an hour in the same scenario (the mall) and completing various different missions, I realized that the next mission wasn't much different than the previous, or the one before. For the most part, I was escorting, killing, stealing, looting and repeating. It had quickly lost my attention. I was pretty tired of wrecking havoc in the same area, so I tried to speed things up by using a couple of cheat codes. What can I say? I had pretty much lost all will to actually play the game. Upon making it to other environments, I was greeted with the same gameplay. Needless to say, I was disappointed. There, inside my PS2, was a spinning DVD of what was one of the most anticipated games of 2001 and early 2002, and yet I had a frown of frustration on my face. I had no will to continue. Surely, many will disagree. They'll say SOE is a great game, but then there are people, such as I, who will only recommend a rental.
SOE is arguably the most violent game on the market. Unless you know of another game where you can use the limb of a dismantled body as a weapon, I'll gladly retract my statement. Having said that, SOE is a freak fest like no other. You can stuff hundreds of bullets into a person's body; throw a grenade at dozens of people and watch the fur fly, or in this case, limbs and blood. But you don't just wreck everything in sight for no reason. As shocking as it sounds, SOE has a story, nothing epic, but a background to fall back on, nevertheless.
The city has been taken over by a group called the Corporation. Its purpose is to make each of the four sections of the city subdued to that section and to not let people cross from city to city. The reason for this is to prevent the different areas from coinciding, as they just can't seem to get along. The citizens are pissed off. They want their freedom back. The Corporation denies it, and so the only way is to rebel, kill, destroy, explode...riot! A rebellious underground gang is set up to diminish the Corp. Your weapon? 250 people sharing the same pain as you do, not to mention grenades, machine guns, bats, handgun, uzis, Molotov cocktails, and interactive environmental objects like TVs, chairs, tables, pots, benches and etc. That outta' do it, eh? Some rioters will either defend themselves, by A) whipping out a piece of their own, B) running, C) grabbing the nearest thing and throwing it at you, or D) run away and hide. So watch who you pick fights with.
The game's replay value lives up in some cases, but doesn't in others. On one hand, the game is fairly lengthy, and if you're into it you'll have a good and worthy title to play for quite some time. The game has many different modes of play, which is a plus for those who just want to wreack havoc and play the game lightly. I only play the game's Kaos mode. No story, just pure mayhem. The secret modes are quite fun as well. But the revolution mode is better left ignored, it just plays like a broken record. In some cases SOE is a blast, in others it'll feel tiring. Make note that this game does not, under any means, suck. A game like SOE is based on personal preference. Some may absolutely adore it, while others will side with me on the game's redundancy. Thankfully the extras (such as Kaos mode and the secrets) really help and pull this game together. This is really a coin-toss, folks. Rent it first.
As far as SOE's sound goes, there isn't too much that can be said. You have some voice acting during the menus, which isn't really bad at all. In game, you've got nothing but explosions and screams, the screams of wretched horror, panic, violence and bloody murder. In the background (behind all of the screams) you've got tunes accompanying you on your voyage of hell and mayhem as you explode buildings and fight to end seclusion in Capital City. The explosions and gun shot effects sound great as well, and for those who have the proper stereo equipment, I recommend hooking your PS2 up and taking advantage of the game's sound capabilities.
SOE's controls are straightforward. The analog sticks are used for movement, O is to pick up weapons; X is to shoot, and etc. Nothing complex, just pick up and play. In the end, State of Emergency, while disappointing in the Revolution mode due to its repetitive nature, SOE has its redeeming features such as the Kaos and additional secret modes. Those looking for good mission variation will be let down, instead I suggest renting the game first and see if Kaos mode fits your bill. Technologically, State of Emergency is a processing whore; it can simulate so many things at once it's mind-boggling. Make sure you give SOE a rental and see if it's worthy of a purchase.
3/14/2002 Arnold Katayev