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In 2005, developer Rockstar Toronto expertly transformed the stale 2D beat-‘em-up into a full-blown 3D brawler with The Warriors. The long-forgotten cult flick was immediately revitalized by the superb game, setting off waves of special edition DVD releases, and a rock-solid PSP port a few years later. Fast forward to now, where the game is an easily obtainable, must-buy bargain bin treasure, and we’re baffled by the very existence of The Warriors: Street Brawl. No, this isn’t a follow-up to the stellar, semi-open-ended original. Street Brawl is a generic beat ‘em-up suffering from a list of repugnant problems so long it makes this downloadable sewage one of the worst XBLA entries to date.
If you’re satisfied by simply walking to the right while punching and kicking things, then Street Brawl could be fundamentally entertaining. Who doesn’t love pummeling rollerblading mimes with baseball bats? It’s a chore to play, though. As you trot along, attempting to outrun an angry army of cloned thugs who wrongfully suspect you murdered their leader, you’ll be forced into confrontations with large groups of baddies. These bouts parallel our real life expectations of a back alley brawl: the mob stabbed and booted us until we died. The helpless beating wouldn’t be so bad if the difficulty wasn’t a direct result of Street Brawl’s flaws. The tricky enemies exploit the animation system, so the pests land punches and weapon blows as soon as you’re back on your feet or out of your guard. The unnecessary repetition of restarting levels after annoying deaths grates early on, and persists throughout the agonizing three-hour campaign.
It’s an agitating game to play alone, but we were surprised by how much worse Street Brawl is with help. Hitting the so-dark-it’s-hard-to-see streets with three allies is certainly easier than escaping to Coney Island alone, but co-op has its own consequences. A.I. buddies act as great damage sponges, but they regularly attack street lamps or refuse to progress to the next screen – we once had to physically push against an ally to advance because he just stood there. These brainless morons also regularly hijack the precious few health items when they don’t need them, or walk into each other instead of fighting the big, bad bosses.
You could replace these idiots with your real life pals online, but forcing anyone to suffer the stuttering frame rate that comes with added allies makes you a terrible friend. Adding extra characters to the mix also makes it nearly impossible to interpret what’s going on. Cramped settings like train cars, graveyards and pubs become annoyingly cluttered with identical enemies, friendly Warriors and other objects like garbage cans or park benches. The nighttime New York exteriors aren’t much better – foreground obstructions like metal posts or parked vehicles block your view, which caused us to lose track of our guy while he swallowed a spiked club.
We’re stumped as to why most of these design ideas were green lit. On top of not being able to see and the nauseating repetition of enemies, levels and button-mashing bouts, the in-game audio is limited to the sound of fist meeting face. Music is almost nonexistent, and there aren’t any voices to narrate the comic book cutscenes. It’s a dull game to play, look at and listen to.
When the other (totally sweet) Warriors game is readily available in stores and online at the time of Street Brawl’s release, we don’t really know why this downloadable entry exists. It tries to blend the ideas of its predecessor with arcade sensibilities, and the outcome is a painful punch to the face you have to pay for.
Oct 12, 2009
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