7. State of Emergency
2002 | PS2, Xbox, PC
Copies sold in US: Close to 800,000
Average score: 68%
State of Emergency was actually kind of a cool game, albeit a balls-out stupid and repetitive one. Imagine Dynasty Warriors in a modern environment, with rioting crowds instead of Chinese armies and gore instead of strategy, and you'll have a rough idea of what it's like. It was notable mainly for letting you wade into fast-moving crowds to stomp the shit out of random people, and also for its striking similarity to Grand Theft Auto III (that is, assuming you stripped out everything that made GTA III interesting and just left in an endless series of beatings).
The company line: "Like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto III, State of Emergency offers the player virtually unlimited scope for mayhem, and huge, sprawling urban environments to explore through missions or nonlinear action. … The environments are intricately interactive; almost any object (including body parts) can be picked up and used as a weapon."
What the critics said: Even though plenty of critics had harsh words for the game when it came out, most gave it relatively high scores anyway, largely because of how awesome the game is until you realize you're just doing the same thing over and over. Gamepro's Major Mike, for example, called State a "very fun game whose premise wears thin a bit too fast," while our sister mag PSM wrote that State "will leave most players saying, 'That's it?' all too quickly."
Not everyone tried to soft-pedal the game's weaknesses. Entertainment Weekly slammed State for its limited scope, calling it "too bloody repetitive." But it was Electronic Gaming Monthly that summed up the game - and the delayed reaction to it in the weeks and months following its release - the best, saying that "after the blood-soaked honeymoon is over, you'll see the game in the harsh morning light and wonder if it was worth it."
Why you bought it anyway: A lot of people apparently bought State of Emergency thinking it would be like Grand Theft Auto III. It wasn't an unreasonable assumption, given Rockstar Games' logo on the box and the similar look, feel and rebel attitude shared by the two games. Even if you knew better than that, though, the idea of going all insane-vigilante with fists, feet and high-end weaponry in the middle of a madhouse riot was damn near irresistible.
What went wrong? Being the first game of its kind, State of Emergency was able to coast by on novelty. But once that novelty wore off, we were left with a grindingly repetitive beat 'em-up that never changed much aside from its mission goals and its scenery. That shallow design collided violently with expectations that had been raised sky-high by Grand Theft Auto III, and the fact that State of Emergency played a lot like GTAIII with most of the cool stuff stripped out only made State look worse. By the time the Xbox version rolled out with a new multiplayer mode (and little else), even the first game's biggest fans had lost interest.
Most infuriatingly positive quote: "Think about it," says GameZone.com's Kevin Krause, "it's a game that encourages you to break stuff - what could be more fun?" We're not sure, Kevin. A good game that encourages you to break stuff, maybe?