State of Emergency made a
big showing at E3 last year, and Ive been waiting to get my hands on the final
version ever since. It isnt so much the graphics that make SOE a blast to
playtheyre good but not great; and it isnt the novel gameplay that make
it so fun to playSOE is, at its heart, just an arcade brawler; the real appeal is
actually much simpler than that; kicking ass on the Man is fun, and Ill pay a lot of
money for that satisfaction any time. An evil Corporation has seized control of the
country and has begun to oppress the people. Unlike real life, this wasnt done with
billions of dollars of "campaign contributions" to buy influence in government;
instead, the Corporation has amassed enough wealth and power to simply dismiss the
government altogether; martial law has been imposed and freedom eliminated. The people
have taken to the streets determined to tear down the Corporation, blow shit up, and lay a
beat down on the evil goon squads. This time the revolution will be televised.
does a fantastic job of putting you, the gamer, into the action. Surrounding your
character are as many as two hundred characters participating in the mad riot, and this
does a lot for atmosphere; the mass of humanity weaves through the madness like a frenzied
school of fish. The looters are particularly enjoyable as people are constantly running by
you with TVs and, well, just about everything else you can think of. The action is
crazy, decadent and fun. In a pre Grand Theft Auto III world SOE would have been without
precedent, but the legendary GTA III has blunted the edge of SOEthough the first
time you turn your mini-gun on thirty or forty goons and, in the space of a couple of
seconds, blow their heads off (literally, every single head--every last one of them), and
because of poor aim, accidentally decapitate an additional ten or twenty rioters, you may
wonder how blunt that edge really is. Though the cartoon like graphics moderate the
effect, blood and gore are still present. A poorly placed hand grenade (or a well-placed
one if you want to feel evil for a while) in the midst of a mob will splatter chunks of
the unlucky people onto the lucky ones, running and screaming to get away.
The environments are suitably interactive; everything that isnt bolted
down is a potential weapon: trashcans, TVs, and barrels, for example, make good weapons.
Conventional weapons are also abundant--a variety of machine guns, flamethrower, clubs,
and several explosive devices, to name a few. In a pinch you can even pick up a remnant
limb or rib cage and use it as a club.
If developers have learned anything from the smashing success of GTA III it
should be that decent games take you on a roller coaster ride, but great games build you
an amusement park and set you free to have funwithout sacrificing a narrative. SOE
is marginally successful at creating an interactive playground, though to a much lesser
extent than GTA III. Gameplay is divided into two modes: Kaos and Revolution. Revolution
is the primary game mode. Action is propelled forward by completing various missions in
the struggle to liberate a section of the city from corporate domination. Revolution
leaders order you to perform a variety of tasks including demolish buildings, assassinate
evil-doers, save allies and protect buildings. Additional characters are unlocked in
Revolution modethere are two initially selectable and three others can be unlocked.
Revolution mode serves as a well-placed reminder that the difference between terrorist and
freedom fighter is one of perspective, though many may dislike the suggestion.
In Kaos, players earn points for joining the riot and causing
wanton destruction on, well, everything. Extra time is earned for waxing corporate goons,
and periodically extra points can be earned for destroying specific targets such as cars,
buildings, and so on. Clearing a stage in Kaos mode unlocks additional areas of the city.
The action in Kaos mode is very free form; the point is to destroy stuff in a good
old-fashioned riot, but how you do so is entirely up to you.
there are only four stages, theyre all pretty long and theres a lot of replay
value, particularly in Kaos mode. Tragically, all modes are single player only. The
absence of cooperative play (no splitscreen!) in a game like this is, if you will indulge
me for a moment, a load of crap. The entire game screams for multiplayer co-op action:
join the riot together and throw down tag team style with the evil-doers. Multiplayer
isought to beconsidered standard for a brawler and its exclusion is difficult
for me to ignore. My enjoyment, as well as the replay value, could have increased
exponentially with a decent co-op mode.
are other problems with SOE as well. For starters, the camera is troublesome. It
doesnt adjust fast enough and requires constant help positioning behind your
character. It is especially troublesome to deal with corners as youll frequently run
around a corner and be blindsided before you can reposition the camerathough this
annoyance doesnt keep the game from being fun. The missions can become repetitive,
although as you get into a brawler mentality, you might not notice or even care.
Revolution mode has an autosave after each mission, and a manual save--though theres
a bizzare kicker here. Saving during a mission doesnt save current progress; it only
saves your position at the start of the mission (where you must start over anyway), so the
manual save is basically useless. I dont mean just useless as in not very helpful. I
mean it is totally 100% completely and utterly redundant. As near as I can tell, it is not
possible to use it, even theoretically, to accomplish anything whatsoever. It would have
been nice to save during a mission, and the uselessness of the save option isnt
necessarily a drawback as much as it is a bizarre omission.
These issues aside, SOE is a fun game to play. This should be self
evident, but SOE is not for children--or for those with distaste for violent games.
Rockstar is cementing their two-fold gamers niche--making adult oriented games about
criminals gone good (to one degree or another), and making games that rock, which will
make them all stars.