State of Emergency (PS2) Review

State of Emergency was one of those game I hadn’t heard anything about until it was suddenly on shelves, and the mix of scrolling beat ‘em up-like action, loads of people on screen and the Rockstar logo on the front meant I brought it immediately. While parts of the game might be hitting home a little too much right now (but I’m sure as hell not changing the Scrolling Sundays order right near the end!) it’s still a good laugh, but at only four levels, how long can it hold your attention, both then and now? Let’s find out!

Background:

Now, do I fire into the crowd of people to reach the corrupt officials, or move forward a few steps… Hmmmm…

State of Emergency was released on the PS2 in February 2002 in the US and Europe, and then on the XBOX in March and April 2003 for the US and Europe, respectively. A PC port was released in August 2003.

There was a sequel, though much like Fighting Force a few games back, State of Emergency 2 drops the beat ‘em up side of things and goes for a generic third person shooter model instead. While I played Fighting Force 2, I never bothered with SoE2, especially as it wasn’t even handled by Rockstar and got quite a bashing from the few game sites that bothered to review it…

Gameplay:

Scoring points for shooting up a bunch of shop windows is certainly an odd gameplay mechanic…

State of Emergency always reminded me of Crazy Taxi in its structure. The core part of the game plonks you down in one of four rioting city sections and basically you have to survive time limit by increasing you time via breaking property, destroying cars, tossing a few Molotovs through a couple of shop windows, that sort of thing, each act racks up your total score as well as increasing your time. Unlike Crazy Taxi you also have health to worry about, but you can recover that by traditional health pick-ups mostly dropped by defeated thugs or corporate goons (who also drop pick-ups that, yes, increase your time). In terms of actual gameplay it’s obviously completely different to the SEGA driving classic and instead adheres closely to the classic scrolling beat ‘em up controls: two attack buttons that do combos if you hit them several times in a row, and the ability to grapple, grapple strike and then throw your enemies. No health-draining specials, but two different melee combos instead. Not a bad trade off.

There are plenty of weapons to pick up, from everyday objects like park benches and TVs, to swords, guns, machine guns, grenades, mini-guns and rocket launchers. That’s your lot in terms of the gameplay. There is a second mode which is, I guess, the “story mode”, but really you just play roughly 100 missions on the same four maps, and they range from “destroy this building” and “kill this person who is surrounded by rocket launching henchmen” to the dreaded escort mission. They get old fast, so once I had all the levels unlocked I just stuck to the main Chaos mode as mentioned above. The biggest negative, which is something I don’t remember from back in the day, is the camera. I guess I’m just used to camera set ups where you don’t need to manually move it and then it gets stuck somewhere, or you get hit from off-screen because you didn’t pan the camera at an angle to see an armed thug in an alleyway. I can only assume at the time it was more the norm and I just didn’t really notice…

As for clichés? Well, not many as you’d imagine given the rioting streets setting being the only setting. There are some overweight thug enemies, and some of the black-masked soldiers have katanas, so that’s sort of ninja-y….? No lift level, obviously… Basically it’s doesn’t have many clichés because it’s sort of its own arcade-y thing and never set out to bring back the old scrolling beat ‘em ups or anything… Sadly.

Graphics and Sound:

I’d call “police brutality” but it is an evil police state and everything, I doubt it would do much good…

The graphics are good, the cartoony look takes what might have been a rather grim game and makes it fun, and the PS2 manages to have a lot of characters of screen, even if a lot of them are copy and paste civilians just running around aimlessly. Given the era it came out in, it’s impressive. In 2021? Not so much, but I mean… obviously. It’s not distractingly bad or anything though and the consistent framerate despite the amount of models running about is still impressive to be honest, even if the models are rather basic compared to those of today!

Sound is perfectly fine. The sound design of screaming, riotous people is done well, and that was the main objective! Guns and breaking wood are all sounding good as well. Music is just… there. Not memorable for being good, not memorable for being bad, just… not memorable.

Story:

Well… that’s called slicing someone with a large sword. Not much else to say about this screenshot!

The official synopsis is:

“In 2023, the United States government was weakened by an economic crisis. In response, the American Trade Organization, most commonly known as “The Corporation”, builds a para-militaristic force and overthrows the government, taking over the United States of America and establishing a corporatised totalitarian police state. Years later, in 2035, an underground resistance named “Freedom” began a campaign of resistance and soon sparked a national riot.”

You play as a member of Freedom, and that’s about the entirety of the plot! Ignoring attempted coups, the US government being overthrown and rioting, all of which hits a bit close to home as I’m writing this, it’s a perfectly fine set up for what the game is. Each of the five characters, Roy “Mack” MacNeil, Anna “Libra” Price, Hector “Spanky” Soldado, Ricky “Phreak” Thang and Edward “The Bull” Raymonds, have backstories as to why they joined Freedom, but it’s irrelevant in the end. You just pick an amusing character and play a round…

Thoughts Then:

Yes. True. PERSON. PERSON SHOOTS OTHER PERSON. OTHER PERSON SAD.

At the time I had a real blast with the game. Me, friends and family all had periods where we took turns and had a good laugh at the cartoonish carnage on screen. Obviously play it enough and it’ll wear thin, but it was still a hit in my house!

Thoughts Now:

This is where the game gets less about rioting and more about large amounts of gun-created carnage… hooray!

Funnily enough State of Emergency is still a good laugh now, even if the camera is notably dated in 2021. Due to the cartoony aspect the lower quality graphics don’t even matter, and it’s still impressive how many people are on screen at once for a PS2 game. While I have to knock it down a point due to the previously mentioned occasionally frustrating camera issue, rest assured that the game is actually still a good laugh, and I’d definitely buy some modern remake… not that I imagine they’d want to touch the game at the moment…

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