State of Emergency Preview

We take an exclusive look at the Xbox version of Rockstar's action game.

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When Rockstar's State of Emergency was released last year, the game was the subject of intense scrutiny for gamers fresh from Grand Theft Auto III and eager for a new game that walked on the wild side. Developed by Vis Entertainment, this action game that put you in the middle of a riot seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. But, while it turned out to be a solid action game that featured some impressive graphical and gameplay elements, it didn't seem to connect with gamers' expectations. When State of Emergency was announced for the Xbox not long after the game's release on the PlayStation 2, it was assumed the game would end up being a straight port of the PS2 game. Fortunately for Xbox owners, this isn't the case. We had the chance to take an exclusive look at the upcoming game, and while some of the content from the PlayStation 2 game has been used, State of Emergency has been buffed out a bit for the Xbox.

The massive riots are still just as fast and frantic in the Xbox version.

For those unfamiliar with the game's story, State of Emergency is set in an Orwellian vision of the future in which a monolithic entity known as the Corporation is in control of the sprawling metropolis known as Capital City. Trouble starts to brew when the Corporation begins dabbling in mind control and imposing martial law. The citizens start to organize into resistance groups when those opposed to the Corporation are "dealt with" by less-than-gentle Corporation troops. You assume the role of one of five resistance fighters in the game. You'll initially have access to Roy MacNeil, aka Mack, a disgruntled ex-cop who rebelled against the Corporation's brutal enforcement methods, and Anna Price, aka Libra, a lawyer whom the Corporation pressured to sell out her clients. As you progress through the game, you'll unlock Hector Soldado, aka Spanky, a charismatic ex-gang member tired of the Corporation's treatment of the innocent people in the city; Eddy Raymonds, aka Bull, an ex-sports star who refused to participate in Corporation-sponsored match fixing; and Ricky Trang, aka Phreak, who was orphaned in high school when his parents were arrested as political dissidents by Corporation security.

The game will offer the same two single-player modes found in the PlayStation 2 game--revolution and chaos--with some added elements, and there's also an all-new multiplayer mode. Revolution is the game's story mode, and it will unfold via a series of missions tied to each character's journey to bring down the corporation. As you complete missions, you'll make your way through the game's four areas, which are broken into varied sections. The game flow is straightforward--you'll simply meet up with a fellow resistance member, and he or she will present you with a task. The missions themselves are deceptively simple, requiring you to deliver an item, escort someone to a location so he or she can destroy it, or destroy a building on your own. The missions you'll undertake in the Xbox version have been revamped, and in some cases removed altogether, in order to provide a better overall experience. You'll also find 14 new mission-specific characters added to the Xbox game. Another new element is the inclusion of five power-ups that will enhance your character's offensive and defensive abilities for brief periods of time. As you play through the missions, onscreen arrows and colored cursors will help you keep track of important structures and characters. You'll quickly discover that the key to success lies in making it through the masses of people while avoiding the hordes of Corporation guards and the street gangs.

Expect new game options and crisper graphics that take advantage of the Xbox hardware.

Chaos is a collection of game types that will open up sequentially as you meet certain score conditions in each game. The multiplayer mode will offer four game types to choose from--deathmatch, kaos, last clone standing, and survivor--and each will support up to four players via split screen. We were given a brief taste of the modes, and we'll bring you a more detailed look at them later.

Control in the game is basic and has an arcade feel. You'll be able to punch, kick, perform a special attack, and dash, as well as pick up and use a mighty arsenal of weapons that includes rocket launchers, flamethrowers, Uzis, shotguns, grenade launchers, and even dismembered body parts such as arms and heads. The game makes it easy for you to quickly unleash destruction.

State of Emergency's frantic gameplay is effectively conveyed through the excellent use of graphics and sound. The game's graphics engine ably renders mobs of characters and detailed environments with deformable structures and items to use as weapons. The main characters feature a fair amount of detail that suits their stylized appearance, and they animate smoothly. The mobs of nonplayer characters, thugs, and Corporation troops don't make use of as many polygons, but they look respectable enough. While the poly counts haven't seen any obvious or drastic increase in number, the game stills looks quite a bit sharper than its PlayStation 2 cousin. The use of higher-resolution textures, some dynamic lighting, and the constant 60 frames per second in single-player (30fps in multiplayer) all help enhance the game's look.

The new multiplayer modes add to the replay value.

As far as sound goes, you'll hear a varied collection of crowd noises and ambient effects tied to the environments you'll be racing through. The use of effects great and small, such as breaking glass, sirens, or people's frightened screams, are slickly pumped out in Dolby 5.1 stereo. However, the coolest aspect of the sound is your ability to use custom soundtracks in the game. While the game soundtrack is solid, the ability to tear up a mall or shoot up a city street with anything from Snoop Dogg to Enya playing in the background is something you'll have to try at least once.

Based on what we've seen so far, State of Emergency is shaping up to offer more than a straight port would. While there haven't been any fundamental changes to the core gameplay mechanics, it's good to see that Vis has attempted to create a more well-rounded game. The graphical and gameplay tweaks show that some thought was put into the development. The multiplayer modes are certainly fun and should provide the game with some replay value. The fast-paced style of gameplay should offer Xbox owners a solid change of pace as well. State of Emergency for the Xbox is slated to ship this March and sell for $19.99. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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