We recently had a chance to get another look at State of Emergency, the upcoming Xbox conversion of the PlayStation 2 riot sim from Rockstar and Vis. The Xbox version makes a number of technical improvements to the game that take advantage of the Xbox hardware. In addition, the game's content has been tweaked based on player feedback on the PS2 version, which was released last year. The most significant tweak is the addition of an all-new split-screen multiplayer mode that supports up to four players. The Xbox version is nearly finished, and we were generally pleased by what we saw in the latest build.
The build of the game we checked out seemed poised to cover all the engaging elements of the PS2 version without missing a beat. One of the most appealing aspects of State of Emergency's gameplay is its old-school simplicity. For all the game's graphical eye candy, at its core, SOE has less in common with the current crop of games and far more in common with side-scrolling 2D beat-'em-ups such as Capcom's classic Final Fight series, Technos' Double Dragon games, and Sega's Streets of Rage franchise. Granted, that core gameplay has been expanded on quite a bit, thanks to the game's full 3D gameplay, mission-based structure, and cartoonish violence, but, strip it all away, and the concept would work surprisingly well in 2D. The most important element in making the beat-'em-up gameplay work in 3D is the game's speed. While the PS2 version did a fine job of moving the action along at a solid pace, the Xbox outperforms its predecessor with a constant 60 frames per second frame rate in its single-player game and a steady 30 frames per second in multiplayer. The other key to the game's appeal is its atmosphere--Vis' graphics engine throws an impressive number of characters onscreen, which is crucial in selling the game's premise.
As far as the game modes go, the single-player experience in State of Emergency has seen some positive changes, with some of the more tedious missions being modified or completely removed. You'll find new mission-specific characters in the form of gang leaders who will pop up to give the game a bit more personality and challenge, as well as power-ups that temporarily increase your character's abilities. The new multiplayer mode will offer four game types to choose from: deathmatch, kaos, last clone standing, and survivor. While the modes are basically multiplayer versions of the single-player modes, deathmatch features a very cool addition. The game pits you against up to three other players in a fight to the death through any of the civilian-filled stages from the single-player game. While that's clearly a fine premise for a deathmatch mode, Vis has added a new touch to it. As you race around, avoiding your foes and finding weapons, you'll be able to press the white button on the Xbox controller when you're near panicking civilians to convert them into gang members loyal to you. While there's certainly a case to be made for the appeal of duking it out with your foes mano a mano, it pales in comparison to the wicked appeal of rolling up on someone with a mob eager to help you beat the crap out of him. The game limits the size of your posse to 50, which is certainly respectable for beat-down purposes but still a little disappointing.
State of Emergency seems like it will be a solid addition to the Xbox library. The graphical enhancements and gameplay additions are good, and the Xbox-specific features--such as the ability to import your own custom soundtracks into the game and Dolby 5.1 support--are certainly welcome. Xbox owners looking for some old-school fun will want to keep an eye out for State of Emergency when it ships for the Xbox this March.