The gang's all back and ready to take the fight to the Corporation. We take a look at a demo build of the game.
Anyone who's been following the development of State of Emergency 2, the sequel to the 2002 original, will likely be familiar with the drama that has surrounded it, in which the original developer went bankrupt, auctioned off the rights to the game, had it picked up by DC Studios, which in turn found a publisher, lost a publisher, then found another publisher, SouthPeak Interactive. Against all odds, the game is finally nearing completion, and we had the opportunity to sit down with a demo build and give it a whirl.
State of Emergency 2 apparently takes place a full decade after the events in State of Emergency, in which five intrepid heroes assaulted and liberated the headquarters of the Corporation, the monolithic company that had usurped all government functions and established itself as a faceless dictatorship. As the sequel opens up, we're reintroduced to the characters from the original game through a lengthy in-game cutscene that gets the story mode under way. It's quickly established that Mack and Bull have been captured, so Libra, Freak, and Spanky all have to work to free them from the Corporation prison before their executions can take place. While his friends somehow manage to slip a gas mask and submachine gun into his gas chamber and thus help save him from imminent death, Mack is still left to mow his way through innumerable guards to rescue Bull and somehow escape from the prison.
And so begins what promises to be a very different State of Emergency game, if you compare it to the original. Instead of a free-form romp through an urban environment, the first three levels of SOE2 (which were the only ones included in the demo) all take place inside the prison, as Mack attempts to track down Bull and free him. Mack first has to start a riot to cover his tracks and distract the guards. To do that, he has to enter a cell block, and then find and pull four switches, each of which will unlock one row of cells.
It's here that fans of the first game will probably be thrown a bit, because instead of just running to your objective and knocking enemies out of your way, you'll have to be quite careful as you proceed. Although you still have a good amount of health to work with, health boxes are somewhat scarce, and you can get taken out fairly quickly if enemies with shotguns manage to get the drop on you. The action still takes place from a third-person perspective, but a crosshair will let you know precisely what you're shooting at. There aren't any lock-on capabilities, and very little aiming assistance, however, so actually landing your shots, especially when both you and your opponents are moving, can be difficult. The overall challenge is compounded by the rapid approach of reinforcements. After every switch is thrown, you have another squad of guards to kill, and when you finally find all four switches, an extra-large group of grunts will come gunning for you. We died more than once at this point of the level, until we finally just holed ourselves up in one of the empty cells and let the foes come to Mack, who could then easily kill them with a shotgun as they attempted to flood into the choke point of the door.
Moving on, other unexpected challenges awaited us, such as the appearance of a quasi-stealth section, in which we had to snipe away at a number of enemies with a silenced rifle. So long as we picked our spots and stayed out of sight, we could proceed without too much interference. But as soon as we were seen, reinforcements were called and it was back to attempting to kill enemies without taking too much damage. When you do finally free Bull from his own execution, another new feature is revealed: the ability to switch between characters on the fly within the mission. Presumably this feature will be more important in later missions, but you'll see that Bull and Mack are fairly similar in terms of gameplay. The only noticeable difference between them was that Bull was required to break the locks on some of the doors with brute force.
Of course, no State of Emergency game would be complete without some full-scale mayhem, and as you attempt to escape from the prison, you're forced to let loose a massive number of prisoners into the courtyard to cover your escape. Instead of using them to cover your advance, though, it seems easier to just hang back behind cover and shoot away at the enemy snipers and turret gunners mounted around the courtyard, and only proceed when the coast is clear.
The three levels of the story mode are complemented by three challenge missions, which are essentially small one-off arcade games that you can compete in to earn high scores or medals. The first sees you take control of a minitank, with which you tread through city streets in an attempt to kill 25 Corporation soldiers within a certain amount of time. Next up is a rocket challenge, which gives you an infinite amount of ammo for a rapid-fire rocket launcher and tasks you with surviving for as long as you can against an influx of soldiers, tanks, and helicopters. Lastly, there's a fairly simple speedboat race, in which you're asked to maneuver through a set of checkpoints while hopefully outrunning three computer-controlled boats. All in all, none of these are exceptionally different than what you might find in a Grand Theft Auto, but they're still an entertaining diversion.
All in all, it seems that DC Studios is taking the State of Emergency brand into a relatively new direction with State of Emergency 2. While there's still plenty of the customary mob action that players of the first game know and love, the emphasis here seems to have shifted from frenetic, fast-paced action to a more methodical action shooter where you have to be careful not to expose yourself to enemy fire, lest you wind up getting blasted. There's even a lean button to help you lean around corners!
State of Emergency 2 is currently scheduled to be released in mid-February. Stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review of the game when we get our hands on the completed version.
- Release Date: Canceled (US)
- Release Date: Feb 14, 2006 (US)
- ESRB: MTitles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older.