You can't dig it. Apologies to Cyrus and his pals in the Gramercy Riffs, but The Warriors: Street Brawl wastes the cheesy-cool gangs of the classic '70s flick on a boring scrolling brawler for Xbox Live Arcade. Ridiculously protracted levels, repetitive punch-ups, and murky graphics make it just about impossible to stick with the game long enough to see Luther clinking beer bottles on Coney Island.
The Warriors: Street Brawl is a simple fighter with the theme, characters, and setting of Walter Hill's cult 1979 flick splashed on top of it. There are a handful of play modes here, including arena boss battles and mano-a-mano multiplayer Versus fights with other Warriors, but the meat of the game lies in its story campaign. This 21-mission brawl, which can be played solo or cooperatively with up to three friends locally or on Xbox Live, follows the plot of the movie from start to finish with you leading the Warriors street gang back to its home turf on Coney Island after being unfairly blamed for the assassination of wannabe messiah Cyrus in Central Park. You pick from the likes of playable Warriors, such as Swan, Rembrandt, and Vermin, to go at it. Each of the seven three-mission levels sees you squaring off against one of the gangs from the movie. All of the most infamous goons are here, including the wimpy Orphans, the treacherous Lizzies, and the Gene-Simmons-meets-Babe-Ruth Baseball Furies. If you're a fan of the movie, you'll undoubtedly dig the setting. Who wouldn't want to lay some lumber on a few of those annoying Baseball Furies, if only to find out what genius decided to combine KISS makeup with baseball uniforms?
But nothing interesting is done with this cool premise. While everything is in 3D, the action takes place on a 2D side-scrolling plane identical to that found in a ton of beat-'em-ups from the genre's golden age in the late '80s. There isn't anything innovative here, so if you played Double Dragon back in the day, welcome back to 1987. You start on one side of the screen and walk to the other, beating the hell out of all comers with punch, kick, and combo attacks. Save for the odd end-of-level boss battle, you can get by with good old button mashing. If you alternate rapid-fire punches with blocks, you'll sail through missions, except for the odd moment when you're overwhelmed by bad guys and gradually beaten into the pavement. Or you might get taken down by absurd roundhouse kicks that many enemies instantly whip out when they're getting up or cheap shots from offscreen. While you can mix things up with such weapons as knives, pipes, Molotov cocktails, and baseball bats, it's not really necessary to do so. A bat can sure help clear a crowd fast, but you can do the same with your fists and a bit of patience. In-game bonuses also provide a little color. Garbage cans can be smashed open to reveal health-boosting treats, like hot dogs and pizza slices. You can also swipe trinkets like gold necklaces, lighters, and boom boxes to up your score and multiplier.
If this were all that The Warriors: Street Brawl brought to the table, it would be a basic, mediocre beat-'em-up. But there are enough annoyances here to sink the game a little lower than that description. Flow is a real problem during battles. Knockdowns are frequent, and it takes way too long to get up from them. Enemies can easily get into impossible-to-counter punch or kick runs that always land you on the pavement. The campaign drags out too long and is lengthened with cheap gimmicks. Reinforcement attack sequences where you need to take out an initial wave of enemies before a timer expires and more goons arrive are extremely annoying. They serve no purpose but to pad mission length. It's also occasionally impossible to beat the clock, so you wonder what the point is here; it would make more sense to just forget the whole reinforcements angle and just throw more baddies at you in the regular attack waves. The only point where this feature kind of works is during the Turnbull AC mission where you're swarmed by the gang members coming off their bus. That's a nice shout-out to the creepiest scene in the movie. Another issue is the lack of save spots. If you get killed, you have to replay the mission from the beginning, which is a major pain when you're only getting smoked on the end boss. Again, this is just another blatant way to extend the campaign at the cost of annoying the player.
The atmosphere is even more problematic: This game just doesn’t feel like The Warriors. Levels cycle through the spooky street scenes, seedy clubhouses, subway stations, cemeteries, and parks from the movie, but everything is too dark and gritty. All of the movie's '70s cheese has been dumped in favor of a more contemporary, much bleaker urban nightmare. Some of this darkness gets in the way of playing the game, too, because it's hard to tell precisely where you are in many of these murky scenes. This can be a bit of a problem when you're surrounded by a half-dozen thugs trying to beat your brains in with metal pipes. Even the music has been modernized, with a vaguely techno takeoff on the original score and the addition of obnoxious nu-metal during key moments, such as boss battles. None of the actors from the movie have provided vocal samples, either. Much of the game takes place in near-total silence aside from the thumps of the beatdowns. Warriors never say anything except in the between-mission cartoon cutscenes, and enemies just kind of chuckle and mime clapping or waving when they take you down. Oh, and the most famous line in the movie--chief villain Luther's now legendary "Warriors, come out to play-ay!"--has been terribly handled with a sinister growl that replaces the original's nearly hysterical whine.
All The Warriors: Street Brawl accomplishes is to whet your appetite for the original Warriors game made for the Xbox in 2005, which still hasn't been made backward compatible for the Xbox 360. Fans of that Rockstar cult classic might be tempted to try this XBLA effort just for the name, but to get a real dose of Swan, Ajax, and the boys, you'd be better off popping the movie into your DVD player than spending 800 Microsoft points on this.