Ah, the urban-shooter genre. Overcrowded. Stale. Boring. The last thing we need is another one. But I guess if you’re putting out a sequel, you get a pass.
In State of Emergency 2, you play as several members of a rebel group called Freedom — the game is just that subtle — whom the corporation/government that runs things in the future is after for their terrorist tendencies. Events kick off four years after the original, on the night of Freedom member Roy Macneil’s scheduled execution. As usual, things go awry, and your mission is to blast your way out of there — and keep blasting until the government has been overthrown.
The insipid plot could have been redeemed by some interesting gameplay, but this is one of the most unoriginal games in recent memory. There’s plenty of variety within the game: frantic run-and-shoot sequences, endless stationary weapons sequences, pointless cooperative sequences, clumsy vehicle missions, and a little bit of rappelling. Oh, and plenty of cussin’. But most of these are no more sophisticated than holding down the fire button, running, and aiming. At one point you’re told that your mission is to “start a riot,” which you accomplish by opening fire into a crowd, targeting the corporate stormtroopers patrolling the area. That’s it.
Worse, the game is just plain hard, and not in a good way. Whatever this corporation is, it seems to have an endless supply of bodies to arm and fire on you. They’re always in perfect position to pick you off — and the graphics are so murky and dark, most times you won’t see them until it’s too late. You will take on a lot of fire in this game, and it will frustrate the hell out of you. Plus, the map and health gauges are too small to be useful.
And instead of the sandbox style of unlimited sidequests and non-linear plotting, as in GTA, State of Emergency 2 gives you nothing but plot. You can skip ahead, but you’re still playing the same story. If you just want to screw around with no regard to the fate of Freedom leader Spanky and his cohort, you can play the arcade mini games — independent, isolated segments in which you try to kill as many corporation soldiers as possible from a turret, a helicopter, or on foot. The best of these is the speedboat, which requires you to navigate through giant glowing rings. And even that one is made almost unbearable by the Richard-Dawson-in-Running-Man announcer.
That this game should feel so much like an uninspired, dull Grand Theft Auto wanna-be is an interesting lesson in video-game-title evolution. The first State of Emergency was made by Rockstar games and fired off in 2002, when GTA III was still fresh and new. It was more of a beat-’em-up, and one that was occasionally clever and charming. This one, made by South Peak and DC Studios, is lifelessly formulaic, the video-game equivalent of one of those bands (like, oh, say, the Bravery), whom everyone accuses of changing their sound to reflect the latest musical trend. There’s really nothing here you can’t get in some other game. If you’re a true-blue genre head, maybe it’s worth a rental. Otherwise, you’d be better off revisiting The Warriors, Max Payne, The Getaway, or any one of the GTAs.