911 is a joke.
Hailing from the Bronx, NY, a riot is my version of Disneyland. Instead of tickets for playing skeeball, we get televisions for fence-jumping. Forget about the rush of a rollercoaster – running from a squad car is where the real adrenaline’s at. Mickey Mouse has nothing on the SWAT Turtle.
It’d be great to relive the circus of a riot on a nice, new plasma screen, except if you chose to fire up State of Emergency 2. Then you’d only be asking for trouble. Though it claims to re-ignite the fire of its mediocre predecessor, all it manages to do is make breaking the law totally lame again.
[image1]Taking place right where the original left off, the “terrorist” group Freedom once again fights against the evil Corporation. Playing as nearly-executed convict Roy “Mac” Macneil, you’ll uncover the wack story through twelve different but equally annoying missions. It has something to do with a conspiracy, CPU-hacking and angry people everywhere, but it’s done terribly, just one stupid scenario after the next simply to prove further why you should rage against the machine. In this case, your PS2.
The riot-based gameplay of the original has been shown the door. However thin and mindless it was, State of Emergency was at least based on a novel gameplay mechanic and succeeded in tossing tons of characters at you to numbingly beat to a pulp. The sequel, however, musters every gaming cliché from the past four years and presents them like aged White Castle burgers.
All of the missions are powered by the most typical of third-person shooter engines, requiring little more than aiming, shooting and repeating until the bad guys are dead. Unfortunately, even the simplest of tasks is made maddening thanks to the awful checkpoint system. You’ll replay sections over and over again just because you lost on the last segment of some irritating sequence.
[image2]For example, during the initial prison break mission, you trigger an unavoidable alarm and kill all the enemies to make your way to a large area with four guarded rooms. You have to clear out each one of them to hit a switch to release a load of prisoners. So you blast your way through to the first room and Freak, your hacker support, says that they have called in reinforcements. You hit the switch quickly, go through the brief cinematic, then find yourself faced instantly with a room full of enemies already kneeling and blasting you. You die.
Luckily you restart outside the room, so you go in and do it again, only to die once you open the next door. Repeat it again and again and you get the idea. Memorization just isn’t a fun gameplay concept.
At least the dev team threw in some variety. Each of the characters from Freedom has their own unique ability. Libra has stealth and Spanky can command gang members, for example. Neither of these is used effectively, though, and the new ability to switch between the characters is simply just to stay alive when the bad A.I. with stellar aim wears your current bullet-bag out.
The occasional speedboat, tank, or chopper segment offers a breather from the on-foot monotony, but even an armored car doesn’t save you from cheap death at the hands of swarms of enemies. The controls are pretty clunky, too, as the tanks control just as awkwardly as the boats.
[image3]Once you bail out of the anemic story, you’ll find a few other bad ways to play. Arcade mode extracts lame mini-games from the main Mission mode and adds meaningless high-score tables. Each of the vehicles get their own timed challenges, as do weapons like the sniper rifle or rocket launcher, and none of them are interesting. Kaos mode is the most entertaining of the bunch, where you run around aimlessly destroying everything. It’s a bit better than the original’s Kaos mode since it lacks all the corny button-mashing, but the streets are considerably more sparse both of objects to destroy and of people to gun down.
It must be the new graphics engine, which would be cool except that it’s totally outdated. All the environments and models are blocky and grainy, far more PSOne than PS2. Surprisingly, the action moves at a relatively low framerate, which is especially bad when sniping. The announcer is still Louie Anderson on cocaine, constantly saying “You suck!” until you get a worthless bronze medal.
From instantly spawning enemies, to their mindless A.I., to control that misses its mark, State of Emergency 2 is a study in bad developmental decisions. It only costs 20 bucks, but if your mall runs amok, don’t weigh yourself down by snatching up this rat. Instead, practice safe shopping techniques and buy something more handy in a riot, like a pen gun.