GAME REVIEW: The Warriors

Rockstar (PS2, Xbox)
Game •••• Graphics/Sound •••½
This isn't another lame tie-in. This is how great a movie-based game can be when it's not rushed to coincide with a theatrical release date. Thanks to danger-filled settings, gang slang from the original actors and spot-on soundalikes, and the enthralling throb of Barry De Vorzon's synth score, The Warriors perfectly captures the eerie, urban vibe of Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic.

Of course, you get to "bop" your way through the gauntlet of colorful gangs from the flick, but the game goes far beyond the movie. In fact, the missions that parallel the film's plot don't even begin until two-thirds of the way through. First, you'll plunge into a complex backstory that reveals how each of the Warriors joined the gang and earned his street cred (and trademark leather vest). Yeah, they're deplorable vandals, one and all - but somehow, you still grow attached to them.

Even though you're given a wide array of combo moves, rumbling gets tedious at times. Fortunately, you can also steal car stereos and mug pedestrians (don't send me letters, folks - it's a game) to get cash for "flash" (a health-restoring drug) and graffiti paint. And exciting chase scenes will get your blood pumping the same way the best Hollywood blockbusters do. One chase lets you re-enact one of the movie's most famous moments as you frantically hop chain-link fences and avoid other obstacles to escape the Furies, a bat-wielding band of thugs in baseball uniforms and Kiss-like war paint.

The 720p presentation (on Xbox) can't save the blocky-looking characters and bland color palette. But all of the original flashbacks leading up to the fateful gang summit - and the developer's obvious love and respect for the source material - help to make amends. Note that The Warriors is rife with foul-mouthed machismo and brutal beatings, so sensitive types need not apply. (Don't send me e-mail either.) Everyone else: come out to pla-ay!