If ever there were a movie tailor-made for video games, it would be Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic The Warriors, which follows a Coney Island gang as they battle through a comic-book gauntlet where their enemies look like Halloween refugees. Had Grand Theft Auto creator Rockstar Games merely followed the script, the chapters would have divided neatly into rumbles with toughies like Manhattan's Baseball Furies, who resemble an army of undead sluggers, or the art-damaged mimes that comprise Soho's Hi-Hats. But instead, the company plays note-perfect homage to the film while expanding its universe tenfold, turning The Warriors into the sort of vast gaming playground that has made the GTA series rise above its political notoriety. Rockstar warmed up to the task with the repugnant 2003 stalking game Manhunt, which essentially runs the same gauntlet, but with The Warriors, it opens up into reams of backstory and character detail that the movie couldn't possibly contain. It plays like a sprawling piece of interactive fan fiction.
The game opens with the "Can you dig it?" speech that serves as the film's inciting incident: A top NYC gang leader gathers delegates from the city's gangs to propose that they unite in thuggery. He gets assassinated, and The Warriors get blamed. But instead merely extending the long nocturnal odyssey that follows, the game includes about a dozen lead-up chapters where you take part in all the turf wars, political infighting, and general mayhem stirred up by Coney's baddest. The gratuitous details are the stuff of future Senate hearings: Money for graffiti paint and a snortable, health-restoring substance called "flash" is gained by mugging people and stealing car radios, missions include participating in blackout lootings and leaning on businesses for protection money, and even a simple training sequence involves beating the shit out of winos. The Warriors is irredeemably sick, but like the GTA games, it's also infinitely more textured and entertaining than anything on the market.
Beyond the game: The cover replicates the film's original poster art, and the game follows in kind, setting all the action to Barry De Vorzon's mesmerizing synth score, using the same voice talent whenever possible, and in every way capturing the eerie, after-hours street vibe that gave the film its unique flavor.
Worth playing for: Though the game includes the requisite rumblingbonus points for your CPU-controlled gangmates not being total wimpsthe missions are varied enough that it isn't an endless grind from one turf war to the next. Like tributaries from a river, the possibilities branch out as you go along, unlocking interesting flashback threads and mini-games.
Frustration sets in when: The camera controls can get a little dodgy and counterintuitive, especially during the fight sequences, when you're futilely trying to get your bearings while bodies and projectiles are flying around. Sometimes you just have to mash buttons and hope for the best.
Final judgment: Wreck 'em all, and let Joe Lieberman sort them out.