Gamers often like to look back and reminisce about the golden age of arcades, hence the reason why retro titles often get released via PSN or XBLA. But it really only pays off when the game in question is considered good back when it was originally released. This is ultimately where Gang Wars falls down; it was never that good.
Released back in 1989, Gang Wars was clearly riding the coat tails of Double Dragon. The premise, the style of gameplay and even the moves are very similar. It just didn’t move the genre forward. Unlike games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, which took beat ’em ups and added interesting new features, Gang Wars only has an upgrade system to differentiate it from Double Dragon. At the end of each level, you are awarded upgrade points based on your performance. You can spend these over three categories: Speed, Power and Guard. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually notice any real difference in the way my fighter played, regardless of where I spent the points.
The combat is pretty flat as well. There are no combo moves, just a punch and a kick button. If you stagger an opponent, you can get up close and do a finish move, but these are pretty boring. You will also find that you have to be very precise to strike your enemies, and they will often move just out of reach at the sides of the screen. You can expect to face the standard types of ’Beat em up’enemies in Gang Wars, complete with end of level bosses. Some of them are armed, and when you hit them they will drop their weapon. A word to the wise; unless it is a gun, leave it on the floor. Melee weapons are more of a hindrance than a help, with all of them being slow to use and require even more skill than punching and kicking.
Another thing to watch out for is the character movement, which seems to have a mind of its own. Some of the levels have ledges that you can fall from, and there were several occasions that when I moved my character down, from the top of the screen, he failed to stop and fell straight of a cliff.
Luckily, you do get the option of unlimited continues, which is probably testament to the fact that this game was originally built to rob you of all your quarters by making some of the sections very difficult, regardless of your skill level with this genre.
Gang Wars may have a low price point, but in my opinion it would better for you to spend a little bit more and pick up a more competent game, like Final Fight or Streets of Rage.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.