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msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/26/2007 10:03:42 PM ET 2007-02-27T03:03:42

In 1979, when the movie "The Warriors" first arrived in theaters, no one could have predicted that the oddly surreal and undeniably campy film about gangs in New York would go on to become a cult classic. (Who could have guessed, after all, that a movie featuring thugs who dress like psychotic mimes, clown-faced baseball players and various rejects from the Village People would resonate over the years?)

And, of course, no one could have predicted what a spectacular bit of fodder the movie's violent themes and thuggish mayhem would one day make for a video game.

Fast forward two and a half decades. Rockstar Games — that purveyor of hooligan-obsessed fare — spotted the material for what it was: a gaming goldmine. In 2005, after licensing the rights, it released "The Warriors" for the PS2 and Xbox and, now, it has released the game for Sony's handheld PSP.

For those who've been waiting for the game to come out to play on the small screen, the news is mostly good. Certainly, if you've dabbled in the console version of "The Warriors," there's little new to be found in the PSP version of the game. This is a pretty straightforward port of the PS2 game, after all.

Still, "The Warriors" — a solid game to begin with — makes a nice transition from the full screen to miniature form, making the $19.99 it costs well worth spending for those who want to take this title on the go.

In the game adaptation of "The Warriors," players step into the boots of the film's anti-heroes — a group of bad boys known as The Warriors who've been framed for the murder of a rival gang leader. With every band of bangers in New York City looking to snuff them out, this rag-tag crew must fight their way across the big bad city to their home turf on Coney Island.

Of course, video games based on movies have a well-deserved reputation for… well… sucking.

From the beginning, however, Rockstar has been smart about this adaptation. They've done a nice job making sure "The Warriors" game stays true to the dark and wacky vibe of the film with voice acting provided by some of the movie actors themselves. More importantly, they've created a game that doesn't simply rehash the film's narrative plot point by plot point.

Instead, Rockstar has made its version of "The Warriors" part prequel and part movie story, taking players to a time three months prior to when the film begins, allowing us to see how The Warriors came together as a gang and filling in back story that never appeared on the silver screen. The embellishments are a well done and welcome addition to the original material.

Beyond some wise story choices, Rockstar has crafted a brutal brawler with an intuitive combat system that'll have you gleefully punching, kicking, pummeling and grappling with all sorts of rival thugs. Meanwhile, when you're not fighting, you'll be committing a variety of crimes that manifest as mini-games — i.e. stealing car stereos and spray painting the Warriors logo all over town.

No one can say this game doesn't have depth. Aside from the story mode (which can be played with two people on the PSP network), there's a multi-player Rumble Mode for some arena-style combat as well as an in-game "Armies of the Night" arcade game for some old-school side-scrolling fisticuffs.

Know that the skull-cracking violence found in this Mature-rated title is no less visceral in the PSP's pint-size presentation. However, those who've played "The Warriors" on the PS2 will have to make some adjustments to the smaller machine's control set up. You'll likely miss the second analog stick here and run into some frustrations with controlling the camera.

All in all, the PSP version of "The Warriors" finds Rockstar in fine form, doing what it does best — providing brutal, bruising entertainment. In the parlance of "The Warriors," the question is: Can you dig it?

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