Genre : FPS
Release Date: June 13, 2006
I won't lie to you folks.
Urban Chaos: Riot Response is one of those games that seems "run of the mill," "paint by numbers," "seen it all before," and "lots of other expressions that allude to extreme familiarity." This would be because in many ways, it is. There's certainly little in this game that hasn't been done before. So why pay attention to it at all?
Well, it's got its own sort of charm. What Urban Chaos does to separate itself from the pack, albeit just barely, is provide some interesting twists on the genre it falls into, and turns up the volume to 11.
Here's the scoop: Your name is Nick Mason, and you're an officer of a unit of the police force that's caused the mayor and the chief of police to come under heavy scrutiny as of late – the Zero Tolerance, or T-Zero Division. Why would such a faction be needed? Simple. There's an organized gang out there called the Burners that, true to their namesake, wish to take over the whole place by charring it to cinders. Traditional "soft" police tactics (such as, you know, SWAT) won't work with these guys, so it's time to make the big guns even bigger. That's where you come in.
All of this story and setting, of course, is an elaborate excuse to blow things up, shoot them in the head, fry them, electrocute them, stab them, you name it. The difference is, this time, unlike so many games, you're on the side of the law. The extreme law. The Zero Tolerance take-no-crap law. And, you know, that tends to feel pretty darned good.
The game plays like most other first-person shooters, adding controls for a few of the game's key unique features. The first and most important is the riot shield. Since Halo, many FPSes have used shields of some sort, be they automatic or manual, but Urban Chaos may well have the coolest implementation of a manual shield to date. You use it like an actual police riot shield, made out of clear, ammunition-proof materials. It will protect you from fire (both of the literal and military kind), but should you attempt to abuse it, its condition will eventually deteriorate, and you won't be able to see through it anymore. Its use will then be for little else than blind protection, relying only on how well you can time your defenses. The riot shield is also good for clubbing a guy in the head. Believe me when I say that this is very satisfying.
The other main feature of Urban Chaos is sidekicks, which prove to be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, sidekicks such as the occasional fireman, paramedic or police officer will make your journeys through the game's various missions easy and fun. You'll get heal items, be able to break down obstacles via proxy, gain cover fire, and other various benefits. Unfortunately, these (and other characters) end up becoming a means to implement protection missions, which are not fun when you're surrounded by hordes of psychotic killers in Jason Voorhees masks hurling Molotov Cocktails at you by the dozens. (You know protection missions, don't you? They're the ones where you have to make sure someone with brainless-to-mediocre AI doesn't die under impossible odds, and they're also the brainchild of an evil, mad developer who hated the world. The jury's still out about which description is more appropriate.)
One other refreshing aspect of this game is its bonus objectives. Few of them are pointless fetch quests; the majority of them involve utilizing actual gameplay skill, such as getting a certain number of headshots, or non-lethal kills using melee attacks or your taser weapon. If you expected concept art to be your reward for completing bonus objectives, then hang your head in shame. We're talking power-ups, weapon upgrades, and super-secret weapons. The people at Rocksteady have obviously played enough action games to know what makes them likeable.
The game's showcasing is above average. Shimmering fire effects that look good and sharp on the Xbox, let alone the PS2, are in abundance, and the rest of the navigable city is in high detail. The game does itself justice in high-definition, and there's no slowdown no matter how many people and/or special effects happen to litter the screen at once.
As for the sounds, the term "war zone" should be accurate here. You've got explosions, crackling fire and the booming of weapons every other second, all around you. Peoples' heads crack satisfyingly, and the voice acting is decent. Background music? Odds are you won't notice it all that much, but it doesn't hurt to have.
One last note about the game's visuals has to do with the story. The game's narrative is told by way of full-motion video news clips (with a genuine news anchor — none of these are rendered or anything) that look incredibly authentic, yet are cheesy at the same time. It's a shock to see a technique that literally hasn't been made much use of since the Sega CD, but wouldn't you know it, it really works here, and it's very fun to watch news regarding the havoc both you and your enemies are causing.
Urban Chaos has its ups and downs, but fortunately, it's mostly positives. At worst, it's a must-rent, but you wouldn't do too badly adding it to your personal game library either. Give it a shot to see if you end up grooving to its ideas, or if it frustrates you to no end. Whatever the result, it's worth it to find out.
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