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Urban Chaos: Riot Response

Platform(s): PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Rocksteady Studios

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PS2/Xbox Preview - 'Urban Chaos: Riot Response'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Urban Chaos: Riot Response gives gamers the opportunity to step into the shoes of a real hero. Play as Nick Mason a member of T-Zero, an elite counter-gang unit, putting his life on the line in response to a terrorist threat. Specially trained in all areas of urban combat and armed with the very latest high-tech weaponry, T-Zero, the last line in urban defense, teams-up with Emergency Services groups including firefighters, paramedics and police to combat multiple threats on the city such as bombings and hostage scenarios.

Genre : FPS
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Rocksteady
Release Date: Jun 13, 2006

We first saw Urban Chaos at E3 2005, when it was named Roll Call. Since then, it's seen a name change, but the general themes remain intact: it's a police-based first-person shooter with a focus on ... well, on not dying. It's not squad-based, it's not particularly tactical; it's more about time limits, action-based bonus objectives, popping gangbangers' heads like zits with a shotgun, escorting NPCs to a given objective, and getting set on fire 53 times in rapid succession.

In single-player mode, you are Nick Mason, who's come back to his hometown just in time to watch it get overrun by hockey-masked psychotic gangbangers called the Burners. There are several hundred of them, and they're crazy, which makes it difficult for ordinary police to halt their reign of terror.

You, fortunately, aren't ordinary police. You're a member of the new anti-crime squad, T-Zero, which means ... well, it seems to mean that you get to do things alone a lot. You'll rescue hostages, shoot it out with punks, get Molotovs thrown at you hundreds of times a level (as it turns out, they aren't called the "Burners" for no reason), and generally kick ass all over the city.

Your equipment consists of the usual FPS goodies – shotguns, pistols, a hand taser for nonlethal incapacitation of targets, confiscated Molotov cocktails, meat cleavers, assault rifles, and so on – along with a handy riot shield. You control the shield with the L trigger, and it can stop almost any attack with no harm to you. Granted, Molotovs will still leave you standing in a pool of fire, which kind of sucks, but you can use the shield for instant cover against gunfire, melee attacks, or situational hazards, like flame jets. In certain situations, you'll also have to protect NPCs so they can accomplish tasks for you, such as defending a paramedic while she treats a wounded civilian, or keeping a fireman safe so he's around to knock down obstacles for you.

In each level, in addition to what you're there to accomplish – arresting gang leaders, escorting paramedics, rescuing hostages, clearing an area of gang activity, or what-have-you – you'll be asked to fulfill various bonus objectives. If you can non-lethally incapacitate five or more hoodlums, pull off a certain number of headshots, or find five gang masks as evidence against the Burners, you'll get extra medals. The more medals you get, the more bonuses you unlock: better weapons, an upgraded shield, body armor, higher-capacity clips for your firearms, and so on. If you need a bit of a boost before going on, you can unlock extra missions by arresting gang leaders, or replay old missions in search of new medals.

The single-player mode's not bad, but the multiplayer is probably the big draw of Urban Chaos. Its conceit is that it takes place in the T-Zero team's tactics simulator, pitting small teams of T-Zero police officers against armed and dangerous Burner gang members. T-Zero officers get an impenetrable riot shield, like Mason's, as well as access to all the firearms from the single-player game. You can find others in the field, too, such as dead opponents' dropped shotguns or a rapid-fire sniper rifle.

Burners, on the other hand, have a completely different arsenal. You can wield a Magnum revolver or dual machine pistols, but more importantly, the T-Zero cops' shield is replaced with an infinite supply of Molotov cocktails. You can throw fire around all damn day when you're playing as a Burner, which is sort of like having infinite grenades. If you tag a cop right on, you'll set him on fire, which gives him maybe 10 seconds to live. That's enough time to kill you, but more importantly, it also means you've got a method of getting around his shield. You'll also get to carry around nailbombs and a bandsaw.

I am prepared to defend Urban Chaos's multiplayer game based entirely upon the existence of the bandsaw.

The multiplayer mode is set on nine stages, each inspired by a level of the single-player game, and there are three mission types. Riot mode challenges you to take an area and hold onto it, King of the Hill-style; a Safeguard map has cops defending a set of trucks while the Burners try to destroy them; and Rescue missions see the Burners trying to hold onto a set of civilian hostages while the cops try to grab them and shepherd them back to a rescue point.

It's simple, but it's executed well, and even in this early version, the network code sped along at a good clip. I'm a little worried that snipers own the game, especially with the cops' riot shields, but there's plenty of time to tweak the team balance on certain maps. (Up close, Burners are good; at a distance, the cops own them.)

Urban Chaos isn't perfect – there are way too many escort missions, and the emergency missions seem ridiculously hard – but it's a solid FPS. It's coming out in two weeks, and in these last days of the Xbox, it's a pretty good bet for online shooting action.

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