Posted by Female Gamers on Jan 19, 2010
Urban Chaos: Riot Response – Review

Urban Chaos: Riot Response – Review

Post Rating

Urban Chaos has slid unnoticed onto the gaming scene amid a deafening lack of fanfare; patiently twiddling its inventive first-person shooter thumbs while waiting for some form of consumer reaction. Thus far, it hasn’t really had any; slipping in and out of the ELSPA’s Top-20 All-Format chart within the space of a single week. As of this week’s chart, Urban Chaos isn’t even in the Top-40, while complete dross such as FIFA Street 2 has held fast to the chart for some 20 weeks—EA’s truly awful street-soccer sequel proving to be both bewilderingly popular and a completely different form of ‘urban chaos’.

Perhaps it’s the title that turns gamers away: Urban Chaos: Riot Response; granted, it sounds a little naff, but, have faith, what lies within is certainly worthy of your attention. First-person shooters are two-a-penny these days, and most are shamefully hollow attempts at mirroring the past achievements of other, far superior efforts. What Urban Chaos brings to the genre is blatantly violent overindulgence, a twisted sense of news anchor-inspired humor, intriguingly addictive run-and-gun action, confrontational hostage situations, and a wealth of instantly usable unlockable features that are gained dependent on level-to-level performance.

Urban Chaos is guilty of delivering a slightly less than polished package amid a frenetically paced presentation, which does dull the overall positive impression somewhat, though it’s still an experience unlikely to disappoint—and players would be wise to remember that the tarnished gleam of gold does not compromise its true value.

In a city overrun by a criminal arson-loving gang known as ‘The Burners’, the player is dispatched as part of a controversial new police ‘riot response’ unit called ‘T-Zero’ (Zero Tolerance?) to quell the uprising and return a state of order. However, as the central story unfolds via live-action news anchor segues, which serve as convenient waypoints for T-Zero’s missions and also televised platforms for the growing citywide destruction and criticism regarding the unit’s ‘excessive’ methods, it soon becomes evident that The Burners are a tool for deeper, more influential, and more sinister motivations. The storyline isn’t exactly an example of first-rate creative writing, and each twist of its narrative path will be fairly predictable for those already well versed in the FPS genre. However, Urban Chaos never rests on its plot for entertainment value, instead choosing to rely on a high level of gameplay quality to successfully secure unswerving player participation.

It achieves this by utilizing the basics of first-person gunplay with a staunch reliance on what works, and the avoidance of what doesn’t. For example, weapon selection is quick and easy, aiming fluidity is smooth but requires analogue precision, enemies come thick and fast (perhaps to hide the sometimes stilted A.I.), mission briefs and individual related tasks tie together well and unlock plenty of inspiring ‘unapproved’ T-Zero weaponry, and the difficulty level is always just the right side of “I’ll do it this time!” when the light of heaven shines down on your bullet-riddled corpse. The in-game action in constantly appealing, not least because of the incredibly graphic nature of enemy deaths; the rag-doll physics and blood spatter are both ramped up to 11 in Urban Chaos, and the level designs always lead without ever making the player feel overly led.

There are various interesting facets woven into the gameplay of Urban Chaos, all of which add significantly to an otherwise by-the-numbers FPS thrill ride. Firstly, there are specific medals that can (and really must) be earned during each mission. Certain set tasks relevant to each mission exist as secondary targets beyond the obvious extermination of opposing Burners. These tasks include actually arresting a number of enemies via a ‘non-lethal’ electricity-delivering stun weapon—which is disturbingly gratifying when you let loose at close quarters, then there’s a set amount of morbid ‘sharpshooter head shots’ that must also be harvested from the willing criminal hordes, plus the non-lethal capture of gang leaders, and also the collection of hidden evidence that’s scattered throughout each level. Other medals are awarded for getting through a level in one attempt and not reverting to a mid-level checkpoint after dying.

Naturally, levels can be completed without accomplishing any of the aforementioned tasks, but then enjoyable weapon, armor, and accessory add-ons remain beyond reach, which deprives the player of some genuine modification fun. Also, medal attainment opens access to ‘emergency’ levels, which throw the player into frantic rescue missions against the clock—but with the added attraction of prototype T-Zero weaponry that can be secured within the player’s armory upon completion.

Then there’s the invaluable T-Zero ‘riot shield’, which can be brought up defensively at any time to deflect standard bullets, shotgun blasts, high velocity rounds, and shrapnel from nearby explosions, while also serving as an effective barrier with which to pass through walls of fire. When facing Burners in close confines, the riot shield can also be used as a fairly devastating weapon when it’s brutally thrust into the face of anyone unlucky enough to get in its way.

The riot shield also plays a major part in the various graphically entertaining ‘hostage situations’ that crop up across Urban Chaos. Whenever the player encounters a hostage situation, the riot shield must be employed in order to shuffle carefully forward as bullets continually smash you backward. The Burner holding the hostage will himself shimmy backwards while hurling bullets, Molotov cocktails, and foul language in the player’s direction and protecting himself with a terrified human shield. But be wary, if you draw too close, the Burner will mercilessly execute the hostage and take flight—leading to an immediate ‘game over’. But, with a little distance and patience, the deadly game can always be won—and the end result is often worth the wait. Everyone has to reload sooner or later, and when the Burner attempts to slide home a fresh clip, the game automatically shifts into slow-mo, zooms in slightly on the hostage, and the player has a strictly limited time to lower their riot shield, take precarious aim, and send (sometimes successive) headshots at the exposed Burner. Without going into any spoiling detail, these little adrenaline-friendly set pieces often end in a creatively gratuitous fashion for the hostage taker. Laughter seems somewhat out of place considering the gravity of each hostage situation, but chuckles may still escape players’ lips at the bloody climax of each confrontation.

Graphically and aurally, Urban Chaos: Riot Response is not a frontrunner for any PlayStation 2 development awards, but it performs fairly well throughout and the bland character designs, forgettable atmospheric score, gritty presentation, and little moments of chop and obvious jagging are forgivable beside the game’s additively entertaining ethos. Deaf or hard-of-hearing gamers can follow Urban Chaos in its entirety thanks to full subtitle accompaniment from start to finish both while in play and during the CNN-style anchor segues. Unfortunately, the death-dealing protagonist behind the vast array of weaponry is male, although there’s never any close up evidence of the fact. But, as with most FPS titles, the gender of the main character quickly becomes an afterthought amid the steadily growing body count.

Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a cracking FPS addition with enough fresh action nuance, shamelessly graphic action, potty-mouth dialogue, and original gameplay elements to successfully raise it above most—but not all—similar genre titles. Some gamers may wince at the gore, shake their heads at the obscenities, and point fingers at the grime, while others will pile in gleefully and let the hard-hitting but tongue-in-cheek nature of the game sweep them effortlessly along for the ride.

Review by Stevie

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