Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Remembering Urban Chaos: Riot Response

Read any reviews for Urban Chaos: Riot Response, the one of the first things that is mentioned is that it isn't the most innovative or original First Person Shooter out there, but it is an entertaining romp. And if you have read any of my other "Remembering" columns here, that is basically the description of any of the movies I chosen to take a closer look.

I picked up this game a few weeks ago after having played the demo on Hitman: Blood Money, and I have to say, it was a good purchase on my part.

The game follows the exploits of T-Zero, a SWAT-like Anti-gang unit of an unnamed police force. You play as Nick Mason, a former marine who was recruited to the team just before it was to see major action. The villains of the game are a single gang of anarchist terrorists called the Burners, whose mode of dress is straight out of The Road Warrior. I mean, every member of the gang is sporting some form of hockey mask and some form of leather wear.

Through 17 missions, you guide Mason as he tries to bring peace to the city by protecting civilians and other emergency workers(like Firemen and EMS personnel) and killing or arresting gang members. As the scenarios unfold, the Burners get more and more brazen about their attacks on the city, and to put that into perspective, the first mission involves defending the police station that T-Zero is based out of from an attack by the gang who are trying to liberate one of their leaders who was arrested earlier in the day. With that as a starting point, you can imagine that things get a lot more intense as the months of action go by.

Each mission is prefaced with live action news segment from Channel 7 News, and there is this undercurrent through many of the early missions that the media and public opinion is against T-Zero as well, seeing it as a multimillion dollar boondoggle. Of course, as things start to go from bad to worse, opinion about the team starts to change for the better. Your peers in the emergency services however see you in action every day, so they have quite a different and more positive view of T-Zero's work from the start, and the game is designed so you have a symbiotic relationship with them, as you help keep them safe from the gangs while they go about their work and they help you when you need it. For example, firemen can naturally put out fires and knock down locked doors to allow you to access to areas you need to patrol.

Now for the most part, your weaponry is also pretty standard: a pistol, shotgun, stun gun and assault rifle. You can also pick up weapons from your fallen foes, though generally your starting weapons are better anyway. But, there is one additional piece of equipment which really makes a different. Seeing as the game is subtitled Riot Response, you are also equipped with a riot shield, which when in use protects you from thrown items like Molotov cocktails and hand weapons, but it can also stop bullets and be used to knock out gang members if they get too close, and that thud is a very satisfying sound. It is a great gameplay device, as it allowed the developer to change the pace of the game at times, as there are situations where it is essential for your survival.

All in all, it is a very fast paced game, and one keeping with many of the traditions of the medium. In a way, the game sort of reminds me of an old school beat 'em up from the 1980's or 1990's remade as a FPS... like if Mayor Mike Haggar in Final Fight was a kick ass supercop.

I also liked the fact that unlike a lot of other games using the criminal/law enforcement angle, there are no drugs involved. Not one reference. And that was refreshing really, because it seemed like in modern police gaming everything boiled down to that issue.

When I sat down to write this, I started to think that if you took 4-5 missions from the game, stitched them together as a narrative and presented it on film, I think you would have the makings of a great heroic bloodshed movie in style, and the last two missions lend themselves especially well to this kind of treatment.

So, is it the best game out there? No. Is it a fun bloody little romp through some gritty, crime-filled streets? You bet your ass!

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