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Urban Chaos: Riot Response
Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Argonaut Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Urban Chaos: Riot Response is the latest from stalwart publisher Eidos Interactive, who brought us such classic games as Tomb Raider, the Hitman series and more. This title is an interesting mix of FPS goodness with layers of strategy involving unique weapons and resources, such as firefighters, riot shields and more.

They also paired up with newcomer RockSteady Games, and Argonaut Games, who actually come from the glory days of 16-bit gaming, bringing us awesome games like Star Fox (“Do a barrel roll!”) FX Fighter and the underrated King Arthur’s World.

Graphically, UC: RR is a pretty solid looking game. The gritty urban landscapes look like World War 3 just hit, and really bring home the frenzy of combat. Character models are equally well-animated and textured, showing a lot of detail - especially when you blow their heads off. Yes…. not since Soldier of Fortune have I seen this much gore in a FPS, a welcome surprise indeed. Personally, I think the more visceral you can make an already Mature game, the better. While that may sound a little sadistic, you just can’t beat the impact of a decapitation via shotgun - in slow motion! Obviously, this is definitely not a game for kids. Some of the effects are also really awesome, from the demonic fire, to the way bullets ricochet off all manner of objects, showing off the realistic rag doll physics and collision programming. Even the way your shield gets scarred from impacts is equally impressive. And from a technical standpoint, these late (more like last…) generation games for the PS2 are really smoothing out the frame rates and stutters; there is also minimal pop-up and shearing.

In the sound department, we have a pretty solid showing as well. You have your average assortment of gunfire, screams, explosions, and blood-curdling cries for help and so on, expected in a police adventure such as this. But what really sets this title apart are its enemies' reactions. Many will yell to high heaven for help as their buddies are turned into Swiss cheese all around them. This effect is similar to the way foes react in Condemned: Criminal Origins, another moody police thriller. Along with this, there are a few cinematic sequences with generic voice acting, but at least the script isn’t half bad.

The soundtrack is a rip-roaring rock ensemble, glorifying the Butt Rock of my youth (think Ratt and Twisted Sister) - how can you beat that? It almost seems like the kind of music you would hear in the arcade machines, blasting away as you clean up onscreen. The only minor annoyance is the funky announcer who alarms you again and again when you get certain items and whatnot.

You are Nick Mason, bad-ass member of the “T-Zero” police unit, a collection of highly trained anti-gang urban warfare specialists. This in itself is a rather refreshing take on the modicum of S.E.A.L. intensive Spec Op games that clog the market, and is more in the vein of S.W.A.T.. Nick is propelled by vengeance for his father’s death in the line of duty, and will stop at nothing until the filth of the city have been cleansed. Throughout the game, you will assist local firefighters, rescue civilians, and provide the elite backbone to the everyday flatfoot cop. Do you have what it takes to stop the nefarious Burner Gang from laying waste to your city?

Before each mission, a quality full-motion video sequence plays out, briefing on your objectives and goals, in classic fake news style. It could be a government building one day, or near the harbor the next, but most involve confined spaces teeming with thugs. In order to wade through said thugs, you have a wide array of equipment at your disposal. First, your critical riot shield protects you from all manner of scum and works similar to the one in Counter-Strike 1.6, with the way you can shift it over and fire, then quickly replace it. However, you can also toss grenades over, and even throttle someone in the face with it. Very cool. Besides this tool, you get to wield all manner of shotguns, handguns, machine guns, stun guns and more - even enemy weapons like Molotov cocktails and heavy blades. Many weapons can also be upgraded, and have secondary modes for zooming, firing modes and more.

As far as storyline goes (11 missions plus 7 or so bonus), as you progress you start to realize Nick Mason is in a tough position. While being a part of law enforcement, he must follow certain rules of conduct such as not shooting first and asking questions later - one reason you get a taser. However, the sheer unrelenting nature of your terrorist foes makes it such that you are often forced into vigilantism, like most other action games out there. Thankfully, the main saving grace for this title are the little excursions into the realm of rescue and protecting civilians. Often you will be paired with a paramedic, a fireman or a regular police officer. Each has their respective roles; firemen extinguish flames, cops help smack down criminals, and medics run around saving would-be casualties of terror. You can even issue them commands, which launches Urban Chaos: Riot Response into the area of quasi-squad based gameplay.

Also worthy of note are the oodles of special incentives for each level; such things as headshots, survivor goals and searching for clues to name a few. As you pile these accolades up, they get progressively harder to attain. Some may think these are just “fluff” thrown in to lengthen the game, but heed my advice: collect as many of these bonuses as you can. The rewards can range from advanced weaponry like sniper rifles, to a host of upgradeable tools.

Finally, there is multiplayer support available, where each battle is set-up in a mission like objective, such as hostage rescue, defense/attack, and so on, pitting the vile Burners against the heroic T-Zero forces.

Urban Chaos: Riot Response isn’t terribly difficult, but it does have an interesting feature that should test you throughout. As you progress, the enemy A.I. scales up to match your increased arsenal (hopefully buffed with a lot of upgrades) and experience. But really, this seems a bit gimmicky more than anything, and you really don’t register a huge leap in brainpower from your foes. Most gamers have played a handful of FPS's in their life, and they should quickly be able to jump right into this title and start laying the proverbial smack down.

Game Mechanics:
Control wise, this game is pretty responsive overall, but also had some quirky button configurations. The weapons are mapped to the face buttons; easy for quick changes, but also a bit odd for me, personally. Like most games, the left analog stick moves your character around, the right one aims for those crucial shots and so forth. There are several objects you have to interact with in-game, and luckily, there aren’t any hang-ups in that regard, from opening doors, to climbing ladders, everything comes off without a hitch.

Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a solid title that incorporates lovely graphics, pulse-pounding, gore-filled gameplay and an interesting blend of squad-based strategy. It is altogether a pleasant surprise for the PS2 library, and any FPS fan should be stoked to try this great game out.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

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