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Rocksteady Studios is probably best known for the Batman: Arkham series but back in 2006 they released a gem called Urban Chaos: Riot Response for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. I had never heard of it up until a few years ago but it’s definitely one of the best console games of the sixth-generation era.
The story is told through these live action news reports from the fictitious Channel 7 News. Crime is on the rise and gangs are running rampant through the streets. I guess the regular cops suck so the T-Zero Riot Response unit was created to combat the violent gangs. As you progress through the story you’ll hear about political figures and corruption but there’s no real character development. The people aren’t big fans of T-Zero at first but as you progress and save each day, the unit becomes more accepted.
You play as T-Zero Enforcer Nick Mason in an unnamed city. Looking at the police vehicles and helicopters you’ll see the abbreviation “C.P.D.”. I’m guessing City Police Department? I’m no world traveler and one ignorant fucker but I’m guessing the developers based the city on New York and possibly other American East Coast cities. The voice acting is nothing special. The game is mission-based and you’ll be shooting your way through all kinds of city environments like city hall, housing projects, the subway, sewers, and dockyards.
Nick is a silent protagonist and here to save the day. You have one main objective in each mission and it will always involve you killing all the enemies. You seem to be up against this one gang called the Burners. They’re mean and vulgar and want to destroy everything. At first you’ll be equipped with typical weapons like a pistol and a taser for arresting enemies. You’ll also obtain a shield and you’ll be using it quite often. It’s shoot to kill and each mission has secondary objectives to complete which include a specific number of head shots, completing the mission without restarting from a checkpoint, collecting all the masks, and obtaining a specific number of arrests and completing these objectives rewards you with medals. The more medals you have the more upgrades you unlock like weapon damage upgrades, weapon attachments, better armor, more ammo, shit like that. By arresting gang leaders you can unlock Emergency Situations. These situations require you to rescue a VIP in a specific amount of time. If completed, you’ll unlock a non-approved T-Zero weapon like an assault rifle, shotgun, and even weapon upgrades.
There’s three difficulty modes to start; Rookie, Veteran, and Elite. After completing all the missions you can unlock Terror mode which is an even harder difficulty. From what I’ve played, higher difficulties just means the enemies do more damage. It also means you’ll unlock more medals. The requirements for the medals are the same for each difficulty but playing on Elite for example will unlock the medals for Veteran also. The medals and upgrades are the biggest incentive to keep you coming back and thankfully the gameplay is fun.
The controls are solid and the shooting feels great. You can hold all of the weapons and you’ll always start each mission with the T-Zero weapons but you can pick up more from fallen enemies like cleavers, molotovs, nail bombs, machine pistols, a grenade launcher, magnum pistol, sawed off shotgun, compact assault rifle, and a chainsaw. You’ll eventually unlock riot grenades which is a great alternative to the taser. The taser requires you to approach an enemy and shock him to arrest or incapacitate him. But as the enemies become better equipped approaching them becomes more of a challenge so throwing riot grenades can easily incapacitate any enemies in the blast radius. The most unique piece of equipment is the shield because it’s you’re main source of defense and you can also use it to bash dudes to death. This thing blocks gunfire and explosions so it’s one of you’re ultimate assets. It’s kind of cool to put your shield up and see the gunfire bounce off as you watch the shield fill up with bullet decals. Eventually you’ll obtain a thermal breather which you’ll need to use in areas filled with smoke. So you’ll get to kill dudes using infrared vision.
There are a few ways to fail a mission requiring you to start from a checkpoint. These include dying, a companion gets killed, or you get too close to a hostage taker causing them to kill a hostage, or of course if you kill the hostage. Now most missions will require you to rescue a hostage at some point. You’ll approach an enemy holding a hostage at gun point and you’ll need to shoot him when he reloads. The gameplay goes into a slow motion effect so it’s not really hard to miss the shot. It’s cool at first but gets old quick because it’s the same thing every time. You shoot the bad guy, he takes the hostage somewhere else, shoot him again, they move somewhere else until finally they’re in front of a spot that causes a dramatic death for the hostage taker. He’ll fall back into an oncoming train or off a ledge or into some electrical equipment. Sometimes you only need to shoot them once but the process never changes. Many times you’ll be required to escort and protect a civilian, firefighter, or medic. Civilians usually unlock or activate something allowing you to progress. Firefighters are mainly used to open doors and put out fires and medics help the injured and Nick, himself. There is no regenerating health or health packs so you can run to a medic to get healed but they can only heal you three times during a mission. Sometimes you’ll be accompanied by police officers and they can even give you ammo which I never needed. And they’ll actually kill some bad guys, usually stealing your head shot or arrest. You can order any companion to complete an action, follow you, or take cover. I rarely used the cover command as they’re pretty good at staying out of harm’s way.
The AI is decent at best. Enemies will run and try to chop you, throw cleavers, shoot at you, throw explosives, and they’ll run around and take cover from your fire. As you progress they obtain better weapons like machine pistols and assault rifles among others and at that point, playing defensively is key. At the end of the game you’ll be up against dudes with shields and these guys can be a pain in the ass. They carry magnums which take away a good amount of health so you’ll really need to be careful as only a few shots can kill you. Every now and then you’ll come up against some guy with a grenade launcher and these situations are annoying because the moment you enter a room they fire a grenade at you which pretty much explodes on impact. And I mean it. The moment you enter a room. The explosion takes away a good chunk of health and you don’t really have a lot of time to get away. Shields can block the damage but in most of these scenarios I wasn’t able to put my shield up in time unless I knew they were there so it became very trial and error. I just had to memorize their locations.
Urban Chaos looks pretty good. You’ve got some good lighting and visual effects like smoke and fire. The framerate does take a hit here and there but never really gets in the way and I did notice some minor screen tearing and the music is nothing to rave about. The gun sound effects and explosions all pack a punch and the sounds of the city in the background like honking horns and sirens are a nice touch.
Overall, Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a very fun game. It kind of makes you feel like a badass cop. Like one of those cops in the movies with no regard for public safety and they’ll do whatever it takes to kill the bad guys. Unlocking all of the upgrades may keep you coming back and the combat is just awesome. You can find it pretty cheap these days so I definitely recommend picking this one up.