Urban Chaos: Riot Response

Urban Chaos: Riot Response

The best way to defeat a city full of arsonists is to shoot them all in the face.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 26, 2006
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When UK developer Mucky Foot first created the world of Union City for Urban Chaos, they probably had no idea they wouldn't be carrying it on less than a decade later. Though the game was remarkably pretty on the PC (it offered a quasi-free roaming world with lots of, um, stuff blowing around), the Dreamcast and especially PlayStation versions were crap ports, and most of us in the office figured we'd never see another game when Mucky Foot closed down in 2003.

Ah, but Eidos is nothing if not eager to use the IP that they have, and they still held the UC name. Perhaps it's at least fitting that fellow Brits worked on the sequel, even if it is about as different from the game's open-ended third-person melee combat as a game with the same name could get. Riot Response shares the city and a title with the original Mucky Foot product, but rather than using the millennium as the plot device, this time it's something of a 9/11 tribute.

I'm not kidding, this is a fairly blatant nod to the unity that came out of the Twin Towers attack, where the rescue crews that gave their lives there and helped rescue those they could were exonerated as heroes. Though it feels somehow cheapened here, the core of Riot Response is good enough that it doesn't feel like it's poking fun at the work the fire, police and EMT folks do every day. On the contrary, even as a bad-ass cop with a license to off a city-wide gang of arsonists with extreme prejudice, you still depend on civil servants to aid you throughout the game.

That doesn't mean you're not going to charge through most of the game as a fairly typical first-person shooter badass. In this case, you're Nick Mason, leader of T-Zero, the new zero tolerance branch of the police force created by the Mayor to combat the Burners, a gang rapidly taking over the city. Mason is given free rein to do as he pleases, using military-grade weapons if need be (and there will be a need) to fill as many Burner faces with assorted projectiles as possible.

Though a core part of the game comes from having cops, firemen and medics to order around and support you, make no mistake: this no happy-feely way of dealing with criminals. You can taser them, sure (and this is actually a key part of the game's bonuses), but you can also use the taser to light their balls on fire if you want, and another bonus in the game comes from forcefully turning bad guys' faces into pulp with a well-aimed headshot.

These side bonuses include seeking out a handful of iconic Burner masks that are somehow used as evidence, making it through a level without dying, and subduing gang leaders with a taser shot rather than blowing them away in addition to zapping a handful of guys or popping a couple times more heads. If you do manage to bring in a gang leader alive, it'll unlock bonus timed missions where you'll have access to experimental weaponry that you can keep for the rest of the game if you're successful.

These little bonus incentives are what help keep the game from becoming too tired or derivative. Yes, they're simple objectives, but as the number of required thugs to pop or zap grows, gaining those all-important medals to unlock new, more powerful weapons (complete with a retarded "YOU HAVE UNLOCKED... THE BABY PUNCHER 3000!!!!" voice over) becomes more important. It's also the only source of distraction from the main game beyond hostage situations, where you'll have to wait for the hostage taker to reload before you pop them a few times in the face, leading to a slo-mo death that's usually quite gruesome.

Hostage situations -- and indeed the rest of the game -- require more than just patience. Nick has with him a riot shield that can be used to repel incoming automatic weapons fire, chucked cleavers, chainsaw blades and, um, rockets fired from rocket launchers? Okay, so it's not terribly realistic, but it does give the game a nice bit of strategy. Allowing you time to pause to do things like reload, switch weapons (which along with reloading, is handled with the face buttons), and issues orders (conveniently, you can order any hangers-on to open doors or take cover or follow you with the d-pad and the AI is actually rather intelligent).

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