Urban Reign E3 2005 Preshow Impressions

We pound pavement, and a whole bunch of bad guys, in our hands-on look at THQ's new street brawler.

The setting is an American city in the near future, a city where social order has broken down and the only rule on the streets is determined by the multitude of gangs that roam the urban blight looking to take out members of rival factions. That's the situation in which you will find yourself in Urban Reign, Namco's upcoming urban fighting game for the PlayStation 2.

You'll want to watch your back in Urban Reign--bad guys are everywhere and they're looking for a fight.

While the storyline is still hazy at this point, the basic gist is that your main character is a tough for hire, recruited by a local gang to be a bodyguard for the big boss. As you make your way through the gritty urban landscape, you'll naturally run into near-overwhelming odds of rival gang members looking to do you--and the guy you work for--in. It's fortunate then, that you've got a large amount of pugilistic talent on your side, because Urban Reign will be all about beating the waves of opponents senseless as you progress through the story.

While many of the basic fighting moves we saw were your basic punch and kick combinations, it's safe to say that Urban Reign will feature multiple fighting styles, including traditional martial arts and wrestling tosses. You'll even be able to run up the sides of walls and pull off impressive backflips while cutting a swath through your enemies. In our time with the game, we saw everything from devastating uppercuts to punishing body slams, all aimed to do as much damage to the bad guys as possible. Even with all your skills, the number of baddies may turn out to be too much for you--which is where the game's computer-controlled allies come into play. As the story unfolds, Urban Reign will introduce you to multiple characters that will assist you in the city street battles that erupt throughout the game. These characters will be capable fighters in their own right, but when they're teamed directly with you, you'll be able to pull off combo moves that will devastate your opponents. One player may toss up a bad guy, for example, only to have the other combatant (who is helping you) catch him in midair and smash him to the ground. The types of combo moves you'll be able to execute will depend on who you're teamed with at any particular moment, and with more than 60 playable characters in the multiplayer mode, you'll have lots of combo moves to choose from.

Making your way through the approximately 100 missions found in Urban Reign will require more than fists and feet. The game also features more than 30 weapons available to you, including bats, broken bottles, and blades, as well as weapon-specific moves that open up accordingly. Many of the weapons will be lying on the ground as a mission starts, but you'll also be able to knock them out of the hand of your opponents, pick up the weapon, and go to town on his head. Multiplayer combat for up to four players, via the PS2 multitap, will let you get busy with your friends, ganging up on each other in your attempts to rule the streets.

Lucky for you, there will be more than 60 playable characters in the game, so you'll have plenty of backup.

So far, what we've seen of Urban Reign's graphics have been impressive. The game moves at a steady clip and features ruined urban landscapes, such as junkyards, abandoned buildings, and dank alleyways, which are inhabited by gritty streetwise character models. Each model's attire resembles his fighting style in a way, so you can expect to see hip-hop brawlers in stylish gear while martial artists will likely be sporting traditional loose-fitting guise. Even though the game isn't overtly gory, you'll still be able to see some bloodstains dotting characters' shirts. Punches and kicks that find their mark are accompanied with a snappy lighting effect that adds weight to the blow.

Urban Reign is built firmly on the foundations of metropolis-themed beat-'em-ups that have come before it, such as The Bouncer and Streets of Rage. With a huge cast of characters, interesting combo moves, and action galore, it will be interesting to see how this title shapes up in the coming months. Specifically, we hope to learn more about the plot that drives the game, as well as get a better feel of the spectrum of combat options that will be available. We'll have more on Urban Reign in the near future.

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