Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a fairly unremarkable shooter in most respects, but it packs a lot of fun into its simple design.
- Gruesomely gratifying combat
- More than 15 missions and 200 special-achievement medals to unlock
- Riot-shield mechanic works well without making the game too easy.
- Scripted artificial intelligence is very predictable
- Friendly characters often get in your way or get stuck trying to follow you.
It went through three different names in its development, but Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a fitting name for this action-packed first-person shooter. Not to be confused with the third-person action game that appeared on the PC, Dreamcast, and PlayStation some years back, this Urban Chaos is an extremely violent and entertaining take on the familiar cops-versus-criminals themed first-person shooter. It's campy in its excess, but if you're just looking for some fast-paced, mindless shooting, you can't go wrong with Urban Chaos.
You are ex-Marine Nick Mason, a tough-as-nails officer in the newly formed T-Zero elite police force. T-Zero stands for "zero tolerance," which is right in line with the no-nonsense tactics employed by the officers in this controversial police force. The force has been assembled to address the increasing gang violence in the no-name city in which the game takes place. It seems that a brutal gang of terrorists known as The Burners has essentially turned the city into a war zone, burning just about everything and everyone in sight. It's up to T-Zero, and you specifically, to take back the streets using whatever means necessary. If that means stun-gunning a gang leader and interrogating him, that's fine. If it means blowing his head off with a point-blank shotgun blast, that's fine, as well. You even get to pelt a skyscraper with a chain gun and blow up an entire city block to exterminate a few gang members. With tactics like these, it's no wonder T-Zero is stirring up controversy among the worried citizens who foot the bill for all that collateral damage.
There are more than 15 missions in the single-player campaign in Urban Chaos. More than half of those are basic story missions that require you to do things like kill a lot of enemies, arrest gang leaders, save hostages, and escort emergency workers through danger zones. There are also emergency missions that you can unlock by arresting and interrogating gang leaders. The emergency missions are timed and usually require you to rescue hostages and escort them to safety. All of the missions in the game are very straight forward, thanks to the constant instructions you receive from dispatch via your radio. For the most part, the story missions just require you to run from one area to the next, blasting everything that gets in your way.
Occasionally, you have to team up with emergency workers to rescue civilians, operate machinery, and so on. You don't directly control these workers, but you can easily issue commands using the D pad. The workers follow behind you and usually stay out of the way, but they do occasionally get stuck in tight areas or get in your way as you try to move. Each emergency worker has special abilities that are required to complete various missions. Firefighters can chop down locked doors, extinguish fires, and carry people from burning buildings. Police officers can provide cover fire, and medics can heal people. You'll come to rely quite heavily on the medics in the game, because they are your only source of health. The medics come along on most missions, but they don't just follow you around waiting to patch you up. If you find yourself about to die, you'll usually have to backtrack a little bit to find the nearest medic. Even then, the medics' supplies are limited, so you have to be careful about staying out of the way of the Molotov cocktails, cleavers, and chain saws that The Burners are so fond of.
Fortunately, as a T-Zero officer you're always well equipped to handle just about everything The Burners can throw at you. The most important piece of equipment you'll have is a riot shield. This shield can stand up to just about anything, from magnum rounds to rockets. You can hold the shield up and slowly creep forward, which is a great way to establish position in a firefight. You can also get up close to an enemy and use the shield to rearrange his face. Since you can't fire your weapons while holding up your shield, you'll quickly settle into a pattern of letting an enemy shoot the shield a few times, then returning fire while he reloads his weapon. Although the shield is arguably the most important item in the game, it doesn't make you invincible. You still have to be careful about getting attacked from the side or getting blown up by a nail bomb tossed at your feet.
In addition to the riot shield, you can use a wide variety of guns and explosives. You start out with a pistol, which is the most versatile and useful weapon in the game. The pistol comes with a ton of ammo, has a quick rate of fire, and is so accurate you'll often end up using it like you would a sniper rifle. That accuracy means that you can use the pistol to really start racking up the head shots, and it isn't uncommon to get 30 or more headshots in a single level. Aside from the pistol, your other starting equipment is a stun gun. This can be used to get nonlethal takedowns, but if you shock a guy for too long, he'll catch on fire. As you play the game, you'll eventually earn a shotgun, assault rifle, stun grenades, and more. Also, you can use any weapon that you pick up from the corpses of The Burners, so items such as cleavers, nail bombs, grenade launchers, and chainsaws are at your disposal, as well. All of the weapons are fun and satisfying to use, but most of them are just for fun. When it comes to actually taking care of business, you can get through most of the game using only the pistol and the shield.
A big part of what makes the gunplay fun in Urban Chaos is the fast, visceral thrill that comes from blasting dozens and dozens of hockey-mask-wearing psychos. An enemy will curse your mother and then charge you and try to sink a rusty cleaver into your skull, which is exciting enough. But then when you turn on him at the last second and blast him in the face and watch his head disappear (in superslow motion, of course), it's quite gratifying in a depraved sort of way. Most of the enemies you face won't take more than a couple shots to put down, so the game compensates by throwing tons of enemies at you. The enemies are very scripted, though, so if you die in a certain area and start over from the last checkpoint, you'll see the exact same enemies pop up in the exact same spots and do the exact same thing each and every time. Eventually, it just comes down to trial-and-error, as you memorize the placement and behavior of all the enemies in a given level.
If you get tired of shooting at mindless computer opponents you can take the game online with eight-player team battles. Oddly enough, there's no option for split-screen multiplayer, so you either have to use a system link set-up, or play the game online. There are nine maps to choose from, each with a different objective based on whether you're playing on the side of The Burners or T-Zero. The goals are simple, like controlling a specific point on the map or defending a truck for a specific amount of time. Each time you respawn you can choose a weapon to use, and each team has a unique arsenal. Although The Burners and the T-Zero officers play very differently, the game doesn't feel unbalanced. For example, the Burners don't get a shield, but they make up for that with stronger weapons. Because most of the maps are small, the multiplayer game is just as fast and fun as the single-player game. Even without the full eight players, the action is always hectic and you'll see an almost constant stream of messages about who just blew who's head off.
The gritty, dark presentation of Urban Chaos matches the violent theme of the game. The enemies wear blood-spattered hockey masks and shout all kinds of obscenities, and they all look and sound appropriately menacing. The expletives do lose some effect over time though, because you'll hear the same few phrases repeated throughout the game. Most of the levels take place in burning buildings or deserted streets, but you'll also get to visit more pleasant locales such as sewers and subway tunnels. Despite the fact that there's always a lot of explosions and chaos going on, the frame rate is fairly steady most of the time. Between levels you can watch some cheesy but remarkably well-done fake news broadcasts detailing the exploits of T-Zero and The Burners.
The Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of the game look and play practically the same. The biggest difference between the two is the online play. Whereas Xbox Live makes it easy to get online and play if you already have an account, the PlayStation 2 version uses third-party software that requires a bit more in the way of set-up. Other than that, the choice comes down to a matter of preference.
You can beat the game in less than six hours, but those hours will be packed with action, because there are very few slow moments in the game. Once you finish the campaign, you can go back and play it on a harder difficulty, or you can try to collect all of the more than 200 medals in the game. Medals are awarded for getting a certain number of headshots or nonlethal takedowns, finding hidden evidence in each level, and arresting gang leaders. As you earn medals, you'll get upgrades to your weapons, body armor, and shield.
Urban Chaos: Riot Response is a simple but satisfying take on the first-person shooter. It doesn't get bogged down in realism, tactics, or story. Instead, it just gives you a lot of great weapons and a ton of enemies to shoot. The game's twisted sense of humor and tendency toward overindulgence make it that much more enjoyable. If you're looking for a fun, pick-up-and-play shooter, and don't mind a lot of senseless brutality, Urban Chaos is the game for you.