Urban Chaos: Riot Response Single-Player Hands-On
We play through the early single-player missions of Eidos' upcoming shooter for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox.
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Urban Chaos: Riot Response, the first-person shooter formerly known as Roll Call and Zero Tolerance, will be arriving in North American stores next week. We'll have a full review for you soon, of course, but since this is the first opportunity that we've had to play through any of the game's single-player missions, we couldn't resist the urge to share our thoughts on the experience thus far. If you're interested in Riot Response's multiplayer content, check out our report on the game from last month's Electronic Entertainment Expo.
In Urban Chaos: Riot Response you'll assume the role of Nick Mason, a member of Franklin City's controversial new "T-Zero" police unit. The name T-Zero is a reference to the unit's zero-tolerance policy on crime, which means that you're authorized to dole out justice using shotguns, assault rifles, grenades, and the like. You'll also be equipped with an extremely sturdy riot shield, which you can hide behind at any time and also use to bash in the faces of any enemies who get a little too close for comfort.
The enemies that we've been battling against in Urban Chaos: Riot Response so far have all been members of the Burners gang--a well-organized group of pyromaniacs who wear hockey masks and carry meat cleavers, Molotov cocktails, and chain saws, in addition to more-conventional weapons. The gang members' actions in the game appear to be tightly scripted for the most part, which has made them a little predictable when we've had to attempt a level two or three times before beating it, but they're still incredibly satisfying to kill. The Burners' deaths are satisfying largely because of how single-mindedly aggressive they are as soon as they spot you, but also because the game's over-the-top blood effects and rag-doll physics make every bad guy's demise a pleasure to watch--especially on the occasions when you're treated to a slow-motion replay.
If all of this makes Urban Chaos: Riot Response sound like a mindless, gung-ho violence-fest, it's because, at times, that's exactly what it is. There's a lot more to the game than that, though, like incapacitating bad guys without killing them, for example. Every mission has a number of different challenges that you can complete to earn medals, and although the challenge that tasks you with scoring a certain number of headshots is undoubtedly our favorite, there's another that involves capturing criminals using a (mostly) nonlethal stun gun. Earning medals is important because they're used to unlock additional weapon and body armor options, and in many of the levels that we've played through to date, capturing a gang leader is the only way to gain access to a timed "emergency" bonus level.
The strange thing about the medals and upgrades system in Urban Chaos: Riot Response is that it could conceivably have the effect of making the game easier for those of you who are already breezing through it, while making it even more challenging for any of you who are struggling to complete even the easier challenges. With that said, you'll have the option to replay levels at any time, and you're not required to gain all of the medals on a single run. So, if you're desperate to get your hands on a body armor upgrade before attempting your next mission, for example, you might choose to play through one of your previously completed missions simply to complete one of the medal challenges that you missed the first time around.
Nonlethal arrests and medal challenges aren't the only things that punctuate the occasionally mindless action of Urban Chaos: Riot Response, since the game also boasts some nice set pieces and interactions with characters from other emergency services. Hostage situations are the most common set pieces that we've encountered in the game so far, and although they're not particularly challenging, there's something quite satisfying about letting a bad guy unload a full ammo clip into your shield and then dropping your guard for just long enough to pick him off with a headshot when he pauses to reload. The other emergency services personnel that you'll be working alongside and exercising some control over include paramedics, firefighters, and regular police. These characters often join you for missions that task you with rescuing injured civilians from burning buildings and the like. And when you're not simply instructing them to follow you or to take cover, you can instruct them to heal you, attend to other characters who are injured or carry them to safety, break down doors, and put out fires.
Since the appropriately named Burners have a penchant for starting fires, you'll find that many of the urban levels you explore are already ablaze when you arrive on the scene. The fires not only look quite impressive, but they also have an impact on the gameplay, since the resulting smoke really impacts your visibility in places. One of the upgrades that you'll unlock as you progress through the single-player game is a thermal breather, which has the effect of stopping Mason from repeatedly coughing as he moves through burning buildings and also affords you Splinter Cell-style thermal vision, without which it can be almost impossible to locate enemies in some places.
We're only about halfway through Urban Chaos: Riot Response's single-player campaign right now, but so far we're having a lot of fun with it. Be sure to check back next week for our full review.