Urban Chaos (DC) Review

Somewhere inside the Dreamcast version of Urban Chaos is a decent game, struggling to escape. But the layers and layers of flaws completely negate any strong points the game could have had.

Like your everyday action movie, Urban Chaos shoots for the "short on plot, long on action" formula. The Dreamcast release, with its sickeningly sluggish frame rates and equally sinister control schemes, takes what was a charming PC beat-'em-up with a twist of Tomb Raider for good measure and vandalizes it beyond recognition.

The year 2000 is coming, and Union City is heating up. Gang warfare is at an all-time high, and the local gang, called the Wildcats, seems to have ties to some sort of apocalyptic cult. You, as D'arci Stern, rookie cop, must first work through a few training missions, which detail things like how to fight and how to control a vehicle. The training missions are an illustration of exactly what is wrong with Urban Chaos, teaching you useful things like how the vehicle driving controls constantly stutter or why pushing up on the analog to move forward and up on the digital pad at the same time to force your character to walk isn't feasible when you're trying to navigate tight ledges. Once you've gone through the three different types of training, it's on to the streets of Union City. In each level, you're given a few main objectives to accomplish. In one, you must arrest at least one mugger and return an abandoned vehicle to the station. In another, you have to find a way to get a suicidal man down from a building. Optional secondary objectives occasionally pop up as well, asking you to locate a stolen police car or find a murderer. Eventually, you'll run into the mysterious Roper, and you'll begin to piece together the apocalyptic nature of the game's overall plot.

The game features two different control schemes, and they're both fairly difficult to use. In the default scheme, you use the analog stick to move in a Tomb Raider-style configuration, where left and right make you turn. The other scheme takes the now-standard 3D platformer approach, where pushing in a certain direction simply moves you in that direction. With the exception of the occasional camera angle change, this scheme works a bit better. You can jump, punch, and kick, and there's also an all-purpose action button for flipping switches, picking up items, and so on. When you encounter an enemy, you're thrown into a lock-on targeting mode, where you're constantly facing one foe. Pressing the action button cycles through your targets. The hand-to-hand fighting allows for some combos, but the timing on these combos is needlessly difficult and not at all in line with the rest of the game's beat-'em-up nature.

There's an unwritten rule in console gaming: If you're going to port a PC game over to a console, at least have the decency to strike a balance between graphical effects and acceptable frame rates. Due to a lack of either interest or time, no one even bothered to balance Urban Chaos. Instead, the job is left to you in the form of a screen full of configuration options, which allows you to tinker with the shadows and other graphical effects. With all the effects on, the frame rate occasionally drops down to the 10 frames per second range. With everything turned off, well, the frame rate isn't much better. On the PC, when you're dealing with a nearly infinite number of hardware combinations, it makes sense to allow the user to tweak the game to work optimally on his or her machine. In a Dreamcast game, such an option comes across as sheer laziness.

The sound in Urban Chaos is very low-key. During normal play, all you hear is the sound of the streets - passing cars and the like. Break into a sprint, and you're treated to a short loop of "D'arci is sprinting" music. Beyond that, you're left with some poorly performed and occasionally obscenity-filled (hey, being a cop is a gritty business) voice acting. Each line of dialogue is preceded by fairly noticeable popping noise as the engine kicks into "playing speech clips" mode, and the time between clips is long enough to make the conversations you have seem completely alien in nature, with no natural flow whatsoever.

Somewhere inside the Dreamcast version of Urban Chaos is a decent game, struggling to escape. But the layers and layers of flaws completely negate any strong points the game could have had. If you absolutely must play Urban Chaos, do yourself a favor and play the PC version, which actually manages to look and play well, something neither of the console versions of the game have been able to accomplish.

The Good

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The Bad

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About the Author

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

Urban Chaos

First Released Nov 30, 1999
  • Dreamcast
  • PC
  • PlayStation

The fact that Urban Chaos is an enjoyable third-person action game with no switch flipping, box pushing, or key finding should be reason enough for you to purchase it.


Average Rating

498 Rating(s)

Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Animated Blood, Animated Violence, Strong Language