NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10/16/2013
Urban Chaos: Riot Response was not the first title for this project: It started off under the title Roll Call before moving on to Zero Tolerance and finally Urban Chaos: Riot Response. While I have no way of confirming this, a reason for the final title may have been publisher Eidos trying to sell the game as a pseudo sequel to a PC/DC title simply called Urban Chaos. The first Urban Chaos was developed by Mucky Foot Productions, whose last game produced was Blade II for the PS2/Xbox. There’s some six degrees of comic book game trivia for ya’.
Prior to being the studio that helped elevate comic book themed games to Game of the Year quality productions, Rocksteady games developed the 2006 first-person shooter Urban Chaos: Riot Response starring a different type of hero: a run of the mill S.W.A.T team member.
You play as Nick Mason, a member of the multi-million dollar “T-Zero” (zero tolerance, get it?) team, which I’m fairly certain is composed of only two people, including yourself. You’re set up to stop the escalating gang threat in the city.
How you choose to tackle the urban clean up in the game is largely left up to yourself: You can go guns a blazing to kill everyone in sight, or you can choose to arrest people by subduing them with your taser. Both options play into the games extensive replay system.
Taking a page from the likes of Goldeneye, each of the missions in UC:RR gives you several objectives you can complete for bonuses: headshots, arrests, collecting a certain number of masks in each stage and taking the gang leader in alive. More medals award you various perks like additional ammo, new weapons and added armor. At the start of the game you can complete a lot of these objectives in one run through, but later on the number of headshots or arrests you need can get fairly high, thus making multiple level runs beneficial if you’re a perfectionist.
The game has a lot of the genre staples when it comes to weaponry: shotguns, rifles, pistols, etc, which all feel and react like their real life counterparts. It also has several hooks to help set it apart from other entries in the genre as well. Early on you’ll be given your T-Zero riot shield that can be raised by tapping the L1 trigger all throughout the game. It provides an interesting dynamic when approaching combat, allowing you to wait out a foe until they reload and then attack, however “turtling” behind your shield too frequently causes it to sustain damage, making it hard to see enemies in front of you.
As you are a city sanctioned police task force, you’ll also liaison with other emergency response teams like paramedics, police and firefighters. Each come with their added bonus in the various levels: paramedics can heal you, police add additional support and firefighters can put out path obstructing fires and clear debris with their axes. You’ll also be given an additional tool from them that is mainly used for breathing in burning buildings, but can be used as thermal vision goggles as well.
Capturing gang leaders opens up the games “Emergency” missions that are more twitched based than the games main levels. Here your tasked with getting to a VIP within a designated time limit and then escaping to a helicopter extraction point. None of the “Emergency” missions count towards story completion, but undertaking them nets you special weaponry that can be a great help later on, like the scoped rifle (my personal favorite weapon).
UR:RR has a lot going for it in helping it stand out against other FPS’s, but it fails to really create a sense of character or threat. There isn’t really a “big bad” in the game, and everyone you come up against will be variations of “generic thug in Jason mask”. Mason himself isn’t developed at all throughout the game, never showing an ounce of personality or muttering a word. The story is told between levels with cheesy, but well performed, fake news reports and you never once see your characters in-game model. It all goes towards putting the player into the shoes of the character, as well as further developing the idea that you’re not, well, Batman, just an ordinary law enforcement agent, but it never connects you on an emotional level with the danger as well. You’re not going to be on your edge of your seat wondering how Mason will get out of this one.
I will say though, one thing that made me scratch my head in the game was the enemies know who your character is, chanting “DIE MMMAAASSSONN!” as you enter their firing sights. I wondered, if they know who you are, why not just get you in your house off duty? One of the news reports talks about how the gang does burn your house down, but THANKFULLY, you were at a T-Zero safe house. The epilogue level also has you scrambling for anything to defend yourself when you’re attacked at your new home. I appreciated these little touches in a game with not that interesting of a story.
Rocksteady did a good job of slowly introducing things within the game to keep the rather short story campaign fresh, but a sense of repetition also slowly crawls starts to take over when you realize that each of the levels are the same goals just put together differently. You arrive on scene, shoot some thugs, take out a gang leader and then engage in a stand-off hostage situation. The mechanics are solid enough to hold up through the campaign, but fatigue may stop you from collecting all the medals, which they clearly want you to do.
I’ll touch briefly on multi-player, in that I didn’t play it. This was an online game on the PS2 back in 2006, but in 2013 the serves for this game are obviously shut down.
Anyone who’s ever been curious to find out what Rocksteady did prior to popularizing The Bat in the interactive space, or even understanding why people had their trepidations over Batman: Arkham Asylum while it was still gestating, I’d check out UC:RR. If anything, there’s not a lot of police theme shooters on the market for consoles, and is backed by great gunplay and some interesting ideas in a rather compact campaign.