URBAN CHAOS: RIOT RESPONSE / Eidos / Playstation 2

Riot Response takes us back to the glorious days of the 1980s in Hollywood and Japanese game design, where impossibly large and well-funded gangs of The Punks would rise up out of nowhere to cause delightful mayhem in New York City and similar major metro areas. You play as a new member of a special paramilitary riot control squad, sent to New York to quell the increasingly bold and violent hijinks of a gang called The Burners, a bunch of hockey mask fellows who look like they stepped out of Manhunt or the original Ninja Gaiden arcade game.

Interestingly, none of this has anything to do with the original Urban Chaos, which was sort of a clumsy attempt to do a GTA3-style game one whole generation before the actual GTA3. They now have the technology to pull off an "open world" style, but the game instead switches styles completely to being a very linear FPS in the mold of the Medal of Honor games, where corridors carry you between big set-piece battles. Development has switched hands from Mucky Foot in the original to Rocksteady in this one; I assume only the name was kept because it was fitting and sounded cool, otherwise this is really just an entirely new game altogether.

The game has fairly spiff production values and came out in 2006 near the end of the PS2 life cycle, so it does look and sound pretty nice. The character models are creepily inexpressive (also recalling Medal Of Honor), but the backgrounds are detailed and the environmental effects like fire and such are fairly impressive. The director is maybe just a bit too fond of random rumbling and screen shaking at scripted interludes, but otherwise the play control is smooth. Music and voice acting are forgettable, except for the odd alternative-country song that plays over the title screen and menus ("I AM A MANG ... WHO IS CONFUSED"). Songs with lyrics over the title/menus are never a good look, especially ones that sound like they belong over the intro of Swamp Hunters or Pawn Stars or whatever. One nice touch is that actual live-action footage was filmed for news broadcast cutscenes in between levels, and both the production values and acting here are actually pretty decent.

When the game revolves around Time Cop-esque shooting scenes, where you alternate between ducking behind your seemingly indestructible riot shield for cover and busting out your improbable collection of weaponry, it's really pretty fun. Where it falls apart is in the smattering of "search and rescue" missions, such as poking around a burning building full of smoke, lacking in light, with holes all through the floor and generally just confusing as hell to navigate. Instead of shooting Burners, you're hauling wounded patients out in some tight time limit, which is about the standard "escort mission" levels of terrible. The unlockable "emergency scenarios", wherein you win new weapons for your arsenal, are also balls due to ridiculously tight time limits. You will fail them the first time, guaranteed, because they're impossible to complete without totally knowing the layout in advance and moving perfectly.

This is also another of those PS2 games that had an online component, but the servers have been dark for years, so who knows how that is.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video