Every now and then a game comes along that turns out to be a pleasant surprise, and Urban Chaos was a real shock. Expecting yet another generic, by-the-numbers first person shooter what we have here is a quiet classic, a game that does everything it set out to do and supplies you the gamer with everything you could ask of it.
You play super cop Nick Mason (no, not the ancient Pink Floyd drummer), an ex-US marine seconded to elite cop unit T-Zero, an counter-gang unit specially trained in all areas of urban combat and armed with the very latest high-tech weaponry. With the normal cops outgunned and the fire department and paramedics under constant threat as they respond to incidents, T-Zero is the last line of law enforcement in a city at melting point due to gang warfare, and is all that stands in the way of total anarchy. Crikey, that sounds like waaaaaay too much responsibility for me…
Not always a good sign, this game has been through a name change or two; Roll Call, Zero Tolerance, it finally ended up as Urban Chaos Riot Response – and boy! Are there some riots to respond to, and boy do they test your tolerance. I say ‘tolerance’ because you can play nice guy cop from the start if you like, and subdue just about every single rioter you come up against with your stun gun – but you’d have to be a saint to do that, and oh what waste of your meaty T-Zero weapons that would be too (riot shield, automatic pistol, shotgun, assault rifle) not to mention picked-up enemies’ weapons (sawn off shotguns, Magnums, stonecutter saws, nail bombs, meat cleavers – you name it). This is one violent and bloody game, with language to suit, so don’t play it when Gran comes around.
Having got used to Xbox 360 graphics, Urban Chaos didn’t exactly blow me away, it all looks a bit “PS2” but the chunky character models are all detailed and move in a convincing way. Most importantly of all, the game moves smoothly and aims accurately without the need for aim assist (something that not many 360 shooters can lay claim to), and the weapons feel wonderfully powerful and suitably devastating to use – when you shoot someone with a .44 Magnum in this game, they stay down – possible because you blew their head off. Plenty of exploding scenery and Havok physics give the maps loads of life, as well as alternative ways of offing bad guys (see a gas tank then shoot it, don’t go and stand by it). Your riot shield (hold the left trigger) is a brilliant and vital aid, giving you protection from just about anything, bullets or fire – primarily used as protection, you can also use it to batter enemies to death with – brutal but very satisfying! You also get an occasional slo-mo sequence showing the death of the enemy you just shot – you can trigger this function any time you like by rotating the right stick twice – it’s a very neat feature and allows you to see the excellent Havok physics and neat ragdoll effects at work.
Levels vary as you get moved around the city from incident to incident, they never open out too much but are always tense and exciting to play; aggressive and varied AI assures a different experience every time and although linear, the missions allow for plenty of experimentation with how to take these criminals down.
You’ll have to work alongside other cops, protect and assist firemen (watch out for backdrafts!) and paramedics (they can heal you three times per level). You get a basic set of Rainbow Six-style orders and can tell them to cover an area, break down a door or barricade, put out a fire or heal an injured civilian. Levels often have "sub boss" characters (bonus medals for taking them alive) and end with a face off with a boss character, often well guarded, heavily armed or holding a hostage, and there are plenty of scripted, brutal and amusing deaths for these uber-baddies – expect chopper blade-related gore and electric frazzling with a couple of them - lovely! Urban Chaos soon sucked me in and it’s an engaging and exciting experience - the levels aren’t too big and the restart points aren’t too far apart should you get killed. Three difficulty setting and loads of unlockable weapon upgrades and “emergency” missions give the game plenty of replay value too.
The multiplayer game consists of team-based Counter-Strike-style objective-based missions; one team plays T-Zero, one plays the terrorists; protect T-Zero vans, or VIPs, or suchlike, and it’s great… The only problem being that during this review we only ever found other people to play it with online twice, and the most we ever managed was 2 versus 2 – some of the maps are quite expansive and the maximum 8 players would have been so much better, but no one seems to be playing this excellent shooter, they’re all still playing Halo 2 or some overrated, slow-moving twaddle with Tom Clancy’s name on it.
Okay, bottom line; this is a top shooter that (as long as you’re not a graphics tart) will hold your attention from start to finish. The presentation is in the style of a Channel 7 news bulletin with real live footage, not always the best idea as it’s often at odds with the in-game graphics but it works well on this occasion. Urban Chaos reminds me of another underrated and sadly overlooked Xbox shooter, SWAT Global Strike Team, but I have a feeling that some of the same talented guys may have worked on both games. It’s a shame there aren’t more people playing the multiplayer game online but maybe you can tell some of your mates to buy it and we can get together for a game – you won’t regret it.