Third person shooter reviewed
Happy New Year!
"In the year of 1999, and seven months, from the sky will come the great King of Terror. He will bring to life the great King of the Mongols. Before and after war reigns happily."
That's the cheerful message you get on first running Urban Chaos! It's coming to the end of the millennium in Union City, and crime is at an unprecedented high. You play Officer D'arci Stern, a rookie cop assisting the already weakening police force in quelling the increasing crime wave.
It's bedlam, with murder, vandalism, joy riding and even suicides a daily occurrence. There's a strange feeling about it all, a feeling that there's something more to all of this. Maybe someone else pulling the strings.
And it's down to you to thwart the spread of evil throughout Union City. With the assistance of informants like Deeks, the stranger Roper and other characters, you will slowly come to realise that routine crime is barely just the start of it. You need all your wits about you if you are to prevent Urban Chaos...
Before you can head out on to the streets you need to perform some mandatory training. First up you need to complete an assault course. This teaches you to jump, climb, and even how to use a zip-line to slide to otherwise inaccessible locations. You need to finish this course within a certain amount of time.
You will then be taken for combat training. This will teach you the basic kicks and punches that D'Arci can perform. You spar against real targets, and get to perform the wonderful triple kick or punch moves. You will also learn how to slide tackle your enemy, which will allow you to perform arrests without the loss of ammo or energy.
Now that basic training is out of the way it's time to get mean on the streets.
Urban Chaos is mission based, and the tasks laid out for you can range from preventing someone from committing suicide to taking out a gang Kingpin. The game is only saved upon mission completion, which gives it a refreshing console-like feel.
There's enough variety in the missions to keep interest flowing, even though the terrain doesn't exactly alter that much throughout the game. And you will soon be finding your own favourite way of taking the enemy down, mine being a triple punch, knee in guts and arrest combination... Nice!
The enemies themselves aren't that bright when it comes to combat, but their ability to chase after you is pretty impressive. If you scale a ladder thinking this will lose a persistent assailant, they will follow. This can provide great entertainment, as you can hear their footfalls on the ladder steps. As soon as their head pops into view, let loose with your choice of weapon.
In fact, unless the enemy has a gun they really aren't that difficult to nail. Sometimes when you get three or four of them attacking you one might clobber you to the floor. This is where you can lose a lot of energy, as they stamp on you while you're down!
A single gunman is easy to take down though - simply running up to him and kicking will suffice. And most of the early enemies will be armed with baseball bats, knives, pistols, or just bare fists. Later on things get more difficult, when they are armed with shotguns and M16 assault rifles...
The combat system isn't without its problems though. Far too often you will knock a guy to the floor but won't have the time to make the full arrest. The problem with this is that sometimes the game keeps the floored guy as your main target, and however hard you try you can't switch to that other guy who is pumping you full of lead!
This can lead to immense frustration if you are near the end of a mission and this quirk is the cause of the mission failure.
Arm Me Up Baby!
Unfortunately there isn't a vast array of weaponry at your disposal in Urban Chaos, but there is enough to get you by.
You begin most missions with only your fists for company. The Beretta Pistol is a weapon you will nearly always have through an enemy discarding it. It takes about three or four shots to snuff out a victim though, so it isn't the best weapon for a quick killing.
Things start getting interesting with the shotgun. This truly is an awesome version of the weapon that every game should have. It gives out a satisfying blast, and knocks the enemy off their feet realistically.
The M16 assault rifle is very effective for the decimation of entire gangs, but chews up ammo like there's no tomorrow. Grenades are also found on later levels, but I found these overly difficult to aim.
Close combat is not all fists either, as you can arm yourself with the very damaging knife or, if sheer brutality is your game, then a baseball bat should cater for your needs.
There are also explosives to use, but they are generally for mission critical use only. You can of course plant one underneath a vehicle for a laugh though!
Union City Blues
The game takes on a third person perspective, and similarities are bound to be drawn between Urban Chaos and Tomb Raider.
The world you romp around is very impressive indeed. I liken it to running around the levels of the old 16-bit classic Syndicate, which like Urban Chaos has a very Blade Runner theme to it all.
I tried to run it at 800x600 resolution and found it to crawl along in certain areas, and you can forget 1024x768. Eventually I settled for 640x480 and the game still looks gorgeous, and more importantly runs smoothly with virtually no slow downs.
The video at the start of the game is excellent, setting the scene nicely. The cut scenes all use the in-game graphics engine, but most can be skipped past if you are persistently failing the missions.
To guide you to the various key locations and the location of the enemy you have a scanner in the bottom left hand corner. This also shows you how much energy and stamina you have left, along with the current weapon you are using in icon form.
Music is used intelligently within the game, only cropping up when you are going into battle, approaching a key scene in a mission, or running at full pelt. It's nice to play a game that doesn't just have a CD track droning on in the background.
Atmospheric sounds like the distant honk of a car horn or a dog barking give a sense of life going on around you. The sounds that accompany a fight are comical though, with real Batman type "thwacking" sounds and short one-line quips from either D'Arci or your enemy, and hearing some of the guys wail like a baby as you pummel them is very amusing.
Urban Chaos is a blast! Right from the first mission it had me hooked, wanting to find out what forces were behind the city's anarchy. All I will say is that they are a strange bunch.
Playing Urban Chaos gives you a great feeling of really being in a run-down city. Litter blows through the streets, which are alive with people going about their business. And yes, it is possible to mow down innocent civilians with your M16, before you ask!
There are some annoying glitches in the game engine though, where some platforms are impossible to walk on to unless you jump or even back flip on to them. However, the next time you visit the same platform it will be working as it should... Bizarre.
The lack of networking options may be a factor in your purchase as well. But to be honest, with single player gameplay this good, you won't be worrying.
Download The Demo
Try before you buy! Download the Urban Chaos demo (26Mb).