Urban Reign ReviewCain Dornan
In its glory, the beat em up fighting genre was seen as once of the most popular video game genres around. Of course, this was back during the SNES years, where the industry was filled with significantly simpler titles. As the years have moved on, however, the complexity of games has increased with the evolution of advanced technology and a larger gaming crowd that demands greater realism and variation in their games. While most genres have managed to change to suit the change of gaming styles, there has been one genre in particular that has failed to do so, and thats the beat em up genre.
As a direct result of failing to evolve appropriately, the genre has almost died away completely. Its now rare that you see a beat em up title, outside of the standard Tekken, Virtual Fighter and Dead or Alive fighters, creating a large level of interest amongst gamers. The truth is, many slip under the radar, almost immediately hitting the bargain bin upon release. Attempting to change the genres continuous spiral into the forgotten, a number of different companies have attempted to revitalize the genre. Capcoms horrible Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance done little in aiding the effort, with the end result being nothing more than a frustrating and sloppy bore to endure. Namcos attempt with Urban Reign looked more promising, but as we soon discovered, it had also taken a severe turn for the worst.
Urban Reign pits you into the role of Brad Hawk; a large brute who makes his money by working as a paid brawler for various different organizations and gangs. As we begin the game, you have been hired by Shun Ying Lee, an attractive female leader of the Chinatown triad. A recent kidnapping of a rival gangs key member has resulted in an uproar of the local gangs, causing the Chinatown triad to come under attack from a number of different gangs. As you may expect, it turns out that your employers group has nothing to do with the kidnapping, and as any right-minded person would, plans to correct the wrongful image that has been cast upon the group and set things right. And so begins an adventure that involves bashing countless gangsters senseless in an attempt to clear Chinatowns name and return life to its usual routine.
Each of Urban Reigns one hundred missions in its single player campaign mode consist of being dumped within a fighting arena, which are situated throughout the city in urban environments, with anywhere between one or five enemy gangsters to fight. The majority of the levels simply require you to defeat them all, with the occasional boss-like battle managing to offer the occasional challenge. Mixing the gameplay up slightly are the slightly varied requirements in order to win, which vary from bashing a specific gangster while others try to bash you, or attacking a specific part of the body in an attempt to badly injure it, such as only attacking the legs which eventually breaks them. Regardless of these slight fight variations, each fight feels far too much like the previous, with the game quickly growing stale after fighting your way through only ten of the hundred missions on offer.
The repetitive nature is disappointing, really. When compared to other similar games such as Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance, Urban Reign offers a somewhat solid fighting system, albeit far too simplified. The game controls surprisingly smoothly, allowing you to control your character as you dish out simple moves and more advanced combos. However, the fact that youll be only using two buttons to issue attacks quickly sets in, resulting in an experience that is little more than an overly repetitive button-mashing affair. When youre required to plow through a hundred stages, the fighting system becomes a real bore, despite the attempt to offer variations by gradually introducing new combos to perform. Its disappointing, really, as Urban Reign could have been a much more enjoyable and varied experience if the developers took the time to implement controls that are used in such games as Tekken.
Once you have completed the single player campaign, youll unlock two new modes. One, known as Free Mission, merely allows you to select any of the one hundred missions to play at your own free will. The Challenge mode, on the other hand, offers slightly more replay value, as it is essentially a survival style mode that allows you to pit your character against a continuous onslaught of competitors. You can go it alone or team up with a budding player, which can be either AI-controlled or human controlled once a second controller is inserted.
Full multiplayer support is also on hand, offering various different gameplay types to compete in. The standard versus option is available, which essentially involves going up against each other in a fight-to-the-knockout event. Theres also the Weapons Battle, which is a surprisingly enjoyable little mode, requiring players to either be the first to reach the weapon located in the middle of the stage (players begin on opposite sides of the weapon) or hold the weapon the most during the event, which depends on the game type option that you choose. Finally, theres the Destruction Battle, which is yet another interesting little mode where a single sledgehammer is located in the center of the stage. The aim is to obtain the hammer and knock down your opponents large object that is located in the opposite corner of the arena. The difficult thing about this mode is that your opponent will always be breathing down your neck, attempting to steal the sledgehammer off you so that they can smash your object down. The three different main modes are equipped with a vast lineup of characters to play as.
Urban Regins presentation is standard, offering solid character models and environment detail that are effective yet not overly impressive. Characters generally animate smoothly, without any flickering textures or other graphical problems evident. Voice acting and sound effects are also rather standard, with a pleasant combination of cutscene voice over work and in-game thuds, wacks and groans as buff men are thrown through tables, dumpsters, light poles and various other urban objects. Its far from the most impressive presentation seen on the PlayStation 2 so far, but it does manage to effectively get the job done.
While Urban Reign is a reasonably enjoyable game for the short term, spending any longer than an hour with the game quickly becomes a repetitive experience. There is little variation between each mission, with both the Free Mission and Challenge Modes offering little additional lifespan once youve completed the main single player mode. The multiplayer mode does offer some good laughs and a briefly fun experience, however, it also grows old surprisingly quickly. In the end, Urban Reign proves to be little more than a worthy overnight rental, or if you must own it, ensure that its sitting in the bargain bin before splashing out that hard-earned cash.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.