One of the best (if not the best) PC action games of last year, Urban Chaos, makes its way onto the Playstation, and the end result is like squeezing Michael Jordan into a pair of size 4 toe shoes- he can still play the game well, but he won't look too good doing it. Don't get me wrong, I still love this game a whole lot, but the PS is a piss-poor substitute for a good 3D accellerated PC. Then again, you don't have to worry about your Playstation crashing, or any installation hassles, for that matter. That said and done, Urban Chaos is a really great game made even greater simply because it's not a sequel to anything else out there, and uses this in its favor by challenging the player with it's mission-based action, and simple, fun controls.
As D'arci Stern, rookie cop, or Roper McIntyre, a tough war vet, players get to take on a big city full of crime, corruption and... crazed devil worshippers? Yep, a strange cult called The Fallen has used its power to envelop the evil forces in Union City to literally raise hell, and what starts as a simple day on the beat in a crime-filled city, soon turns into a race to beat the devil- and you thought cops just ate doughnuts all day! Anyway, D'arci starts off the game in basic training, and has to advance through combat, driving, and physical training tutorials in order to start the actual game. It's not a gimmick, as the game demands a lot of the player, and in fact rewards you if you complete the extra training sessions tacked onto the map.
The first few missions give you a chance to run around Union City, taking in the sights, such as a burning taxi, a mugging in progress, and some generally unhappy citizens. In a way, I found the whole thing really funny, as it reminded me of the view most people had of New York City in the late 70's/ early 80's, but that's neither here nor there. It's a game, folks, and the guys at Mucky Foot have a remarkable sense of humor, so take advantage of that, and talk to a few of the people out on the streets- most have something to say, and a few will actually give you useful items, like a baseball bat (great for bashing heads!). Unlike say, Tomb Raider, the levels you run about in give you a bit more freedom- juat about any building in the game has some way of reaching it's roof, and a good player will make the most out of this by seeking out each and every stat-raising secret in each area (the game tallies how many you missed). But don't futz around too long- there's crimes to be solved! Also, enemies will come after you with some fervor on a regular basis, so dont be surprised if you hear someone climbing up after you on that ladder, or jumping down on you from a nearby rooftop!
Fortunately, D'arci can take care of herself quite well- she's got some great fighting moves, and a killer slide move, good for taking out a few thugs at a time. She can also survive a drop of a couple of stories, provided her lifebar is full enough- fortunately, there are first aid kits scattered about, and occasionally, a defeated enemy will cough one up as well. As for weapons, well anything is game in Union City, from baseball bats to knives and guns (all sorts of guns!)- you can even jump into an unlocked car, and run over that group of gang members chasing you. Some will get up, some won't- just back up over them! Be careful not to kill too many citizens, or things won't go down so well at headquarters. Roper comes along later in the game, and as a playable character, he's basically a tough, well-oiled killing machine- but the same rules apply to him, so don't get careless. You can speed through the game by simply tackling the tasks assigned to you, or you can explore a bit, and take on more events in each level- this freedom is what separates UC from all the other action games out there. Control is very well done, a nice update on the Tomb Raider control scheme, and a lot less frustrating.
Graphically, the game is quite well done, if you haven't seen the PC version. The non-playable characters in the game look a bit blocky and generic, but D'arci is full of life and has a certain style to her moves- back her into a chair and she sits down, looking tired, run up to a ladder, fence or other climbable surface, and she'll hop to it without a second thought. At one point in the game, she even dances when left idle! Roper is a bit of the same, even though he's not as flexible as D'arci, and a lot less pretty to look at. The developers had to lose the brilliant reflecting puddles, gorgeous skies and "crinkle technology" in the PC version, and they use a fade in effect on people and small objects here that's a bit strange, but they kept the colored lighting, leaves and garbage blowing about the streets, as well as the tread marks and blood stains that remain after a particularly brutal street battle. In fact, if she's gravely wounded, D'arci will leave a trail of blood until you get her healed- it's subtle at first, but if you stop moving for a second or three, it pools up around her- ewww.
The sound effects and voices range from amusing to excellent- all of the voices are well done, and I love how they went for the late night cable dialogue. This isn't a kids game at all, you've been warned. If you stop and listen, you'll hear some wonderfully sampled city sounds in the background that give life to the game, and the music is also excellent overall. There are some occasional glitches, such as:: part of a ladder will disappear while you climb it, or the way D'arci or Roper will occasionally run through a small fence, but overall, it's tolerable, and a lot better looking than Syphon Filter 2, for that matter. Driving is a bit rough as well- all the cars handle the same way, any you might want to hit the driving tutorial a few times to get the hang of it, but this isn't Gran Turismo we're dealing with. Compared to the likes of Fighting Force 2, Die Hard Trlogy 2, Tomorrow Never Dies, and a few others out there, Urban Chaos is a big breath of fresh air, despite all the grime in Union City.
Hopefully, you're reading this, and will pick up this great game- Don't let the Eidos logo on the case lull you into thinking this is another Tomb Raider clone. Urban Chaos is a top-notch title that can hold up its own against Lara Croft, any day of the week. Besides, the last game I can think of with a female minority as a main character was the run and shoot game, Assault, and this is a BIG improvement over that game, by a long shot! Do yourself a favor- drop that latest hacked-out sequel, and pick up a copy of Urban Chaos, you won't regret it, and you'll wonder why no one has done a game like this sooner.
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