Death, Destruction, Mayhem... and That's on a good day!
I've always wondered what it would like to be a cop. I used to think it would just be boring work, walking the beat, paperwork at the desk, eating the occasional donut or two. But if Eidos Interactive's game Urban Chaos is any yardstick, it's a nonstop day of action, blunt weapons, and thugs around every corner.
Here's the story: Apparently Y2K madness has hit the metropolis of Union City. Crime, Murder, Arson, and other nasty things have risen over the past few weeks. Solving these problems falls squarely on the shoulders of D'arci Stern, rookie cop. Along with the help of her mysterious compatriot, Roper, she goes out to personally stop the crime wave and whatever horrors lurk as the Millennium draws near.
When I first picked up this game, I saw the Eidos' label on the front, and the third person game perspective, and thought "Oh no! Another third person game from Eidos!" (I am a master of the obvious!) You know what that means right? The standard climb-walls-jump-across-chasms-and-beat-the-crap-out-of-anything-that-moves kind of game. When I started playing, I found I was right for the most part. There's the gun aiming system from Tomb Raider, the combat system from Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, and the jumping and climbing from, well, just about every game that comes out these days. But of course, the big question is: What makes it different?
First off, there's the graphics. Although not quite as sharp and smooth as Soul Reaver, Urban Chaos still has its good parts. There are lots of visual effects like reflections, real shadows against walls, rustling leaves, and some neato lighting effects. They even have something called Crinkles, which give some walls a very cool 3D texture. All these graphical fireworks have their downsides too. First, because of the extra goodies they added, they had to make the characters simpler to speed the game up. Secondly, unless you have a super cool setup for your computer, there's going to be some slowdown. Fortunately you can turn off some of the options, but of course, then it doesn't look as cool.
Each level is mission based, with a given goal or goals to accomplish before the end of the level. You also get some new objectives in the middle of the levels, depending. These tasks normally require you talk to, rescue, kill, or arrest someone. Arresting people is an important, and really fun part of the game. When you down a criminal, a.k.a. "perp" (I love police lingo), you can hit a key to arrest them. You can then search them for any items (health, ammo, your lost car keys) they might have on them.
The best thing is that you can arrest absolutely anyone! Whenever I'm feeling bored, I just tackle a pedestrian and slap the cuffs on them (Uh, in the game, I mean). Oddly, this seems to incur no penalty.
Hand to hand combat gives you a few additional moves over previous games in this genre. Instead of just punching people, you can side tackle, roundhouse kick, knee, or toss your opponent (hopefully without getting hurt). But all of these things aren't quite enough to call this game different from other games of the same ilk.
The controls, for the most part, are pretty tight. When you're running around the city, they're very responsive. Unfortunately, sometimes that's too responsive for the camera, which slowly orbits around you. You can end up running towards the camera, and banging into all the things you can't see ahead of you. During combat, however, the controls can get a little soupy, but it doesn't hurt the performance that much. The biggest problem is the driving scenes. You occasionally get to drive cars around the city, but they handle very poorly. They turn really fast, and often tend to skid out. Fortunately you don't drive that often, so it's not a particularly big deal.
The sound is actually quite good. There's lots of good ambient sound, with lots of rain and wind. Gunshots and explosions ring loudly, while punches and groans of pain are nice and clear. Music strikes up at appropriate points during the game, ranging from fast-beat fighting tunes, to a nightclub scene (Damn that catchy jingle!).
At the end of a day of rough-and-tumble police work, D'arci Stern is still just a well meaning rookie. Urban Chaos has a couple fun new gaming elements and fairly cool graphics, but it's still basically your standard Eidos fare. At least it turns out that being a cop is moderately more arresting that I first thought.