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Sept. 28, 2006
Urban Reign - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
16/2/2006SonyNamco1-4MA15+Variable
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
118KBDolby PLIIYesNoNoneYes

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Graphics are pretty gritty.
Street brawlers are slowly making a bit of a comeback, but so far there hasn’t been too much that was worth taking notice of. But when the two teams behind Soul Calibur and Tekken join together, you would expect nothing short of an amazing game. Indeed, both teams did work together on Urban Reign, and while the game may not live up to the likes of the aforementioned titles, it does stand out as perhaps the first nice attempt at remaking the street brawling genre.

Plot-wise this game is an incredibly unsatisfying purchase. Basically, players take control of Brad Hawk, a brawler for hire. A gang leader from Chinatown hires Brad to help ‘clean up’ the city (which is in the middle of many gang feuds), and players will find themselves doing lots of this. 100 missions of it to be exact, ranging from 1-on-1 battles in back alleys, to 5-on-1 battles in construction sites. In between these missions is a small amount of explanation as to who you are fighting and why, and the few cut-scenes are quite nice, but the story is definitely not the main focus of the developers here. But hey, it’s a fighting game – no one really expects a deep story, right?

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Characters look great.
Once the small amount of plot is out of the way, the game really shines with one of the nicest control schemes for this genre in quite some time. Each of the characters (there are 60 to unlock including 2 guests from Tekken!) has their own unique set of moves. These are all mapped to a very intuitive and simple system, where players press the circle button for a neutral strike, or the circle button and a direction corresponding to the enemy’s body region. For instance, to strike a character’s head, players will need to press circle while pressing up on the analogue stick. The same goes for grapples (using the triangle button) and special moves (both circle and triangle). This then changes again when a player is holding a weapon (and with over 30 weapons in the game, that makes for lot of different combos).

While this sounds limiting, it really is a very nice way to control Brad and the other characters on their way to victory. It is definitely easier than remembering 30 or so button combinations as is standard in these style games. There are also a few other moves, such as picking up/dropping weapons, taunting (used to make dazed characters get up while still dazed) and so on. Also, there is a dodge system using the square button where players can simply dodge, or, by inputting the direction corresponding to the attack, can deflect enemies and end up behind them. This makes for a perfectly placed grapple.

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A screen with the HUD.
As with the Soul Calibur and Tekken games, there is a ‘juggle’ system implemented, where players can string together a certain amount of combos for massive damage without the enemy even getting a chance to retaliate. This is usually quite good, but occasionally becomes problematic, especially when fighting 5 enemies at once and they begin to juggle you, quickly turning the battle around. Of course, this is a fairly realistic thing – if you were to fight against 5 on your own in real life the odds would be against you after all.

Another element of the gameplay worth mentioning is the tag-team moves. When playing with more than one character on a team (AI or Player) grapple moves involving two characters can be pulled off. These are always enjoyable to watch and some look quite spectacular. This becomes even better in multiplayer where up to 4 players are supported via multi-tap. Unfortunately, third party multi-taps are not supported; meaning only gamers with Sony brand multi-taps can take advantage of this.

My only real problem with Urban Reign is the varying difficulty level. Through the story there are many missions that are quite easy (even on the normal difficulty) followed by boss battles which become very frustrating. This was the first game to ever have me throwing my controller a bit. Though, usually after these battles you are rewarded by unlocking characters, so it does become worth it. There is also usually a certain way to make these boss battles easier, fighting in a particularly way, but it’s not always apparent how to do this, resulting in even more frustrating fights.

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Punches are hard hitting.
Other than that, there are only a couple of things holding Urban Reign back from being an AAA fighter. Firstly, there is no blood. Now that might sound like a weird problem, but this seriously is one of the most brutal games we’ve ever seen. If you are beating the hell out of 3 guys with a shovel, or smashing a guys head with a sledge hammer or tag-teaming grapple attacks with a partner, then there should be blood. It really draws away from the realism of the game. The other real issue is that the game’s environments are too few and as such become repetitive by the end of the 100th mission.

While there may not be too much variety in the level settings, the ones that exist do look quite nice indeed. Overall, the game is what you would expect to see in a brawler towards the end of the PS2’s lifetime, and both character models and animation are superbly done. It really is a joy to watch two nicely animated fighters close line an enemy then get down and start laying into them whilst they are down. It’s a truly beautiful sight. Cut scenes are also on par with the rest of the game, but unfortunately are nowhere near common enough.

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Now that's impressive!
This is only complemented by an original hard rock/metal soundtrack that totally fits in with the game’s theme. Voice acting, while not a huge feature in the game, is quite well done and the sound effects really do help to draw players right into the fight. Overall, a solid audio release. Fans of Soul Calibur may even recognize a few voices.

While this game is a fair change from Namco's more outrageous Soul Calibur and Tekken titles, with no real ‘mystical’ characters, the two teams really have done quite a nice attempt at bringing back the brawlers we all knew and loved from older consoles. With a nicely thought-up fighting system as deep as any other’s, but a lack of substance (story-wise), it would have been nice to see this title after a bit more development time. Still, there is definitely room for this release in and collection, and with Urban Reign now available for less than $AU50, what are you waiting for?

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSNice enough. What you can expect for the end of PS2’s lifetime. Character animation is beautiful.
72%
SOUNDNice (if rare) voice acting and decent sound-effects. Fitting music.
69%
GAMEPLAYControls are simply wonderful. Lots of varying moves and even more team moves. Varying difficulty makes for frustrating levels.
76%
VALUEIt will take quite a lot of practice to unlock every single character, and with many characters and weapons, as well as a now-cheap price, a good purchase.
78%
OVERALLUrban Reign falls slightly short of a great game, but it's still definitely worth checking out.
72%

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