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Urban Reign PlayStation 2

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Namco
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Urban Reign, an introduction.

This early part of 2006 has been quite a time for all the button bashing fighting game fans out there. Devil Kings, Dead or Alive 4 and now Urban Reign have all arrived and with Dynasty Warriors 5 Xtreme Legends almost with us it's certainly a time to be careful with those thumb muscles. Theoretically Urban Reign should be quality too, having been developed by members of previous Tekken and Soul Calibur titles. Let's see how it's turned out.

What's the game about?

Urban Reign is essentially a street brawler. You'll play as the menacing Brad Hawk who is enlisted by Shun Ying Lee to take out a rival gang, who she believes was responsible for the death of her father. What follows is fight after fight after fight (there are 100 missions in total in the game's story mode) as you'll take on a multitude of villains in a variety of locations. As well as the main story mode Urban Reign offers a Free Mission mode, a Challenge mode (where the goal is to stay alive) and a Multiplayer mode that supports up to 4 players, if you have a Multitap device.

What's good about the game?

The combat system used in Urban Reign actually works quite well. So often in games of this nature we end up with combat mechanics that pale in comparison to more mainstream fighting games such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive but whilst the combat mechanics in Urban Reign aren't as fully fleshed out as in the aforementioned games, they are more than adequate for a game of this nature. Attacks come in the form of strikes (circle button) and grapples (triangle button). You can run (X button) and dodge/deflect (square button) as a means of defence and you can also taunt the enemy if you wish. You can target various body regions and weapons (there are over 30 weapons in the game which is quite impressive) can be picked up and used too. As the game progresses you also have access to some special moves that can be used when you've filled the meter.  For successfully completing missions you'll earn ability points and you can use these to upgrade Brad's attacking and defence attributes, which is a nice touch. Sometimes you'll be fighting multiple enemies and at other times you'll have a single, usually stronger enemy, to take out. When facing multiple enemies you sometimes only have to take out one of them to complete a mission which makes a change from having to finish everyone one off all of the time.

What's not so good about the game?

The overriding problem with Urban Reign is the difficulty level. Now I'm no expert with fighting games at the best of times but with much practice I find myself making progress to a satisfactory level. With Urban Reign however it gets to a point where it just seems impossible and it all gets supremely frustrating. The main reason for this is that the difficulty level doesn't rise at a gradual rate. Earlier missions are fine and it does seem that little by little they will get progressively more difficult. However, it doesn't turn out that way and the difficulty level goes from comfortable to virtually impossible (and this is on the normal difficulty setting too). To make matters worse the game's story is actually quite poor and does little to keep you interested. Yes there are 100 missions in the main story but it's simply a case of moving from one fight to another with virtually nothing in between to flesh out the skeletal plot.

How does it look?

Whilst Urban Reign isn't the best looking PlayStation 2 game we've seen it certainly looks good enough. The visual highlight has to be the character models, which not only look good but animate well too and the range of animations is actually quite impressive. The various locations in the game, and the objects within them, don't look quite so impressive but they are adequate. Various environmental elements can be destroyed, which adds to the experience.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Urban Reign is actually quite deaf gamer friendly. The cutscenes are subtitled, even the opening cutscene, by default which is excellent. The cutscenes are shown in a letterbox format with the subtitles appearing in the lower border so that they are very easy to read. Tutorial messages are shown in text (for some reason the tutorial can be found under the extras menu option). You'll also receive instructional messages in text during the first few missions that help to introduce you to the various controls in the game. Mission objectives are shown in text too. The taunts Brad Hawk can make are not subtitled but this isn't much of a loss to be honest.

Final thoughts.

Whilst the story in Urban Reign is rather poor it's going to be the difficulty in the game that turns all but the most dedicated off. The easy early missions are soon over and instead of the difficulty increasing gradually, and at a comfortable rate; it simply goes through the roof and makes for a very frustrating experience. The diehard button bashers out there will probably not be bothered by the lack of a quality plot or by the almost insane difficulty level but even then you can't hide the fact that the game is mundane and very repetitive. In the game's defence though the combat is actually quite enjoyable and if you can live with the sharp rise in difficulty you'll appreciate what the game has to offer. Ultimately though, only the most enthusiastic fans of the fighting game genre should consider Urban Reign worthy of a purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 6.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Urban Reign has a good combat system and a few other nice touches but it's let down by a poor story and a bizarre difficulty progression.