It is really weird how times have changed, when genres that have thrilled millions of gamers during the last decade has become almost extinct. Once regarded as the prominent video game genre, the beat em’ up genre has really begun its revival. In the past year or so as we have seen a lot more of these sorts of games being released onto store shelves. One of these games is now out for the Playstation 2, and it is Urban Reign. Can this street brawler possibly revitalize an otherwise dead genre? Read our full review to find out!
I think one of the biggest reasons why this genre has been so neglected over the past couple of years is because the video game world went from simpler and more "plug and play" games to games featuring complex gameplay mechanics and deeply engaging environments. No longer do games just jump from platform to platform you now have games that go from shooting up the streets of LA, to driving around trying to pick up a girl. You don’t see simplistic games anymore, and when you do they never seem to sell, so therefore the beat em’ up genre has been silent. Can Urban Reign bring anything new to the genre?
The story of Urban Reign really does not do anything to really further your interest in the game, and to be honest had potential but never had that used. You play as the character Brad Hawk, a pretty macho guy who has to really break out and beat down a lot of gang lords. Basically you go through the game (for no real interesting reason) taking down other gangs and recruiting for your own interest along the way. The story never really grabs your attention and to be honest I wouldn’t have known any different had there been no story at all in Urban Reign.
Although the storyline really seems like a jumbled mess, the game picks up pretty well when it comes down to the gameplay. For those who have played Def Jam: Vendetta, then you will most likely feel pretty familiar with Urban Reign. I really consider this game a wrestling title that takes place in the street instead of the ring, which is pretty appropriate, considering that you can use a lot of the environment to your advantage and those are some of the interesting parts of the game.
The game surprisingly also has a pretty interesting defensive mechanism that actually works pretty well. One thing that you will have to learn, especially later on in the game, is the ability to counter, dodge opponents attack and then throw in a counter. These can actually deal an obscene amount of damage, and this whole defensive system actually works extremely well in Urban Reign. The only real problem with it is that the enemies in the game don’t usually fall for this trick, and therefore it can’t be used all that frequently. But when used effectively, it can be very rewarding.
With all of that being said, Urban Reign does have a good story mode that does struggle at times with being extremely repetitive and sometimes just too easy and at other much too hard. The game really throws you into the mix quite quickly, and it just seems like you have some of your best times in the game right away and then are stick doing the same thing over and over again.
Urban Reign luckily isn’t all about the story mode and has some workable modes outside of the story. There is of course a multiplayer mode in Urban Reign and this mode really is a breath of fresh air and gives you a few different modes to play, but unfortunately does not support online play. Overall the Gameplay of Urban Reign is entertaining and well done but the lack of story and online play does hurt the longevity of the game.
The presentation of Urban Reign is not bad by any means, but you just get the feeling throughout the game that there is just some important piece missing from the grand scheme of things that would have helped make this game look even better. The character models are probably the nicest looking part of Urban Reign, as they have the most detail and the use of color and shading was very nicely done.
The environments in Urban Reign are really where I saw the need for more detail and color in the game. The one nice thing about the environments was they were interactive, but even that still needed more graphical touch up. Overall the look of Urban Reign was not the best nor was it bad either, it just needed some more work to really be put over the top.
I am actually one of the few beat em’ up fans still left out there, and although I agree there hasn’t been a whole lot of great games, there is still enough good stuff in Urban Reign that makes it a fun adventure. The action in the game, although somewhat repetitive, does have a great easy to pick up system that is not only fun to play by yourself but is also a lot of fun to play in the multiplayer as well, which makes you wish there was online play.
Urban Reign is a game that although not without some faults really has a full package of beat em’ up style action that fans of the classic old games are really going to enjoy. The game has a lot of potential, and if they do make another one of these games, I would think that online play would be an essential, and so would a better story. With all of this being said if you really need a beat em’ up fix then this is a great game for you.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.