The story of Urban Reign follows the
exploits "brawler-for-hire" Brad Hawk, who is hired to find a
kidnapped gang member by the scantily clad swordswoman Shun Ying Lee. Brad
fights his way through the street gangs of Green Harbor, a fortified city in
the U.S.. As he does so to get some answers, the true machinations of the
protagonists reveal themselves and things become more complicated.
Take Tekken to the
streets. Nuff said.
In early 1999, Capcom introduced Power
Stone, a new take on the fighting game formula. Power Stone
introduced "free roaming" gameplay mechanics, interactive backgrounds
and items, and fun multi-player gameplay. It appears it's Namco's turn to
unleash their own take on the free roaming fighting game engine. After watching Urban
Reign's hilariously awesome intro, you'll be able to tell that this isn't
just "any" random street brawling game you might've played before.
With a tone very similar
to Capcom's classic Final Fight, Urban Reign features a wide
variety of fighters, ranging from random street thugs to flashy martial artists,
to badass Triad members and Yakuza bosses.
Some fighters seem thrown in just as "fillers," but quite a few of
them show off some well-thought out and entertaining fighting styles (some based on
authentic martial arts, like Tekken).
Speaking of Tekken, Urban Reign actually borrows
quite a few animations from
the Tekken series (and Soul Calibur, when weapons come into
play), which gives the game an instant edge over all others in the "beat-em-up" genre. From
the extra 'omph' that attacks have when they connect to the way
characters react when hit, the animation definitely
resembles Namco's hard-hitting franchises! Not to mention, there are a ton of
unique attacks that truly sting when they connect. And yes, "ouch factor" goes
a long way in a game like this.
random bad guys ahh MINE Miista Phoenix!" - Law
Urban Reign doesn't just wow you with
impressive fighting animation and call it a day. The Story Mode offers an
ambitious amount of content,
presenting you with 100 missions which can be played 1-player or cooperatively with a human
partner! All in all, there are somewhere around 60 characters you'll run into
(all of which you can unlock and use in multi-player). Urban Reign also packs an entertaining 2-to-4 player
mode, which of course distinguishes it as it's own "fighting game" entity
(in turn, giving it the
right to be featured here on TFG).
In this era of fighting games, Namco not only set the bar for 3D fighters, but for street
brawlers / beat-em-ups as well (although you can't say there's much competition
out there nowadays). Back in the 80's & 90's, I loved arcade beat-em-ups
like Bad Dudes, Double Dragon and Final Fight. As sort of a
successor to those classics, Urban Reign is honestly one of the best 1-player "beat-em-ups" I've
ever played. Some players might not give Urban Reign the respect it deserves, and
just mash buttons like they do in some other "fighting" action games
out there. However, players that look deeper will find a surprisingly solid fighting system.
There are a variety of different striking options, grapples, ground
attacks/grapples, a dodge button to evade incoming attacks as well. The
characters themselves don't have the very deep movelists, but the ability
for characters to freely move in the environment, pick up weapons, throw objects,
co-operate with partners, and pull off moves on multiple opponents at
once makes up for the lack of complexity in some areas.
Some of the fighting mechanics, include: dodges/counters, tech-rolling, double team attacks, insane combo possibilities, tons of throws and grapple/wrestling moves
(which look ages better in this game than in most wrestling games) and
of course, free roaming around a variety of environments. Furthermore, characters have the ability to "run
fast" while free roaming which enables special abilities like sweeping, running up walls, or even
running "up" other characters.
There are also unblockable moves
that make oddly you invulnerable while you attack. This is probably the biggest
"quirk" of the gameplay, but in the long run, it's actually an
effective gameplay element and makes for
some pretty fun mind games. Thankfully, you can also "lock on" to your
is a key element in learning how to play properly.
"I'll show you some ground
& pound, punk!" - Paul
ability to bring 4 or more players against each other really makes it shine.
The fact that Tekken's Paul Phoenix & Marshall Law are featured in the game is also a nice
touch (but also leaves us Tekken fans wishing for MORE characters from Namco's
staple franchise). The character variety of Urban Reign is decent,
although many designs are simplistic and "bland". However, considering
Urban Reign's "realistic" setting, those simple designs make
sense and seem to fit. However, there are definitely some "star"
characters that stand above the rest, both in terms of looks and how they fight.
Typically, the martial artists are the best fighters (just like in
Urban Reign's presentation
is lacking in some areas, but it gets you right into the action without wasting
time. Prominent story missions feature short, yet entertaining cut scenes, most of
which supply decent and funny dialogue throughout. The story
isn't as fleshed out as it could've been, but something about it has a certain
"humorous yet serious" charm. Also, all the missions are the same... just kick everyone's
wrong with that I guess?) Through playing Story Mode as the protagonist, Brad
Hawk, you'll level him up RPG style by powering up his attributes after each
victory. You'll also unlock new moves for Brad, enabling more complex fighting
mechanics as you advance through Story Mode. In the end, the gameplay is where it's at, and
Urban Reign good times if you give it a chance. I mean, who doesn't enjoy beating up on wannabe gangstas?
Hirofumi Motoyama (Producer)
Urban Reign is a surprisingly fun and underrated little gem of a game. I think
sites naturally overlooked it and didn't appreciate the game's unique attributes, which is
one of the main reasons I decided to feature Urban Reign on TFG.
Personally, I ended up enjoying Urban Reign a lot more than some of the
other "mainstream" 4-player party games of the time. (Yes, I'm looking
directly at you Smash Bros).
Required to experience Urban Reign to the fullest are 3 things:
#1) A PS2 multi-tap.
#2) 2 to 4 friends who enjoy violence. Bonus if they know how to play Tekken
or other fighting games.
#3) Knowledge of the gameplay mechanics and how to use the characters properly.
(Don't button mash for 5 minutes and then say the game sucks, stupid).
Unlike some mindless "beat-em-up" titles out there, you can actually
improve as a player in Urban Reign. There's definitely a level of
strategy and mind games available in the multi-player modes. On top of that, the
animation and "ouch factor" is just off the charts. There's so much action
going on at times that the fights may almost appear to be choreographed at times
fail to entertain any onlookers).
Of course, Namco fighting game fans will be treated to many references to Tekken and even Soul Calibur in this title. If
you're a fan of the way Tekken and Soul Calibur characters move,
and how hard they hit, then you'll love Urban Reign. So anyway, where's
my next-gen, online-enabled Urban Reign 2, Namco??? Bring it
back!!!! If not, I'll even be happy with Urban Reign HD Online.