Urban Reign Review

Tom Orry Updated on by

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Imagine Tekken stripped of many of its complexities and in a fully 3D environment that allows for complete freedom of movement. Hardcore Tekken fans are probably foaming at the mouth at the mere thought of such a comparison, but Urban Reign really does feel just like that. When the traditional side-on multiple-round fight mechanic isn’t used though, the rather basic arcade-style game progression that goes with it seems woefully lacking.

Namco has tried to present something that resembles a story, but it’s not told all that well. You play Brad Hawk, a broad-shouldered thug who takes on groups of thugs on his own, before joining others later on in the game. Cutscenes are extremely rare, with most of what’s going on being told through short introductions to the fight you’re about to take part in. You’re often told how tough a certain gang is or how the guy you’re fighting next is looking for revenge etc, but none of it really matters. Each fight comes and goes in a matter of minutes, with the storyline being lost along the way.

Rather than opt for a Final Fight style level approach, with new enemies appearing throughout your progress across the stage, you jump from one location to the next, fighting for a few minutes, before moving on again. In-between fights you can upgrade your fighter’s attack and defence stats, often unlocking new special moves and grabs. For the most part you’re tasked with simply defeating every enemy in the area, but you’ll often fight one-on-one with boss-like characters, go against a clock or have to target certain body parts of an opponent.

The opening third of the game sees you fighting alone, but after another gang dumps the beaten-up body of a friend, you join forces with many of the boss-like characters who you’ve defeated earlier in the game. On occasion you’re forced to fight alongside a certain character, but you’ll usually get to choose. Other than having an extra character in the area to take on enemies, the gameplay remains largely the same, with each character concentrating on their own mini battle within the area. You can perform the odd team attack by calling over your partner, but it’s never really necessary.

Thankfully, the actual fighting is a lot of fun and has a certain amount of depth. The Dual Shock’s four face buttons are used for attack, grapple, counter and run, and while it may sound basic, various combinations make for plenty of moves. Even when playing on one of the easier difficulty settings, the move you’ll need to master first is the counter. Fights against random thugs (at least early on) don’t require too much concentration, but boss characters will really punish you if you let them attack, often stringing together combos and unleashing devastating special moves. Thankfully, timing a counter isn’t that tricky, but for a game of this type, its inclusion is quite a departure from the norm.

As well as your standard health you have a SPA (Special Arts) metre, which allows you to pull of special moves. The number you can perform increases throughout the game, but they’re all pulled off with a combination of the grab and attack button and a certain direction on the controller. This metre will increase as you successfully pummel enemies, but also as enemies pummel you, often giving you a chance to get back into the fight. The SPA metre can also be used to give your character temporarily enhanced abilities, such as auto countering, extra offensive power and increased toughness.

Running is really the only move that can cause a few control problems. When running you can perform various other moves, but control of your character simply isn’t as tight as you’d like. However, it’s still worth using as you can slide into enemy legs, run up walls and attack groups of enemies from the air, and more. Later in the game weapons can be used to inflict extra damage and health can be restored through pick-ups, but on the whole combat remains largely the same for the duration of the 100 fights in the game. It’s the quality of the combat system that makes playing through fun, with each attack, grab and counter alterable by the direction being pressed.

While looking similar to Tekken, don’t expect quite the same level of detail. That said, you often see upwards of five characters on screen at once and the arenas themselves are far larger than those in seen in Tekken. Environments look great, with plenty of destructible scenery and environmental effects helping to bring them to life. Animations are great too, with fighters being seen to use moves many Namco fans will recognise from the Tekken series. The music and sound effects do their job and fit well with the action in the game, but don’t expect movie-like production values.

The main story won’t take all that long to complete, with an experienced player able to play through in less than five hours. Playing on the hardest difficulty will cause some real problems for novice players though, and the game will take considerably more time to complete. While not available from the start, Free Mission and Challenge modes are unlocked, as are numerous characters that can be used in the multiplayer battle mode. Various match types can be played with up to four players (although you’ll need a minimum of two human players in each fight) and there are numerous settings to tweak.

Urban Reign clearly isn’t going to appeal to everyone. If you’re expecting another simplistic button bashing brawler you’re in for quite a shock, with the combat offering – and demanding – far more depth than most other games in the genre. The AI can cheat a little towards the end, but once you grasp the controls there are very few occasions where you’re unfairly beaten. A more cohesive storyline would certainly have helped, but as a pure fighter there’s plenty to enjoy.


If you're expecting another simplistic button bashing brawler you're in for quite a shock. A more cohesive storyline would certainly have helped, but as a pure fighter there's plenty to enjoy.
6 Smart visuals Impressive depth for a brawler Poorly implemented story No sense of progression