E3: Urban Reign Hands-On

One of our favorite games at E3 2005 was undoubtedly Namco's Urban Reign, an action-packed 3D beat-em up from the makers of the Tekken and Soul Calibur series.

In all honesty it's kind of funny that after Sega released a below average rendition of SpikeOut for Xbox, suddenly other developers were coming out of the woodwork trying to revitalize the genre by announcing "roaming beat-em ups" of their own. But unlike Capcom's somewhat surprising 3D update to its classic Final Fight series in Final Fight: Street Wise, Namco's Urban Reign actually shows tonnes of promises.

Urban Reign's storyline setting thrusts players into the dark gritty world of gang violence and political corruption. Players assume the role of a tough, street-wise character hired by one of the city's gangs in order to protect their leader from harm, since gang warfare and street justice is a way of life in the inner city.

Players will find themselves venturing through a variety of urban fight settings which include taking the fight from the streets into bars, back alleys, warehouses, junkyards and a variety of other urban locales all while protecting their home turf in over 100 missions. As players continuously dish out some much needed beatdowns they'll utilize a plethora of devastating moves, and make use of over 30 available weapons such as bats, knives, and broken bottles, which can also add new weapon-specific moves to the arsenal.

Urban Reign is pretty awesome. While I personally enjoyed the Xbox release of SpikeOut: Battle Street it just lacked that special something to really help it stand out, and in the end turned out to be a below average title and nothing really memorable. Urban Reign, on the other hand, takes a lot of 3D beat 'em up conventions and spruces them up with much tighter gameplay and a variety of sick moves.

We had a total blast playing through the short three-level E3 demo multiple times, as a single playthrough just wasn't enough. This game is loads of fun and sports a pretty solid control scheme with a nice variety of melee attack moves at your disposal. The Tekken influence is certainly there as players can juggle their foes repeatedly as well as perform a number of awesome combos including one where we launched enemies into the air with a powerful punch and then caught them in mid-air and power-bombed them down onto the concrete pavement. Ouch!

Attacking downed opponents is also another bright spot of the game as you can mount fallen opponents and pummel them some more, and there are also some really cool team-specific, double-team attack moves you and your computer-controlled partners can perform on "enemy scum", making for some devastatingly impactful moves.

Players will be able to select from a roster of over 60 characters, each with their own unique fighting styles, and engage in wild multiplayer battles with up to 4 players able to get in on the action via the PS2 multi-tap. Players will also be able to battle their way through the game's story mode, meet and unlock new characters along the way, and battle some pretty tough bosses who'll have a few tricks up their sleeves and put skills to the test.

From a visual standpoint, Urban Reign looked pretty solid with a nice variety of well-designed, yet typical urban environments to bash enemies in. Character designs also looked to be shaping up quite nicely with ample detail, cool fight wear, smooth animations, and action that moves at a nice brisk pace.

To say we're pretty psyched about getting our hands on the final product would be an understatement; with all the dismal attempts that have been made in trying to take the roaming beat-em up genre into the 3D realm, it's finally nice to see a developer get the formula right for once. We look forward to bringing you more on this one.

Joseph Jackson
Executive Editor, Kikizo Games

Video Coverage
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Urban Reign
Gameplay footage   (Namco)
2.44m 29MB DF, SD, 30

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