By Stephanie Zacharek
By Calum Marsh
By Kera Bolonik
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Ernest Hardy
By Eric Hynes
By Calum Marsh
By Michael Musto
Urban Chaos mimics Halo in the sense that you'll have a tough-talking superior, Sgt. Adam Wolf, to tell you where to go to accomplish various missions. It also includes TV news bulletins which introduce these missions. Although the emotionless newscaster seems to be on Prozac (she should have watched newscasters in New York on 9-11 or drunk some coffee), the TV setup does get you juiced to join cops and firemen as you deal with the gang violence. However, the web site made in tandem with the game, channel7news.tv, is full of fury and angst including a terrorist video from the leader of the despicable gang, The Burners. With his Jason/Halloween-like mask, he's one scary guy.
There's complexity here. Everyone seems to be embattled, from Wolf, whose riot unit is constantly criticized to the city's mayor, who's lambasted for his bloated spending policies. All of this makes for a game that's rarely one-dimensional. There's satire here, too, which makes Urban Chaos all the more fun to play. Add to this the kind of high-tension banter that occurs during frantic moments on TV's ER, and you've got a real winner.
Beyond the nicely-presented story, two elements make Urban Chaos a superior game. The first is the precise aiming and targeting technology. It lets you home in on your quarry with such amazing specificity that you'll be able to hit your man as he cowardly hides behind an innocent hostage. This kind of shooting makes me feel better about gunning someone down. It's not just shooting to move forward in the game. You feel like you're saving someone, and that's a good feeling.
As a member of the riot response team, you'll be outfitted with a special shield which takes damage as bullets hit it, but also protects you. Plus, you can use it as a battering ram and as a weapon when Burners get a little too close for comfort. You'll also have a stun gun and some Molotov cocktails. Finally, while you'll be killing often, this is no mere run-and-gun. Sometimes you'll have to bring a gang member in for questioning. When he fesses up to authorities, new missions will be unlocked.
Urban Chaos: Riot Response isn't a stunningly new game. But it's made with more than enough care and more than enough tweaks to the old shooter genre. It's a solid, thoughtful game full of action and humor that will keep you going for hours after which you won't have to masturbate to get to sleep.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: 7 Studios/Buena Vista Games
It's inelegant and definitely not p.c. to say it. But across popular culture, in the movies, in pop music, and in literature, everyone loves and even admires a cool drunk (except occasionally the drunk himself). Critics marvel at the ludicrous ways of Keith Richard and his death-defying habits that make it seem he's made a deal with the devil. Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men portrays the cool drunk who gets the girls and spews witty one-liners. Way back when the 20s roared, drink was the stuff of depression and a kind of muse for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Later this week, Johnny Depp reprises his role as the cool, drunk pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, replete with the signature Keith Richard hipness and the Joe Cocker stagger. (Dead man's chest, by the way, is a phrase from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, which appears as part of the 'bottle of rum' song in the second paragraph of the first chapter.)
In tandem with the movies come the games, and this time, Bethesda with its PS2 title swashbuckles against Disney's Buena Vista game with its PSP title. Who has the cooler, plastered pirate who can gather up all pieces to a treasure map (your goal in the games)? Ultimately, neither. Sure, in both games, the developers get the surprised, alcohol-ridden moves down in their animations, so much so that you occasionally feel that you are Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. In Dead Man's Chest for the PSP, you're not out to rescue the governor's daughter as in Black Pearl. Instead, Jack Sparrow has his own demons to deal with as he tries to save himself from becoming an undead pirate/slave to the ghoul with the octopus-tentacled beard, Davy Jones.
In the PSP offering, the action comes fast and furious as soon as you start the game. Taking a page from the book of Devil May Cry, you'll fight against numerous pirates by pressing buttons madly. There are blood-curdling screams and spooky echoes and unsettling rattling which induce anticipationeven fearas you enter each room to fight your enemies. You'll climb up ropes and slide down ropes, all of which makes you feel like you're on a roller coaster ride. Or a Disney ride.
Yet there's so much hacking and slashing in Dead Man's Chest, the game becomes repetitive. The developers try to staunch this by having you do some puzzle-like tasks such as carrying a barrel full of explosives to a locked jail door, then lighting it so you can get inside for some loot. And the graphics are particularly nicely rendered with shading and crisp outlines, all done in widescreen format. But the swordplay becomes banal about halfway through the game, and you wish there were more story here. Heck, even in the movie, which is good, the swordplay can become tedious.
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