Disclaimer: I am not a gamer newbie. I have been into video gaming since the Atari 5200 (not quite Pong, but I've been here a while.) I've had my fill of games ranging from simple to masterful, some games taking hours to complete, some taking months, some never conquered at all. I am also not a whiner. If my skills are not up to the challenge, I practice some more. If after practicing, the game breaks its own rules to artificially make itself more difficult, I can see and understand it, whether or not it is justified.
Within the first few missions of playing Urban Reign, you might think, "this game is cheating."
Not to say that Urban Reign is bad or unworthy of a purchase. It is simply geared towards a specific gamer: the advanced and hardcore fighter/brawler/action gamer. All else need not apply.
Urban Reign from Namco (of the Tekken franchise) is a third-person brawler for the PlayStation 2. Initially you take command as a "hired fist" whose job is to beat the stuffing out of just about everyone who crosses your path, literally.
Each mission is within an enclosed arena (a bar, a back alley with no exits, etc.) where you must satisfy objectives before moving on. These objectives are usually to knock everyone in the area out of it, knock out a specific target, or achieve a knockout within a set timeframe. Once cleared, your next mission is to do the same thing in a different arena to a different set of opponents.
Yes, multiple opponents. Certain missions will have up to five different opponents attacking your character, and it is up to your fighting skills to fend them off and take them down. In addition to the standard dodge, attack, grapple and run commands, you can direct the damage to specific regions of your enemies' body. So, pressing UP and the grapple button will produce a headlock, while DOWN and the grapple button will produce a leg-locking takedown.
There are also situations where a single button command will take down several enemies that are surrounding your character; it's a pretty slick idea that works well in combat and looks great when pulled off. Over time, your fighter will unlock new moves that can be chained into each other with relative ease, with just a few simple commands. It's great to see a several hit combo open into a grappling takedown with just a few simple button presses. The fighting system is simple yet refined and can be incredibly offensive in a skilled player's hands.
Along with the basic attack and grapple command is the dodge command. Don't pass this command off as unnecessary. After the fifth mission, you will get beat up often without using it. You will need to use this command... heavily. Continually tapping this button will evade most attacks, even when surrounded by three or four enemies simultaneously attacking you.
If you are fast enough, pressing a directional button while dodging an attack opens the enemy up for a counterattack. The animations are great and you get a sense that the team did their best to make different dodging scenarios look cool — which is great, because you will be dodging a whole lot during this game.