When Riot Response came out in 2006 it got a lot of mediocre reviews from critics but playing it today its very refreshing compared with most shooters of today. While I won’t argue that levels and mostly linear like today’s CODs it distinguishes itself with the lack of cut-scenes every 10 minutes. Today its hard to find a game that *doesn’t* have regenerative health. Each level has a Paramedic that has three injectors that replenish your health. There are few encounters through fairly lengthy levels. Its refreshing to be rewarded for thinking before running and gunning unlike today’s CODs were you don’t have to think as you can quickly hide after getting shot at.
The cut-scenes in this game are news reports from fictional “Chanel 7 News.” During the bush era (post-9/11) there was an extreme climate of fear and suspicion. We lived in fear that the unseen enemy wasn’t only outside the US as the case with Vietnam. The enemy is potentially in our own neighborhoods. A hidden enemy that seeks to kill us and all our loved ones in an attempt to destroy the “American Way.” Everyone is a potential sleeper agent ready to strike. From our neighbors, to our teenagers, to fellow passengers at a transportation hub. Fear sells products in this culture of fear corporate-sponsored headlines were designed to get us to into stores.
While some will take the game at “face value” and see it as “Finally, a twitch-and-kill action game that right-wingers can get behind.” The news reports at the beginning of each level satirically ask important questions of our time. How is the news in Urban Chaos similar or different to what is on Fox, MSNBC, or CNN? Are we in real danger from terrorists or is the media hyping up the fear level? Will we grow tired of airport security for some (false) sense of security?
The battle between Zero Tolerance Police Force and the terrorist gang called the burners is dumbed down to “good” vs “bad.”However I believe this is an interpretation of the how the news media has dumbed down the insurgency in Iraq. In today’s world its the dumbing down the conflict primary in Syria and then Iraq. There are several sides fighting for various reasons but the media has dumbed down the sides to the “good” side and the “bad” side.
There are two key things setting this game above others. The first is the main character Nick Mason isn’t the only main character in the game. The game uses a very simple Freedom Fighters like system for controlling very helpful allies. There are cops, paramedics, firemen, and civilians that assist in help in situations where running and gunning doesn’t help. Police officers back you up and provide additional ammunition. Paramedics heal you and save lives of the multiple wounded you encounter. Firemen put out blazes and use their axes to destroy locked or barred doors. I’ve played too many games waiting for the the scripted open door event. Its so refreshing to be in control and yet needing to relying on others to advance.
The second is the use of the riot shield integrated into the game-play. The riot shield is invincible however you cannot shoot while holding up the shield. While the riot shield is invincible fire can still injure the player. The burners had Molotov cocktails that drain your health. As the game progresses you will encounter enemies that run up kicking your shield leaving the player vulnerable and disoriented. Each level you start out with a clean shield and as you progress and are fired upon the shield is quickly riddled with bullet holes, explosion shrapnel, and blood that makes it hard to see through.
This is also one of the only games that I can think of (at least in shooter genre) that praises the work of everyday heroes. During an interview with Kevin Gill (Senior Product Manager) he said “In the era of 50 cent, 25 to life, true crime it just seemed that rather fitting for a game to shine a light on the men and women who are out their putting their lives on the line so people like us can sit around and play video games, or go to the movies, or live in our houses and not have to worry about being burned to death or have our throats cut in the middle of the night. Just seems like these guys are real heroes, there really putting their lives on the line every step of the way so why not give them a little bit of the spotlight and put the emphasis on them cuz there the ones putting their lives on the line for us.” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbgmMVKwhwU