On paper RIOT: Civil Unrest is an attractive prospect of an experience; based on urban riots and encounters of unrest which have taken place across the globe. If you are a fan of strategy games, this may be on your radar as it’s a very unique RTS title and there appears to be a distinct lack of them on console. Now, if you’re also a fan of films like Football Factory or similar titles, this may be right up your street.
However, whilst its pixel based visuals and variations of colour are pleasing on the eye. The game is so basic, in terms of its control system, that it loses some of the mechanics and control that makes the RTS a fun to play experience.
As each scenario commences you can either take control of the mob crowd or the police. This option gives the game some good variety in terms of how the game plays out. You have to meet key objectives and match challenges before the timer runs out. Both sides of the fence pan out in different ways and the police generally are a smaller division in terms of numbers, but have their own advantages against the mob. These advantages are tools such as shields, batons and tear gas to try and break up congested crowds.
When controlling the mob, it can get a bit confusing as their roles don’t seem as straightforward. The crowds you control are larger in size but divided into sections. Being successful as the mob is all about micromanagement to ensure there is a big presence in bombarding the police authority. Each scenario is like a game of ping pong with each party gaining and losing.
There is a certain amount of preparation involved before you go head into each scenario. For example, from a police perspective you can choose to equip different units with certain gear which will change their effectiveness in the field of play. This can include granting radios to front-line officers with shields to gather units together quickly and from a mob perspective, the choices you make going into a scenario can affect how many people join the protest. If you pack a lot of weapons, this can potentially put some protesters off. There are little glimmers of aspiration like this that shows how much potential this game actually has.
However the problem lies with the delivery of the final product. Frustratingly, there doesn’t appear to be a tutorial so you’re left to fend for yourself and somehow figure out the controls through all the bedlam and carnage. There are three modes you can choose from, Global, Story and Versus and it doesn’t take long to see why this title suffers to live up to its aspirations.
The frustration of accurate controls is one of the key issues. Logistically I can understand that by rights, a riot is supposed to be aggressive and unruly, but there doesn’t seem to be the consistency in precise control that you would associate with a real time strategy game. You can cycle between the units by using the left and right shoulder buttons and use the left analog to send them in different directions, but the movement is so slow and sluggish. Units often break apart and often wander off and do their own thing beyond the control of the player. This happened even when there is literally no contact with the opposing faction. It feels as if the game would be better suited to touch screen technology, such as on the Nintendo Switch where it could be implemented to get this right. Playing this with a controller never feels fully responsive and it’s a shame as you can see the development have worked hard on this.
The upside is there is a big collection of scenarios to play through which adds some meat and variety to the game. There are messages that appear on-screen from time to time that can change the pace of a riot. If you arrest too many protesters it can develop into a full scale riot. The ideology of these decisions give the game so much potential but it doesn’t give much excitement to make it the unique experience it should be.
The lack of the tutorial was my personal bugbear of the experience. For the casual gamer it would have the ability to make you want to turn the game off fairly quickly. If you are familiar with RTS, then you should be able to claw through the functions of the game with some frustration as you’re firstly learning what each button press does rather than focusing on the objective at hand. With a tutorial readily available it would make the game more approachable, enjoyable and entertaining however it would not fix its wrongs.
RIOT: Civil Unrest could have been an indie title that would stand out from the crowd. Observing video footage and it’s branding of the game makes you want to play and try this game. Unfortunately, its lack of intuitive tutorial and its poor control physics send this one slightly off course. For most this one will more than likely belong in storage like Boris Johnson’s riot water cannons, never to be seen again!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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RIOT: Civil Unrest Review
Gameplay - 4/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 1/10
RIOT : Civil Unrest is a game with so much potential and aspiration, but just falls short of the mark.
Great music and sound
Plenty of scenarios to work through
Controls are not precise
Sporadic moments of movement out of your control