Rioting as a concept has never made much sense to me… I mean protesting makes sense as a means to raise awareness on societal issues and get your feelings out into the public… But in my eyes, Rioting is just an excuse for most people to give into the baser violent desires and take out their repressed rage on “the man”.
When I was issued RIOT: Civil Unrest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I worried that the game would glorify the actions in the same way that the infamously dark mass shooter game Hatred made it “cool” to murder waves of civilians. To my surprise, RIOT is a surprisingly well rounded game when it comes to the subject matter.
In the main game mode you take the role of either the Police or the Rioting groups and have to balance your response to the enemy faction with what the public might think of you. Let me give a little example – During a early level, my team of angry rioting Italians had to hold an area for 5 minutes while the police moved in with riot shields and tear gas, when the tide started turning in their favor I had my rioters start pelting the rozzers with rocks to make them back off.
…Worked a treat until the final score came on screen, and I was told I’d attained a “VIOLENT VICTORY!” – The public turned a little on my cause and my numbers were down for the next mission! Bollocks! So you can either go full violence and solve your problems quickly but make it harder later, or you struggle through the early stages and gather your forces till no one can mess with your group of peaceful protesters sitting on the floor!
Being an RTS game what you need is for the information to clear and concise on screen, however this is where RIOT falters big time.
RIOT uses a retro pixel art style which – while charming even when watching protesters hurl rocks and molotovs – makes things a little hard to see! I’m sure on PC with a 1440p monitor and sitting closer to the action, everything is clear enough to keep you in the loop, however for a console player like me, without pulling a chair up and sitting a foot away from the TV, I had a hard time keeping track and telling the cops apart from my plucky little rioters!
There is another snag that comes with this hard-to-see nonsense since your groups abilities are shown as icons in the top left of the screen, not a problem, the problem lies with having NO IDEA what these abilities are until you actually use them! A brief description only appears if you hold their respective activation buttons. Once you’ve held that button, though, it seems like you’re committed, and if you didn’t want to throw rocks then you better aim that shit off screen right quick to avoid upping your violence rating!
During my playthrough, I would unlock various new protesters with some decent-sounding special stats like being able to rally protesters around them better, or be slightly more immune to tear gas, but for the life of me I had no idea how to properly use these “heroes”! I was made to chose one at the beginning of each level, but once the action started then the bastards vanished into the mass of pixelated bodies! Where was Tomas and his amazing ability to take a beanbag to the face when I needed him!
Realistically, RIOT is probably a game that is better played on a PC, and no matter how much effort has gone into it, it just isn’t particularly well optimized for consoles! The premise is definitely clever and something I’d like to experience more of, but if I’m continuing, then you can be sure I’ll be heading to Steam on my laptop and carrying on from there. I don’t often say it, but in this case… Give me a mouse, a keyboard, and a screen that isn’t 5 feet away please!
I give RIOT a: