Although I can appreciate Dan's enthusiasm for Urban Reign, I definitely don't share it. To be perfectly frank, it feels like the bare skeleton of a game; just a rough sketch of what the finished product was supposed to be. I'm extremely glad I picked it up for a song secondhand, because I'd be pretty pissed if I had paid full price for it.
Dan's right in saying that the game is approachable and it definitely looks good, but that's about all the praise I'm going to give it.
More than anything, Urban Reign feels like a polished version of those undesirable Tekken Force minigames that Namco keeps shoving into their popular fighting franchise. Drawing the connection between these two games is pretty simple, since a huge chunk of the fighting moves and animation were ripped directly from the Tekken series. Namco has finally nailed down the reliable targeting system that's eluded them in the past and it's certainly easy to pull off the correct move upon command, but it takes more than an expanded minigame to create a solid experience.
The story mode is a complete joke, little more than blobs of diarrhea text to look at while the next area loads. The game features 100 "levels", but they're practically identical. The difference between fighting in a square room and fighting in a big parking lot is hardly something to get excited about, and the repetitive beatdowns start to get old around mission 20... going all the way to 100 is an exercise in stamina and determination, not something that's engaging and interesting.
The cast of characters gets recycled far too often, and I could hardly tell the difference between most of them, anyway. Generic Gangsta A looks just like B, C, D and E despite what their character profiles say, and the character design in general feels extremely vanilla and lacking in inspiration.
Without a doubt, Namco is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to fighting games. I'm still a Tekken fan, and I'm looking forward to Soul Calibur 4 even though 3 was a misstep—but despite their dominating success in the one-on-one genre, apparently there's an unhappy suit heading up an underfunded R&D wing who's bound and determined to break into the 3D arena. (Death By Degrees, anyone?) I think Namco could probably do it if they devoted enough resources and talent to the task, but Urban Reign is more like a cheap experiment or side-project than a top-tier title that'll win many fans... taking the low-end, no-frills route is a good way to make sure a new franchise never sees a sequel.