Geek Review – RIOT: Civil Unrest

At first glance, IV ProductionsRIOT: Civil Unrest is undoubtedly unique as a game. Its pixellated graphics contrast with the serious subject matter offers players a quirky lens into real-world conflicts with a real-time strategy slant.

But while it is a laudable sentiment, the execution leaves much to be desired when it comes down to the actual interactive part of the game, which is truly a shame.

Based off of real-life riots and incidents of civil unrest around the world, RIOT offers you a choice between the opposing factions of the mob, or the police. With differing objectives to achieve under a time limit, there is quite some replay value considering they set up differently for the same encounter.

The police have different key units that are suitable for certain situations, such as shielded policemen that can push back protestors, or tear gas for mass dispersion. Rioters are much like their real-life counterparts, a larger and unruly mob with lesser distinction. It is a numbers game as you manage different groups to disrupt the police while achieving your goals.

Prep work is essential to the experience. There are certain combinations that will always work well, such as outfitting your beefiest police unit with a radio that gathers your forces in one location.

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Protestors require more strategic tinkering, as arming yourselves and being aggressive has the downside of lessening your numbers as the more passive people break off.

It paints a rather poignant picture of reality, and it hints at the vast potential that RIOT: Civil Unrest is touching upon, but does not quite reach.

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The constant tug-of-war will see you trading blows and numbers, a war of attrition that ultimately skews more towards the police side. The less than precise controls, while manageable on the police side, becomes annoying frustrating when you switch over to the protestors.

Although you can cycle between units and direct them, movement is ploddingly slow, and your groups can easily fall apart and be unresponsive to your commands.

This is a sore spot considering the genre it finds itself in, a real-time strategy title that feels unresponsive and lacks the strategy.

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The addition of items and gear that are not fully explained also does little to alleviate the confusion while plenty is happening on-screen.

At least the variety of challenges available help make things fresh, it is not always about subverting the police or overpowering the crowd.

Things can change in a flash. Arresting too many rioters while the situation is still calm could easily lead to a meltdown and full-blown violence, and testing the police once too often will bring a heavy force down upon your people.

It is a joy to see when these mechanics are in play, and the unique nature of RIOT: Civil Unrest is realised wonderfully.

The wasted potential of RIOT: Civil Unrest is truly sad, its take on real-life conflicts while putting players in the driving seat should have been a home run. However, poor controls and a lack of explanation on the more nuanced mechanics of the game sinks the ship before it has left the port.

RIOT: Civil Unrest is available on the PSN (US) for US$19.99.

  • Gameplay - 5/10
  • Story - 8/10
  • Presentation - 7/10
  • Value - 4/10
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