As far as this reviewer is concerned, Riot: Civil Unrest has a lot going for it on the surface. A cool pixelated world, and the ability to control an angry mob of citizens or a militarized police force in recreations of real-life skirmishes to name a few. I figured even if it wasn’t a fun game, it seemed likely that the developer would take a strong political stand, and possibly give me a new way to think about police and protestor relations. Was I asking too much? Is the game any fun? Grab your riot gear and Molotov’s and let’s find out.
Riot: Civil Unrest comes from the mind of developer Leonard Menchiari, and as the story goes, after experiencing the TAV protests in Italy, he got the idea to create his very own riot simulator. As simulators go, I find the idea of simulating a riot absolutely fascinating, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen one before. After having played this one, sadly, it seems the idea may be better than the reality.
First of all, a tutorial would have been most helpful. I started in the Story mode, and for no real good reason, I played as the protestors. My first mission was No Tav, the aforementioned protest in Italy. The locals have apparently had it with the corrupt government and their plan to build a 23 billion euro high-speed train project through the Susa Valley. A quick google search suggests that those who oppose the project claim that the current railway line is sufficient, and that the new high-speed railway is merely a way for the many private companies that have shares in it to make a huge profit off the backs of the Italian taxpayers. Fix something that isn’t broke, while irreversibly destroying parts of the Susa Valley to make the rich richer? Sounds like normal politics to me. Sign me up for the protests.
Initially, my ragtag group of protestors needed only to push our way through the police line. Sounds easy, but I also wanted to accomplish this without the five-o putting any of us in the hospital or the morgue. And if I could do this and keep the press on our side, even better. This was my plan. But the problem with Riot: Civil Unrest is the execution. The menu screen at the beginning is cumbersome and unclear, but the actual game screen is even worse. My mob of angry protesters stood around in a giant circle, and I had no idea what to do with them. Eventually, through button mashing, I deduced that I could control certain sections of the mob at a time and somewhat control them in a general direction. I could use a bullhorn to rile up my group when they got lazy, and I could get them to turn violent if I thought we needed to force the issue. After several successful missions, you’ll unlock tools to help, such as improved weapons and gear for the police and especially charismatic recruits for the protestors.
Speaking of the police, I decided to switch over to them after a few short rounds. So much for that moral high-horse I rode in on. Anyway, I tried the Global mode but it started out with the same mission, and honestly am not sure what the difference is. Playing as the police, I used tear gas and batons to push the smelly hippies back, destroying their tents in the meantime. That sounds mean just to be mean, but the mission was actually to destroy their tents. So I did.
Things did seem to get violent more easily when I played as the cops and it wasn’t uncommon for protestors to get sent to the hospital and even killed. I never had as much control over the situation as I wanted, and it was a great source of frustration throughout my time with the game. Of course, that’s probably true to life, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. What’s worse, the game may allow better control of what’s happening, but it took hours for me to get even a basic grasp of how to play. And even when I did manage to shoot my smoke bombs in the general direction I was hoping, only portions of the AI performed as you’d expect.
There are three different difficulty settings and also a Versus mode that allows for multiple players, but whatever mode you choose to play in, frustration is the name of this game.
The music is my favorite part and even got a mention by my son who heard me playing from the other room. The pixelated graphics are not for everyone, but the overhead view of the skirmishes as they play out look really cool and fit the tone of the game. On the flipside, once the game zooms in for the scenes before and after the levels, the graphics look so bad, I can hardly make them out.
In the end, Riot: Civil Unrest is a big idea–and a good idea–that is let down by confusing mechanics that don’t seem to work as planned. Maybe the team was too small, or maybe it’s just not for me. Either way, I didn’t have much fun playing Riot: Civil Unrest and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone aside from hardcore strategy game fans.
Riot: Civil Unrest PS4 Review
I love the idea of Riot: Civil Unrest and the true-to-life stories behind it, but the game mechanics let it down. The music is great and the pixel graphics look pretty good, but the game just isn’t any fun.
Pixel graphics look cool during the missions
The missions are based on real-life conflicts
Pixel graphics look terrible during close up intermission scenes.
The game isn’t much fun
Reviewed using base PS4.
When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.