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You know what Urban Reign is? It's a Jet Li film with more scrapping than dialogue. It's the impossibly swift yet brutal ass-kicking that you dream of dishing out when faced with an imminent shoeing. And, most importantly, it's a benchmark for scrolling beat-'em-ups. But while it's packed full of superior brutality, it's not quite perfect just yet.
Let us explain. This bout of street violence from Namco - the folk behind Soul Calibur and Tekken - provides a constant stream of slick choreographed pummelling of the highest order. But rather than confining you to tiny arenas, Urban Reign offers huge open environments, like grimy back alleys and underground car parks, to hone your fighting skills in.
And you better believe the moves are stylish. Running up a bloke's chest, booting him in the neck and then taking out his buddy via a roundhouse kick to the temple oozes class. You'll love it. Along with fluid techniques - like parrying a wrench across the noggin with a well-timed block - comes a selection of debilitating combos. You can even pull off killer double-team attacks with your AI buddy, from two-man suplexes to straightforward 'you hold him, and I'll break his ribs' moves.
Great stuff. But unfortunately, the fun then stops. On mission 86, to be exact. With 100 core missions, the action becomes frustratingly tedious all too soon. For example, there's no need for the briefing screens before each fight, because it's clear you're just going to be punching people to pieces. And as said, from mission 86 - where you fight the colossal Golem - laziness seems to have crept in. He's twenty times harder than anyone you've already faced, making things totally unbalanced and annoying.
However, it still keeps you hooked with a fearsome combat system lifted out of Tekken. There are loads of characters to unlock - including some familiar faces - and plenty of time attack and challenge modes. Plus you can kick the crap out of three mates in a Multitap session.
Urban Reign is a great example of how scrolling beat-'em-ups should work and, if there's going to be a renaissance in the genre, people could do worse than look here to see how things should be done.