RIOT Civil Unrest (Review) Xbox One

RIOT Civil Unrest (Review) Xbox One
Review Score:

While it doesn’t happen very often, just recently I came across a game that caught me completely off-guard.  As I was thinking it was going to be one certain way, it instead threw me a huge curveball, totally by surprise.  And in case anyone was wondering, “RIOT:  Civil Unrest” from Merge Games Ltd. is this particular game.

R: CU is a RTS of history lesson proportions, that puts the player right smack dab in the middle of some of the world’s most fractious riot clashes.  Such campaigns include:  Indignados (Spain), Arab Spring (Egypt), Keratea (Greece), and NoTAV (Italy).  There are seventeen single-level scenarios that include Rome, Oakland, Paris, London and the Ukraine.  The game’s creator, Leonard Menchiari, experienced rioting first-hand at the NoTAV protests in Italy — he created the game to tell the stories and express the feelings experienced during these clashes.  So in essence, R: CU gives the player the opportunity to experience both sides of the fight, which there really aren’t any winners.

R: CU presents you with the aforementioned 17 levels, two sides to choose from (the Police and the Rebels), three playable modes (Global, Story, and Versus), and three difficulty levels (Too Easy, Challenging, and Lawless).  There’s really only one goal of this game: to push forward by taking a passive or aggressive/hostile approach in order to achieve certain objectives. These said objectives can range from holding your ground, taking it over, or destroying certain objects.

Even though you only have two sides to play as, there are of course differences between them. If you choose to play as the Police, you get to employ numerous crowd-control tactics, both passively and aggressively.  There are particular squads to pick from — such as Plain Clothes, Ballistic, and more — and there are plenty of weaponry options at your disposal as well, including tasers, smoke grenades, and live ammo.  And to get the upper hand even further, you can also call in police trucks, water cannons, and even snatch squads.  As the Rebels, you can use folks like Journalists, Agitators, and Leaders to either incite rage and cause the masses to act aggressive, or try to calm the situation with tactical crowd reformation and retreats.  For weapons, you can attack the authority with such things like paper bombs, rocks, Molotov cocktails, and even the power of the media itself.

As previously mentioned, R: CU has three modes of gameplay.  Global and Story make up the bulk of the game, but are basically the same, despite a few differences.  Story offers different settings with accompanying simple missions, whereas Global focuses more on the way you play out the riots (where the missions become harder as you progress), which subsequently carry over into future battles that can either boost or deter the public opinion of your forces.  So in other words, if you choose to act violently, not only are you more likely to get the same kind of response from your opposition, but to also sway the public in their favor.  But yet if you take a more passive approach, there’s a possibility that you may suffer more damage and injury to your group, and have a far greater chance for the public to back your efforts.  And lastly there’s Versus mode, where you can play side-by-side or against a local friend in other manifestations throughout the world.

So, what do I like about R: CU, you may ask?  Well, I never was much of a fan of RTS games as a whole, but I must admit that this game took me very much by surprise with its original concept.  And quite honestly, I found it hard to label it as a strategy or simulator game, because of having so much to it that made it that original.  The scenarios and characters are beautifully done in pixel art graphics, complete with brilliant use of light and visual effects.   The attention to detail is apparent, especially with the animations you see when the tension is high and the mob starts throwing whatever they can find, at the police.  As an added bonus, there are also some small cutscenes whenever you finish a level that shows an outcome for your actions.  Sound-wise, while there isn’t any music during the game, except for while in the menus, the sound effects do a good job to make you feel like you’re right there in the thick of the action.  You can hear the cries of the crowd, shots fired, and explosion blasts that help build the immersion of the game.

While I found plenty of good things to say about R: CU, there are of course some things that aren’t quite as good.  My smallest gripe would be the graphics. As well done as they were, they’re very tiny even when on a large screen TV like mine, and they can appear to be somewhat blurry when the action gets very hectic.  Another small gripe is about the camera.  It’s situated above all of the action, but I’m only mentioning this complaint, because I’m so used to having control over the camera angles.  Next up would be the difficulty level names.  This may sound silly to some, but I found them to be maybe a little bit misleading perhaps.  In most games that I’ve played, I had been very accustomed to the easy-normal-hard fares of challenges, and these challenges normally determined how easy or insanely difficult a game would be.  But for R: CU, these levels instead corresponded to how the computer AI would react to your every move. And dare I say, it feels embarrassing for me to say that I found some really tough stages, even when on “Too Easy” mode. I would find myself stuck, thus having to retry several times more than I would care to admit.

My biggest issue above all else was the gameplay. With the concept set aside, it seemed rather limited to me.  Like, the same mechanics got to be very repetitive over and over, level after level: occupy here, resist opposition there, push them away; wash, rinse, and repeat.  Basically hold your own until the clock runs out, and try not to be too violent — or in the very least, be less violent than your opponent.  But to add further insult, there aren’t any tips or guidance as to how to navigate and play the game.  I found myself hoping for at least a tutorial of some sort, but instead I was totally baffled from what had actually happened, after I had survived the first mission by completely winging it. The major lack of clarity here really put a damper on the whole thing entirely — beginning a level with nothing more to go on than the objective can be rather unnerving, and even then it isn’t always clear what or where this objective is.  And with so much going on most of the time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  As much as I wanted to wildly press the buttons, there’s never an indication that I really did something, amongst the frantic action at any given time. In fact, the only indication worth mentioning is when a message flashes on the screen that details when a member of your group has been injured or a snippet of enemy dialogue. That rarely seemed to impact the flow of gameplay though, and the messages were just kind of there. Finally, at the end of each mission level, you’re given a final score that breaks down the day’s work, which seemed useless to me, because I really wanted to know where stuff went down.

All in all though, despite the issues discussed above, I thought R: CU was still a solid effort though, with gorgeous detail to the pixelated graphics and the uniqueness of basing the game on actual riots (as R: CU begins, there’s a message on one of the first title screens, encouraging players to research the real-world revolution.).  There was much hope here to truly hit home that message of protest and unity to coincide with that uniqueness, but sadly I felt that got lost in translation. Instead of feeling more engaged as I continued playing, I was feeling more and more distant.

At the end of the day, I was left with wanting even more to be in the middle of all of the action, instead of just trying to control it.  For all y’all RTS die-hard players out there, this game will truly try your patience.

Sean Boley
Platform:  Xbox One
Developer:  IV Productions
Publisher:  Merge Games Ltd.
ESRB:  E17+
Price:  $19.99

Riot: Civil Unrest Official Website:

Review Score
Totally loved the very well-detailed -- yet tiny -- pixels!
The effects are awesomely done, where they're needed most.
Limitations and no idea what's going on, really hurt here.
A unique, different title that had me wanting much more.
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