Review by Quanrian

"Soul of River City Ransom in 3d"

Introduction

Some of you may remember an old game called River City Ransom for the old Nintendo system or perhaps the more recent River City Ransom EX on the Gameboy Advance. The relation is quite clear once you start playing Beat Down from Capcom in that it captures to a very large degree, more so than any other beat-em up or otherwise to date the very soul and even some of the personality from the old classic RCR. Now this may not seem like a big deal to some, but RCR was way ahead of its time and still is a treasure to play to this day so it's no small thing to be faithful to a game with such a cult following. So on that note I have to give a nod to Capcom.

Story - 7/10

If you've played a beat-em up before you know the stories tend to be pretty canned. This one doesn't veer too far off from the norm of the fight the big gang but it gives it some nice twists. Instead of an all powerful gang you've got more of a mafia, and more over all the main characters were previously in this mafia. You find yourself setup for a fall and the story just winds on from there.

What makes the story more appealing is that you get 5 different perspectives, one for each character, this in itself earns the score 1 point above average. I also genuinely wanted to progress the story while I was playing the game as the cinematics are quite a bit better than I expected and it's original enough to earn it 1 more point. You'll not likely play this game for the story, but it's still there to compliment the gameplay and it is clear that some thought went into it.

Gameplay 9/10 (If you love beat-em ups) 6/10 (If you don't like beat-em ups)

This is really where people are either going to love this game or hate it. This game is at its core a beat-em up with lots of extras thrown in to break up the monotony and it really does. If you were expecting a game more along the lines of Grand Theft Auto, this is not it. If you have never enjoyed beat-em ups, guess what you wont like this one either because that is what it is. Now going on the assumption you do enjoy beat-em ups this game really does deliver in spades. Though keep firmly in mind this game was made to cater to a specific audience of gamers.

There is a huge selection of enemies you'll face and they each have their own move sets and you wont likely know what moves they can do until you fight them the first time, keeping the fights pretty fresh each new encounter. I wont lie, when it comes to button mashing, you can get by doing it in this game to a degree. Further into the game however you'll find enemies will counter your attacks, block more often and generally force you to use some variety in your moves or you'll find yourself healing yourself constantly. The fact that each main character has a pretty unique set from the rest means that playing each one is actually worth it and you can even unlock more moves as you play.

You'll come across a very nice array of weapons during the game and you'll find them to be extremely useful, especially in boss fights. Scattered throughout the city during each stage are also crates with health and sometimes even powerups for you to find, actually making exploration worthwhile. On the note of free roaming I'd say that while the city isn't very big, they certainly packed it with enough content that changes throughout the game. It is more than worth it to look around areas you've already been to as certain events or items may be there, even if they weren't before.

You'll notice two percentages changing throughout the game, one representing the mob and the other the police. Both of these bars essentially work the same way but their results can vary quite a bit. If you commit crimes your police detection will rise and once it reaches 100% cops will attack and try to arrest you. Once a cop gets you on the ground you are arrested and can either pay bail or break out, the fact you get a choice is pretty kewl. When it comes to the mob they'll simply attack you on sight, but their goal is to kill you so you'll simply be given the choice to try again and lose some charisma rather than be jailed.

Either way, if a stat is at 100 % than you will find a car (police car or mob car) driving into the area you just entered and dropping off either cops or mobsters. You can lower these ratings by changing your clothing, getting plastic surgery or even getting a haircut. Not only can you lower your rating, but you'll find certain clothes which are similar in some way to what you had the old rating at will raise it back up again, so you can actually change clothes to pick a fight, as mobsters and cops wont attack you till you're at 100%, and than change them back to avoid encounters.

Two main types of gameplay you'll come across are multi-person fights and versus fights. Multiple person fights are just like the old beat-em ups but in 3d and your allies can help you by distracted or beating up the enemies, you can even perform tag team attacks with them. Versus combat is a one on one fight till all the people on either your side or theirs are defeated, You'll also find a nice amount of side missions to distract you from the main storyline that vary in both difficulty and task. You'll likely end up doing side missions simply for the extra cash they net you as more money allows you to buy more.

One of the big aspects of this game and what really makes it feel like you're playing the way you want is the choices you get during interactions. When you first talk to a character you usually have the choice to negotiate or just pick a fight with them outright. If the option is available and you choose negotiation you can rob, or recruit. While in versus you can force a negotiation with the press of a button, the results determined by if their pride bar is empty or not and you get the extra option of beating them down, asides from the previously listed negotiation options, which is basically killing them, in other words you'll never see them again.

Outside of the main game there is two Versus modes. The first Versus mode is called Versus Normal and it allows you to play as any of the characters and even the bosses or characters you've unlocked during your normal game. The Normal Versus plays exactly like Versus does in the main game except you get to choose who you use and you can setup matches that are are 3 vs 3, 3 vs 2, 3 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 2 vs 1, and of course 1 vs 1. The amount you balance it on each side up to you and allows you to set up challenges for yourself. Versus Custom mode is exactly the same but you get to load up your save game and use all the allies with their stats and even your main character with all their customizations.

Customization

Something just about every review I've read seems to leave out is the sheer amount of customization this game offers. The most obvious customization is how you level your character, with only three stats your options are kind of limited but it's still nice and being that it's a beat-em up I wouldn't of wanted to keep track of a bunch of stats anyways. The next most obvious customization is what allies you collect and bring along with you as they certainly don't all fight the same and most even have special talents which are vital for certain side missions.

Now that most of the generic type customization you've already read about is out of the way I'd like to focus on the extra bits that are overlooked. Clothing is by far one of the most diverse I've personally seen in a beat-em up and the sheer amount of detail that is in nearly every article, including usually being able to pick from what color you buy it in is really astounding. The fact that clothing actually lowers your rating is nice and while some complained it really doesn't help, it actually does and makes the clothing more functional than it usually is. There is a very good amount of areas you can apply clothing to and it goes well beyond the norm of bottom, top, feet. You can actually have a different ring on each finger, or a different earing, different bracelets, ect., even what pendant you put on a chain.

I could go on further about the clothing but I'm going to move on to the other areas of customization the game offers. Being able to reconstruct your character's face with plastic surgery is a close second to one of the coolest ways to customize your character. Next would be the tattoos you can get, which actually wasn't something I was overly impressed with as the selection was never that great, but still it's nice to have that extra bit of customization. Lastly but certainly not least is the haircuts, which can give your character quite the drastic appearance change and help you finalize your own personalized look.

Graphics 8/10

The graphics in this game are somewhat blah when it comes to the environments and while they are varied they will not impress anyone. Despite the environments being a bit on the dull side I did find the characters did have a fair to good degree of detail, especially the main characters. As I played more I noticed the game would use a low res version of the allies and possibly other people as well while you roamed about, but they still looked pretty good. All of the cinematics are done in real time and they're a good deal better than many of the games I've seen when it comes to graphic quality.

The details on the characters can be shown clearly in any of the shops where you can zoom in and look at your character. I also noticed some odd details in graphics that I rarely see, like visual damage on the characters which gets gradually worse and even stains clothing with blood, which can even be disabled per gender. I'd be quite folly if I didn't mention how impressed I was with the graphics of the clothing you can buy and wear in the game, the amount of detail that went into each article puts many games to shame in such a serious way. You'll also see some nice motion blur effects when you get drunk, but it's been done so much already that it's more a staple than something to be impressed with.

Sound 8/10

The sound in the game serves its purpose and than some. Cracking a board or broom over someone's head gives a satisfying snap and metal sounds like metal. The harsher moves also have very nice impact sounds that make them sound especially painful. Enemies will make various sounds that are more or less staples as well as have their own dialog set, not by individual, but they are hugely varied to where you'll not hear the same thing said often at all. The voices of the main character's themselves are all pretty good, that is except for Raven who I felt was very forced and I actually couldn't stand his voice.

Music 6/10

Music in this game is actually pretty forgettable. Not to say when you're playing the game you'll want to turn it off, you just wont be humming it later like you might with some games. There is a fair variety of music throughout the game depending on where you are, again though nothing is overly impressive. It's a shame that this game didn't have a better soundtrack, the only notable song is the one played in the title menu and I didn't really find it very appealing. I'd say this is probably the weakest point of the game, so you might just mute out the music and put on your own music if you really need some background noise to keep you going.

Replay Value 9/10

With the game taking on average 9 hours to beat on the first play through on just your first character this game definitely has some legs on it. If you choose to play as all the characters, which allows you to see the entire story, than you're looking at well over 20 hours which is above the average as most games run from 10 to 20 hours. With each play through you're also likely to unlock something new that wasn't available before, be it a mode, an ally, some clothing, ect. All in all you can really rack up the hours with this game and with something to look forward to on each play through.

What's Good
+ It's made by Capcom (Seriously people will buy this purely based on this fact)
+ Huge amount of customization
+ Good length, especially for a beat-em up.
+ 5 unique characters to play as.
+ As close as you're going to get to RCR in 3d for a while.
+ Pretty solid fighting engine, not perfect but it gets the job done.
+ Great replay value
+ You get to shop (This will probably appeal mostly to girls, but it's still a great and robust feature)
+ Breaking out of jail instead of paying bail. (Come on you know you want to.)
+ The choices you get when in with other characters through interrogation.
+ Free Roaming (The city isn't huge, but it offers plenty to see regardless.)
+ Being able to use the allies you collect from the normal game in a special Versus mode called Custom Versus.

What's Bad
- The music is there, but easily forgettable.
- The camera in the game can be downright offensive.
- If you don't like beat-em ups this game wont appeal to you much.
- The fact that they had everything to make a custom character mode already there and they didn't have it. Come on Capcom !
- Some glitches like the twitching ear might bother you, but none I've seen are game breakers.

Rent or Buy

This is a tricky one to say really. I was very happy with my purchase and I'd say the hours you get out of it justifies the price. However if you don't enjoy this type of game or you're just not sure if beat-em ups are your things than you're much safer renting it or better yet playing it at a buddies. This isn't what I'd consider a must buy, unless you're a huge beat-em up fanatic, than you definitely should pick this up.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/15/05


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