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Urban Legend

Published by Manifesto Games
Price $19.95
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Primary Genre Secondary Genre

It is the year 2127. Society is in tatters; armed gangs roam the streets, genetically modified food is now the norm and the last non-GM animals have long since died out. Subsequently it is discovered that the new GM food causes cancer - all except food from the Bigfood Corporation.

Bored of your job? Steal your company's secrets! ''As a crowd gathers round an angry young man / Face down on the street with a gun in his hand / In the ghetto...''

John Doe is a lowly worker at Bigfood. He's fed up with his job and one day receives a call from a mysterious Mister X, who wants him to steal Bigfood's top secret data. Pretending to "go postal" and shoot up the place, John Doe begins an epic adventure that leads to government conspiracies, armed battles and a search for the truth behind Bigfood's secret recipe.

Urban Legend is a turn-based squad shooter in the vein of Xcom or Taskforce. You have a squad of one or more soldiers, each with a selection of weapons and equipment, and play a series of missions in which you need to reach certain locations, kill certain people and more besides. Earn money by completing missions with bonus cash for doing so quickly or killing all enemies on the level. Spend money on weapons and equipment or to hire new soldiers. But remember - if John Doe dies, the game is over.

Between missions you can read about your next job, visit the shop and hire mercenaries. Conversation with a security guard.

Comparisons to Xcom are a little unfair - in terms of setting, style and the cyberpunk "chips" that boost your character's abilities, it has more in common with Syndicate. Characters generally have a mere 6-8 AP per turn and cannot pick up items from the environment (including any dead comrades or enemies). Unlike Syndicate, however, there is a frisson of humour mixed in with the dystopia - though the game text would benefit from a bit of proofreading.

Graphics are isometric, with the walls of buildings faintly translucent so you can see and interact with characters behind them. Controls can be operated entirely by mouse - left click to move somewhere, right click to attack a target - with a few keyboard shortcuts to cycle through soldiers, end the turn or scroll the screen. Sprites are small and a little cute, and controlling them is thus a little fiddly but generally straightforward.

As well as a range of gunshot and other sound effects (the burp when drinking a can of coke was rather unexpected!), Urban Legend is accompanied by a small number of musical tracks. These are chosen to match the mood of the mission - crossing the warzone that is the ghetto you are accompanied by heavy, dissonant chords; escaping the car park, frenetic house music; when John Doe flees unknown assailants, eerie silence. If not to your taste, music and sound effect volumes can be set independently when you load the game, so you could just mute the music and play your own stuff if you prefer.

The playability is rather well thought out. Rather than complicate matters with an Xcom-style inventory system, you equip your troops with up to eight items each and can rearrange or buy/sell these mid-mission. There is no capacity to pick up objects in mission and no reloading of guns is required - you hold the gun and the relevant ammunition separately in your inventory and the ammo is used automatically. The aim here is to make a turn-based strategy shooter that is "casual friendly" and it seems to be largely successful.

There are, however, a number of issues with Urban Legend that I encountered. For instance, if one of your troops dies, the Tab key (which cycles through your troops) will not cycle past the trooper before the dead one. You'll need to select the next one by mouse. Sometimes enemies hide in room corners and, bizarrely, this can render them harder to hit even when you stand next to them. Hiring mercenaries won't tell you what they have or their general stats until you pay up. More worrying is a general stability problem - it did not like my laptop at all, crashing repeatedly through virtual memory problems, though the desktop machine coped okay. Even there it hung a few times when I accidentally clicked outside of the windowed game - but not every time.

I hope these issues can be cleared up because there's a rather neat game here. Though later missions can get tough and your cash is always tight, there is generally no need to kill everyone on the mission. Some basic strategy will go a long way to keeping your troops alive. There's atmosphere, humour and quite a range of guns, chips and oddments, certainly enough to keep you entertained for some time. An excellent "starter" turn-based strategy game for the casual gamer with the urge for something a bit meatier.

Graphics 85%
Sound 75%
Playability 80%
Longevity 75%
Overall Score 78%
Silver Star

Published on 21 Sep 2007
Reviewed by Andrew Williams

Keywords: urban legend review, manifesto games reviews, manifesto games games, urban legend scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.

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