Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Urban Chaos [GOG page] was the first title developed and released by Mucky Foot Productions, a team of ex-Bullfrog employees. Its mixture of third-person exploration and sophisticated fisticuffs wasn’t an obvious choice for a studio that had cut its teeth on strategy, management and god games, but Mucky Foot demonstrated previously hidden talents and delivered the first of two classics produced during their short existence.
If a certain big studio were to remake Urban Chaos today, it’d almost certainly feature a map caked in layer upon layer of icons. There’d be icons to show you the location of citizens that you could arrest, citizens that needed your help, locations that contained collectibles, locations that simply existed and that could be located by anyone smart enough to follow the icon. There would probably be badges to collect – you’re a cop; cops like badges – and you’d be able to learn more about the city by climbing skyscrapers or radio towers.
Looking back at Urban Chaos, it does seem like a natural precursor to just about any open world city game you could mention. There are people to (optionally) arrest, people to (optionally) assist and missions with various possible outcomes. While the city hasn’t aged particularly well, and the freedom of the streets isn’t quite as evident, aspects of Urban Chaos are still superior to modern open world games. First of all, it’s a less cluttered experience, with events and encounters seeming to emerge from the background life of the city rather than appearing as points on a checklist. More important still is the combat and movement, which consists of systems to master rather than acting as mindless linking points between one pickup and the next.