Score: 5/10         |         SIDE-SCROLLING BEAT-EM-UP         |         VIOLENT         |         GRAPHIC

“The action-packed gameplay and metal music in Urban Lockdown, combined with digitised character sprites, took me right back to the oldschool side-scrolling beat-em-up games era.”

Urban Lockdown is a side-scrolling beat-em-up game developed and published by Australian developer Thatcher Studios and officially released on August 15, 2018 on Steam. We love home grown Aussie talent! The game was originally produced in 2015 based on Thatcher Studios own movie of the same name released that year. Development of the game continued over the years using an open source video game engine called Open Beats of Rage and the game was free to play, however is now a fully commercial game. Thatcher Studios were kind enough to send us a pre-release version of the game through our Steam Curator page for review. If you’re a steam user, be sure to join our public Game on Aus group.

In Urban Lockdown, a crime lord by the name of Sanchez and his goon inmates have overrun the local prison and are trying to take over the city. Sanchez has kidnapped Janet, Rick’s sister, so Rick along with the Sheriff and Shane, a previous inmate looking for redemption, must battle their way through waves of goons into the heart of the prison to free Janet and take down the evil Sanchez. You can watch the original movie in full on Youtube. The story and dialogue are cheesy but enough to give you a clear picture of the progression of the story as you get closer to the prison.

The voice acting is good, but for some reason all the voices came out of the right audio channel only and are a little muffled compared to the clear music and sound effects. This is a little off-putting, but you get used to it as the action of the game takes you over.

The three main heroes Rick, Shane and the Sheriff all have slightly different attack moves, and these characters, as well as the goons and other support characters are all digital sprites and look really cool. Think Mortal Kombat, couple that with heavy metal action music, and you’re taken back to the old-school side-scrolling beat-em-up games era. In addition to punching and jump kicks, you can also grapple and throw the enemies and some objects. It is worth trying out all three characters to see which one you like the feel of the most.

You control the characters using the keyboard. For my first playthrough I used the default keys of ‘A’ for attack, ‘D’ for jump, ‘F’ for block and the arrow keys to move around. These keys were fine at first, however I learned I could only play for 30-40 minutes at a time as my left hand would cramp up something fierce and would need to rest for a while. It wasn’t until I had died for the 6th time against the final boss, and getting a massive cramp in my hand, that I discovered you can re-bind the keys. It pays to go through the options menu before starting a game like this. I will have to try some different combinations to find one that doesn’t cramp my hand.

Each scene is a set area of the game level and you can’t move back or forward until all enemies have been defeated. The game starts off relatively easy as you fight various types of enemies from simple fist punchers, to sledgehammers, knife and molotov cocktail throwers, to goons wielding shotguns and automatic rifles. If you kill a goon who was using a ranged weapon, you can pick it up off the ground and use it yourself, though they have limited ammo. There are also items in the environment that you can use to your advantage such as a barrel on fire that can be pushed over to burn enemies, or you can blow up a generator which electrocutes anyone nearby. The enemy characters have plenty of variety in fighting styles but could use different coloured prison clothes or something to further distinguish them from each other.

Occasionally you will also fight in a first person shooting level where you control the weapon crosshairs with the arrow keys and shoot with ‘A’. You can also hold up a shield using ‘F’. I did struggle with these levels later in the game, especially if there was a goon in a car which took a few hits to take down, or fighting the boss Sanchez. As you get hit, there’s a slight delay before you shoot again, though the enemy’s delay seems quicker than ours, so they kept killing me before I could get a shot off. Maybe it’s just me.

In ordinary fist fighting levels, I did find a kind-of exploit where if you can fight the enemy on either side of the screen, you can land more successive punches and almost keep them down or in the air this way until they’re dead or they land a lucky punch to knock you back. I almost beat end boss Sanchez using this technique and felt I was cheating as he was close to death, only for him to knock me back and then shoot me to death as i was on my last life, that sonuvabitch!

Overall, I gave the game a 5/10. The action-packed gameplay and metal music in Urban Lockdown, combined with digitised character sprites, took me right back to the oldschool side-scrolling beat-em-up games era. I did suffer from hand cramps with the controls after a while, and the voices seem to only come out of the right speaker which was a little off-putting. The enemy characters have plenty of variety in fighting styles but could use different coloured prison clothes or something to further distinguish them from each other. The Australian developer has released many patches prior to and since release, so good on him for putting in a solid 3+ years of work and being able to release a commercial game on a platform like Steam.

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