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RIOT: Civil Unrest Review
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RIOT: Civil Unrest Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: IV Productions

Publisher: Merge Games

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Release Date: Out Now

Price as of Article: $16.99 $19.99 USD,  £12.47* £14.99 GBP

*Offer ends Feb 14th 2019

Game code provided by Merge games for review

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RIOT: Civil Unrest does not just have one story but many stories spread over four counties, as well as unlockable conflicts.

  • Italy – NoTAV moment
  • Greece – Battle of Keratea
  • Spain – Indignados moment
  • Egypt – Tahrir Revolution

I want to make this clear, RIOT: Civil Unrest does not glorify any of these riots and conflicts. It actually implores the players to educate themselves on these conflicts.

“The developer Leonard Menchiari has been experiencing this form of protest in person, and the game “RIOT” was born as a way to express it and to tell the stories of these fights. What is that triggers such a strife? What does a cop feel during the conflict? In “Riot”, the player will experience both sides of a fight in which there is no such thing as “victory” or “defeat”.”

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RIOT: Civil Unrest has been marketed as a real-time simulator (RTS). This is, in essence, what it is. It is, from a gameplay point of view, not a deep RTS that will have you managing a ton of activities all at once such as This War of Mine. RIOT seems to adopt a very simple approach to the RTS meta: select a group, move them here, and with the arrow keys or ABXY, do an action – if necessary – and so on. For most players, this simple RTS model will be fine with the pick-up-and-play controls, but if you want a truly deep experience in terms of gameplay, it may not be for you.

The RIOT roundup

RIOT, as I see it, is more of an expressionism piece of art, allowing the developer the medium to come as close to showing an outsider – the player – what it is like from a first-hand account of being in these types of situations.

For a person such as myself who finds this stuff fascinating – as well as truly terrifying. It’s something that no one should have to deal with. RIOT was, in my humble opinion, as close to a real imagining as I’d like. That does, not however, sell games alone.

The Riot has begun

Within the start screen, there are 3 gameplay options: Global, Story, and Versus. Each has a slightly different gameplay element.

Global play is the story mode where you play through the main encounters: Italy, Greece, Spain, and Egypt. This goes into more detail about each of the reasons for the riots.

Before entering an encounter, you pick a side: protester or police. Then, you customise the side’s four groups with items, projectiles, and weapons, depending on the side chosen. Once into a game, each side will be given an objective, which is the opposite for each side. For example, if you pick the police first, the objective could be ‘clear protesters from a marked area’, if you pick protester then your objective is to ‘occupy the area’.

Once an objective is met, you will unlock new gear and items for the side being played. This leads to some customisation.

Story play is different in that you play a different encounter per “level” you climb. Once you complete the objective, you move to the next encounter. Again, you unlock different units that have different abilities as you progress, and you can equip each unit with up to 4 usable items. Items range from something that lowers the usefulness of tear gas to walkie-talkies to call for back up, depending on the side picked.

Story mode is slightly different, as the result of the encounter will impact the next one. If you complete an encounter passively as the protesters, the public will be on your side more, making the next objective easier due to having more people. If you complete the objective aggressively or by starting the riot, you will lose the public and make the next encounter harder. If this is the case, you can replay the previous encounter to change the public’s view. Same goes for the police also. I played this mode the most.

Versus mode allows for local multiplayer on unlocked maps, pitting two people against each other.

Riot control

The controls are fairly simple: left stick to move the selected group, L/R to change the selected group. Arrow keys select an item and the right stick selects a formation (police only) and aims projectiles, and ABXY selects an action to perform.

The controls are easy to get to grips with; the problems arise when you start to move a group. RIOT uses a physics-based movement system that means if a group runs into an object they will interact with that object more naturally. This is the theory, at least. In practice, the system is a little flawed. It is not as fine-tuned as I would have liked. I have seen part of a group I was moving go in the wrong direction completely, walking through the opposition even if I am not moving them and just going for a walk. I had one group get split in half – after I moved them, one half decided to get stuck behind a fence.

All these problems can be ironed out, but it’s really annoying when you have selected a group but half of the group are off somewhere else. This mainly happened to the protesters, as they are just a group of people. The police have formations that they stick to. The protesters can make a barricade but not as tight as the police.


No matter the side picked, there are two major actions: passive and aggressive. Each side starts passive, such as sit down protests or making a barricade of bodies to push back protesters with riot shields. Nice and relaxed actions.

If you like a bit more action, you can hold X and go to aggressive mode. As the protesters, you gain the ability to throw projectiles at the police. By holding Y, an aiming line appears, you move it around with the right stick and let go of Y to throw the projectile. This is so sensitive that pushing the stick slightly will send the line over the map, so it needs to be adjusted. Not only that but, if the group is moving even slightly, the aiming becomes frustratingly annoying.

As the police, you can use aggressive tactics and go to town injuring and arresting protesters, sometimes even using live ammo. In one encounter I had, I counted 25 people injured. The police suffer from the aiming problem, too. Remember, the actions you take may change how well you do in each situation.

The RIOT Aftermath

RIOT is very light on the standard RTS format with little to no management of resources as all items equipped have a cooldown period. The action not freezing when the player makes a move is the closest to an RTS as it gets. For me, it was fine except for the issues discussed above. Putting RTS as a genre brings with it a loyal fan base of players that expect a certain archetype. This is not Starcraft, this as close to a riot as we have had on a console.

See Also
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The audio does its job, it sets the mood. Within the game sections, there is no music. For me, this was a good choice as it allows the focus to be on the crowd and keep the player engaged. There is plenty of noise, such as the sounds of a mass of people in a crowd which is always present. An inaudible cacophony of hundreds of angry voices all shouting at once.

Unfortunately, it is too generic and sounds too engineered to fit all circumstances. There are some deviations, such as when the crowd is hit with tear gas, screaming and more scared sounds add to the cacophony. I wished it was more natural sounding, though.

The music in the menu screen is tense, thumping, heart pounding music. It’s almost as if you are about to see the 10 o’clock news and something major has happened.

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The sprites are all done in a 2D style, but the backgrounds are all 3D. This allows for some really good lighting to be used to set the mood for each riot. Even though the assets are 2D, they make each level look like chaos has ensued.


Each of the individual people on screen has physics-based movement interactions. Running into an object or other people, they will react in a way that seems more realistic. It also makes for some very interesting scenarios and no one playthrough will be the same as another. 

There are no problems with performance in handheld or docked mode that I have found. I played mainly in handheld mode. The controls are simple and intuitive – even if I kept selecting the wrong group. I would have liked a way to select more than one group to make moving in unison more intuitive.

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At $19.99 USD or £14.99 GBP, RIOT is priced perfectly – more so if you buy it with the discount. Some encounters can be completed in mere minutes, some may take longer. The ability to play as both the protesters and the police doubles up the amount of playtime. There is over 15 hours worth of gameplay in RIOT. 

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Lots of content

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Good price

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Easy to pick up and play

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Personal to the developer

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Some Refinements Needed

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Lack of multi-group select

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Physics system too sensitive

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Have to replay some content

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