Tonight We Riot Review- Gamers of the World Unite!
In an age when media prefers to stay away from political language, it’s refreshing to see one break the mold. After all, so many games have overtly political themes and influences, it’s only right that some of them lean into it. Tonight We Riot is the first game from the interactive media department of Means TV. For those unfamiliar, Means TV is an up and coming media co-op, a streaming service with an overt anti-capitalist message. MTV (no relation) is now getting into gaming, and as you can imagine, their games are going to have similar themes.
Tonight We Riot begins with scenes of humble workers subjected to terrible labor. Soulless factory lines, demeaning fast food cashier service, the dreaded rideshare passengers. And so, as the game’s title would suggest, now is the time to riot. If you’ve ever had a job where you do hard work and get less pay than the dopey manager who does a fifth of what you do, you’ll understand the motives. After all, if you make $100/hr worth of value for a company, and the company pays you $9/hr, what is that other than theft?
Sometimes picket lines just don’t cut it.And so, the ̶g̶a̶m̶e̶r̶s̶ workers rise up. In Tonight We Riot you play as the nameless leader of a group of rioters as they face down riot police. Armed with nothing but a humble brick and molotov, you must coordinate this ragtag group of workers in order to fight your way to the end of each level. Of course, with so many people involved in this melee, there is a good chance your character will fall. But for this crowd, every character is a leader. Should you die, another fellow worker will pick up your banner and fight on.
There isn’t a whole lot of story going on in Tonight We Riot. Not that there needs to be. There’s a very sinister looking CEO man, and you have to fight your way to get him. Simple as that. There are a few lines of dialogue that are pretty funny (“I worked very hard to inherit my empire, what have you done?”), and the rest of the story is told through the newspaper clippings you see while the levels are loading. The newspapers do a good job of portraying the manufacturing of consent against the riot, and get more desperate as you close in on the gated community. It’s simple storytelling, but still effective.
Tonight We Riot takes place in four main areas. You start in an industrial district, fight through a lumber mill, make your way through a dockyard, and arrive at the gated community home to the wealthy. Each area has its own unique enemies. Riot cops, loggers with chainsaws, mutant fish people, and then even better equipped riot cops. Tonight We Riot has a slight cyberpunk feel, with big machines and drones and occasional massive mech bossfight. But rather than being full on futuristic, this seems like a universe similar to ours, but where the cars have little hover engines instead of wheels. We already live in the cyberpunk future and it sucks.
Tonight We Riot has some incredible style. The aesthetics for each of these ‘worlds’ are great, each with fantastic art design. The colors are both vibrant and cast light on the dark world in which this game takes place. The workers themselves are a little simplistic, but in typical union/ riot style, the more people join the crowd, the better things start to look. Tonight We Riot also has some incredible sound design and amazing synth music. The soundtrack is definitely reminiscent of Hotline Miami and Katana ZERO.
The gameplay for Tonight We Riot is a little difficult to get used to. For the main character, it’s fairly simple. A simplistic Double Dragon style beat-em-up, where you can choose between throwing punches and throwing bricks. However, much like other crowd brawlers such as Okhlos: Omega and Sea Salt, you’re not only playing as the leader character, but also coordinating the crowd around you. Without proper tactics, you’re liable to get your fellow rioters killed by an APC’s turret, or worse, hit by one of your own mis-thrown molotovs. Choosing between a human wave attack or having just your main character make a desperate lone charge makes for some interesting, albeit sometimes awkward, gameplay strategy. But coordinating a riot is a herculean task in itself, so in that regard the gameplay is right on its mark.
Every level in Tonight We Riot has a set number of comrades that you need to recruit. Generally, each area has three or four different workplaces that you pass, and simply pressing the B button (or whatever your console tells you to press) recruits around five people to the crowd. The crowds are a little smaller than I would have liked, generally not growing to more than 10 or 15 people. But it’s enough to get the job done. Each member of the crowd gets an identical throwing object as you, and it was a whole lot of fun seeing the motley crew of rioters turning into a cinder block mingun and toppling a tank.
Getting as many fellow workers through the level is the main objective for each mission in Tonight We Riot. Should you get enough people through alive, you’ll be rewarded with a new item that you carry into each fight. Some of them are passive buffs, like masks that protect against teargas or shoes that keep water cannons from pushing you too far back. The rest are weapons. There’s a large wrench and a chainsaw you can use for melee weapons, as well as stuff like Looney Toons bombs and spanners you throw at supersonic speed. These carry over between each mission, allowing for the player to return to a harder level better equipped in order to get that missed unlockable item.
Of course, it would be inappropriate if this were not a co-op game. You can grab a friend for some couch co-op and take on Tonight We Riot as comrades. Both players control a small group of rioters to control for themselves. There’s not a whole lot more to talk about this, other than saying that There is Power in a Union.
The only big downside to Tonight We Riot is how short it is. Each of the four zones has five levels, which sometimes take only a few minutes to beat, and one boss. So that’s like 25ish levels total. If you’re good, you could probably beat the game within three or four hours. After the final boss, there is an ‘endless mode’ where you fight wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. But having another world or two would make Tonight We Riot feel more complete.
Overall I had a great time with Tonight We Riot. My big complaint is that there isn’t enough of it. I’m very happy to see that the Means TV studios are starting out strong, and I look forward to whatever overtly political games they have on the way. Some players may not appreciate a game with a political message, so to that I say, return to one of those apolitical games, like Call of Duty or Final Fantasy VII. Nothing political about those titles. No sir.