A Classic Beat Em Up With New Co-op Action
Not much can beat sitting down with a friend and playing video games together; the shouting, laughing and knowing looks punctuate a gameplay experience in a way that can not be matched when playing alone. Streets of Rage 4 knows the power of co-op as they up the stakes from 2 player multiplayer to 4, very apt considering.
Streets of Rage 4 is a simple game, punch people in the face and eat roast chicken (often from the floor). The story is told in brief segments in between levels and has you chasing an all powerful syndicate after control of the city. Fighting your way past waves of hooligans and police officers through a variety of locations dotted around the city is the challenge.
Using only basic attacks, special attacks, grapples, jumps and weapons taken from the foes you will fight, the combat seems simple at first. The majority of the actions your character can make are mapped solely to the buttons (square, triangle, cross and circle if you’re playing on Playstation). Streets of Rage’s simplicity is not a weakness but its greatest strength, it knows what it is and everything has been distilled into an easy to play hard to master beat ‘em up that makes for hours of enjoyment and replayability.
Basic attacks are your bread and butter but if you want to rack up large combos and raise your score you will need to mix these with your more powerful special attacks. Charged and dash versions of your basic attack enable you to create custom combos when you want to get creative. Special attacks have a wider area of effect and can often be used to launch more than one enemy into the air, especially useful when they get behind you. Aerial attacks, both basic and special, can be used to initiate and extend combos so you can juggling enemies like that creepy clown you never wanted at your birthday party.
Streets of Rage shows its depth when all of the comboing is thrown together and spiced up with its risk/reward mechanics. Special attacks require a small investment of health you can only get back by doing damage without being hit. Using multiple special attacks means a greater health investment but has the potential for larger and more stylish combos. Grapples make for a useful switch-up that allows you to mash foes and regain the lost health from using your specials or thrown into other enemies. The timing and focus of your combos will change with your character and opponent.
There are five old and new characters to play as, this is before you get to unlocking the cast from previous Streets of Rage games. The starting line-up includes the well-balanced Axel Stone, the hard-hitting Floyd Iraia and the swift and combo-heavy Cherry Hunter each with unique designs that bring them to life. Each character has their own speciality and will excel and struggle against different enemies. Which character you choose will be determined by your preferred playing style or which foes you find most difficult to beat.
The variety of enemies can not be understated. You are slowly introduced to thugs, police, bikers, martial artists, punk and gangsters across the game’s short story all of which have their own attack patterns. Some foes are weak to grapples, others to specials. Weapons are handy against a few, but most require a good old fashioned basic attacks. Prioritising which enemies to take out first is a useful strategy when faced with a screen full of mean faced foes that all want a slice of those delicious roast chickens. Minibosses break-up the action nicely and as per usual make reappearances as regular foes later on. Each level has a main boss fight with large health pools and multiple stages to the fight. All in all, it is your classic video game beat ‘em up baddy set-up from the 90’s brought into 2020.
You need not face them alone in the Streets of Rage as, for the first time, you can play up to four player co-op through the main story. This welcome addition is extended to online play if you cannot find a friend for some couch chaos. Friendly fire can be turned on or off at your own discretion from the character select screen if you find it a nuisance but it is always fun to ‘accidentally’ hit your friend with an iron pipe. If you want a bit more of a fair exchange the battle mode allows you to test your skills against human or computer fighters as you pit the main cast against one another. Fancy a bit more of a challenge? Then arcade mode and boss rush adds even more value to this already very replayable game.
Hard but fair, the story will take you across 12 different levels in different parts of the city. Through the sewers, bars, underpasses, clubs, castles and streets as you chase the villains who wish to take over your beautiful city. Streets of Rage 4 has levels; from the simple but deep combat, multiple playable characters and those you fight against each stage has a cacophony of well balanced and designed systems that will challenge you and probably make you rage quit a few times.