Streets of Rage 4 Review: A welcome blast from the past
Can you believe it has been 26 years since Streets of Rage 3? I was even more surprised that Streets of Rage 4 finally launched on modern-day consoles. Nobody was expecting this, but we should all be glad it’s here.
Streets of Rage 4 tries not to stray from the path that made the original entries so successful, opting instead to pay more of an homage to the original while updating the visuals. Thankfully, it works!
Things take place a decade after Streets of Rage 3. I’m not going to dive much into the story, but series mainstays Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding make a comeback. They play well enough, but the new characters are far more interesting to me. Each character has attacks that are pretty standard for a beat ’em up, although there is a bit more depth to the combat than we’ve seen in years past.
Each character has special moves that can be triggered by inputting a button combination, but these special moves also take away a chunk of health. Stringing moves together will help you regain health. So taking a bit of damage to get out of a group of enemies can be beneficial, even if it is detrimental in the short term.
Other quality of life changes have been made to the combat as well. A super-powered Star Ability can instantly take out weaker enemies. The ability to catch thrown weapons out of the air adds an additional measure of chaos to the combat.
Enemies drop items fairly frequently. They can also be found from destroying interactive objects in the world. Learning the right timing to catch an item out of the air can turn the tide of battle.
Thankfully, the combos become second nature pretty quickly. Players will find themselves using them naturally over the few hours that the story lasts. Luckily the characters have pretty distinct move sets and playstyles.
The different moves and playstyles is a good thing, especially because the game is over so quickly. Streets of Rage 4 isn’t a long game, and the $24.99 price tag is well worth it for fans of the genre or series thanks to its replayability.
Multiplayer adds some additional replay value for those wanting to get the most out of their purchase. I didn’t have a chance to try brawling with a friend, but I intend to now that the game has launched. A quick note for PC players though: purchases made through the GOG client don’t include multiplayer. Anyone wanting to play with friends should absolutely purchase through Steam.
Since this is a game released in 2020, the visuals have been bumped up significantly. Streets of Rage 4 does stay true to its roots with beautifully hand-drawn characters and animations. Special attacks ramp up the visual flair with flashy attacks, all while retaining its charm. While combat is smooth and fluid, movement is not.
It took me a little while to get used to it again. It has been years since I’ve played a brawler like this. However, I think that most players should get used to it pretty quickly.
I just wish the level design did more to mix up the gameplay. This is a traditional beat ’em up through and through. While the environments look fine, there needed to be more variety in them for a game released for modern consoles. There are a few unique stages but not enough to really feel like I was progressing through a world instead of just disjointed stages.
There are five difficulty settings here for players to get through too, as well as a boss rush mode and a more classic arcade mode. Again, there’s plenty to do, but I’m not quite sold on the staying power for those playing solo.
Dotemu and LizardCube have included some great nostalgia treats for those who want to relive the old days. Original soundtracks from Streets of Rage 1 and 2 have been included, as well as screen filters that make the characters and environments look like they did on the older consoles. It’s a fun addition that helps spice up an occasionally bland entry.
Streets of Rage 4 didn’t need to reinvent the formula; it just needed to expand upon it. There are some great changes here that help elevate the gameplay and combat, but the bland story and environments drag it down a bit. These things won’t deter those looking for a new Streets of Rage entry, especially one that has such great combat. Those who were hoping for something to really raise the bar might feel a little disappointed.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.