Streets Of Rage 4 review: It packs a punch on PC!
We’ve seen gaming franchises go back to their roots, implementing modern techniques into a new entry, plenty of times over the decades. Some succeeded, some failed. How will Streets Of Rage 4 fare?
Pretty well, it turns out! Streets Of Rage 4 is a belated sequel that honours the past but refines the series for the present, and hopefully it means the series will stay for the future.
There have been plenty of efforts to make a fourth entry in Streets Of Rage; from a Dreamcast follow-up to a full-on remake, but they all got canned…
So when developer Lizardcube, hot off the success of the WonderBoy remake, pitched to SEGA back in 2018 for a new entry of Streets Of Rage, with the help of DotEmu, development tentatively began under the shadow of previous failures. And two years later, Streets Of Rage 4 finally releases this week on PS4, Xbox One, Steam and Switch.
And so it begins…
You begin the game with five characters to choose from: Axl, Blaze, Cherry, Adam and Floyd. Not to spoil it, but there’s plenty more to find and unlock, and each character has their own special attacks that make you want to play the game over and over.
You’re brought into the story through transitions that make it look like a comic-book, with colour schemes and themes to make you feel that you’re truly back in Streets Of Rage land.
The wide variety of stages are fantastic here, with Stage 1 being the classic backstreets, and throughout the game you will find yourself at a concert, on a plane, in a lab or even in Chinatown, with each one sprawling with little details and pickups to make each of them unique from one another. Keep reading for our full thoughts…
The graphics here are an ingenious touch; instead of going for a 2.5D look with polygons and 3D special moves, here it’s all 2D; just as before, but with a look that still updates it for modern platforms.
For example, 1000 frames of each character have been implemented as the PlayStation blog stated last week, so it’s no surprise that everything is smooth to look at and control.
The way that bosses weave and move between their special moves, or when you’re on top of a train, ready to jump out the way of obstacles, everything is a full 60FPS and the animations help make everything a joy to look at.
everything is smooth to look at and control
Remember the HD Remix version of Street Fighter 2? It was a sharp look where everything controlled the same, but the artwork was as clear as a HD episode of The Simpsons. Here, it’s the next level when the animations and the lighting are mixed in
Playing it on Steam for this review, the resolution made everything as if we were controlling a comic book as well. It will be curious to see how the Switch version looks when docked, but with the design of the game, it can’t be unrealistic to imagine the same experience there.
The only downside we noticed, in a couple of boss battles, especially in stage 9, was some slowdown, and it broke the flow of trying to beat the boss. But that can be likely fixed in a future patch.
The music is also a staple of the series, and it’s just as good here as it was in the previous three entries.
This is of no surprise really, as, to quote Smash Bros Ultimate: ‘They’re all here!’
Previous composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima join main composer Olivier Deriviere, alongside other guest composers such as Yoko Shimomura.
Everything, from the intro music to the theme of each stage and bosses, it’s all intertwined into a package where you can see it being played as remixes in Japanese bars in the coming years. It’s fantastic, and continues the legacy of how a Streets Of Rage soundtrack should be done.
The best way that we found was to plug in some headphones, have it as loud as one can stand, and just enjoy the sounds of the levels, the characters, and obviously the music. It brings you in to the world, and it makes you feel as if it’s a fourth entry on the SEGA Saturn back in 1996 (in a good way!).
Another bonus here, is that the music can be switched to a classic soundtrack at will; just going to the ‘Pause’ menu will easily switch this when wanted, and it’s a great touch if you just want to play the remaining half of a stage with some Streets Of Rage 2 music.
The gameplay is as fast and unforgiving as before, with controls that give the player a better feel of how to perform special attacks and combos.
When controlling Axl, holding W + E will have a special attack which covers any enemy in close-range in a fiery uppercut. These are limited to the stars on your health bar, so use them wisely, while just pressing E will perform a special attack from the second entry.
A great thing to note here, as it’s been publicly stated: with the feature of selecting pixelated characters from the series’ past, you can perform the exact same attacks as from those entries.
The gameplay is as fast and unforgiving as before
So if you controlled Axl in the first Streets Of Rage, and pressed A on the Mega Drive for a police car to fire a rocket around you, the same can be done here; with the same pixel-art and sounds.
A fantastic touch, and the pixelated characters also work well in this entry. It’s only when it’s a 4-player offline co-op with multiple Axls, that it becomes a ‘Day of the Doctor’ scene, with all the shouts and punches coming to the enemies at once.
It’s also worth mentioning the two-player online co-op, which can be accessed right away through an invite of a friend, and with some voice chat, it’s as if it’s 1993 all over again. Very fun, and very easy to spend an evening.
The unforgiving nature of the game is great to have as well, where you will need to expect some game overs when playing through. There are no continues, no checkpoints, so it all depends on the health pickups and weapons you need to use along the way, but there is a saving grace to some, regardless of which difficulty level you choose.
Nothing is watered down.
There are multiple assists that can take ten percent off, or half, or other divisions to the total score, which will hinder the overall score tracked over your playthrough, but in some cases, it may be needed when it exceeds your tempered frustrations.
These can give a few extra lives, or a couple of extra star items, ready to press W + E when needed.
I love the fact it’s still unforgiving. It doesn’t make it easier to cater to those who want an easy ride here. Nothing is watered down. It maintains that challenge from the previous three entries; there’s no continues, no checkpoints, it’s just your wits, and that’s in part what makes this a damn fun ride from start to finish with any character you choose.
The only thing that could have been welcome, was perhaps a ‘run’ mechanic; a quick double-tap on the directional key to have your character run a bit would have been great. If it’s there, it may have been missed, but trying any combination didn’t summon a jog from Blaze.
Music is on par with the previous entries
Online is addictive
So much replayability
Random slowdowns on some bosses which can kill the pace
No ‘jog’ move, which might've been handy
It’s back. It’s a triumph. It’s yet another string to the bow – a sequel to a classic series done right.
It’s an incredible ride, and it’s made side-scrolling beat em ups relevant again. I hope that it begins a trend to see more of the genre.
From the graphical style to the music, it makes the number 4 something to be proud of, rather than what Sonic 4 did to its series at the time. It sets a benchmark for what other series could benefit from – such as Golden Axe and Shinobi – taking in what made the series so fun, and refining it for a 2020 audience.
it’s made side-scrolling beat em ups relevant again
There’s lots of potential here for more characters to appear, or more of the soundtrack to be implemented, as any more music is always welcome in this series.
There’s so much replayability here that there just wasn’t room for it in the review, but battle mode and replaying the game with the pixelated characters and classic music is a fantastic treat.
Buy it, play it, enjoy it for what it is, and savour each playthrough. If you’re playing Streets of Rage for the first time with this entry, you’re going to want to play through the other three once it’s all over. Welcome back, Axl.
Streets Of Rage 4 launches on 30th April for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
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