Streets of Rage, one of the jewels from the golden era of Sega, was originally released in the early nineties, with all 3 games being published within the span of 4 years (1991-1994). 26 years later, the fourth game is finally out and available for every major console. For obvious reasons, most fans of the saga are now in their thirties, and so they probably don't have enough time to waste on video games... right? At least that could explain some of Street of Rage 4's flaws, but we'll talk about it later.
If you like kicking and punching your way out of trouble, but you also like causing said trouble while walking down the street, then it’s time to let everyone know that we’re not letting this genre die anytime soon!
What to Expect
Streets of Rage 4 is your typical side-scrolling beat 'em up, so you probably already know what to expect from it: palette-swapped enemies, "GO" signs with an arrow telling you to move forward, throwable weapons, etc. If you have enough controllers, you could even play locally with other 3 people, something we totally recommend for a true arcade experience.
We have mixed emotions when it comes to the game's visuals. We know for sure there's a lot of work behind every character, and we love the fact that it uses the good old amerimanga style (another trope of the genre), but we can't help thinking everything looks too generic. And yes, we get that Streets of Rage takes a lot of "inspiration" from Final Fight, for example, but 26 years are more than enough to come up with something different. To be fair, though, nothing looks out of place if you're new to the game, so there's that. Oh, and the intro movie looks amazing!
If we're saying the graphics didn't impress us too much, then we have to say that we really enjoyed the music! The catchy synths, the sexy piano notes here and there, the powerful drum and bass... and those strings! Yeah, we absolutely love the main theme and we’re not hiding it, but trust us when we say the other tracks are enjoyable too, and they all help bring Streets of Rage 4 to life. A nice touch for those nostalgic is that you can play as the original versions of the heroes, and that includes the saturated 16-bit voices and sound effects.
Time to talk about the gameplay, so we'll start mentioning what we liked the most. While the majority of games have switched to an online-focused approach, Streets of Rage 4 can be played in local co-op mode, and having 4 people play together is always a delightful experience. That being said, you can still compete against your friends and other players around the world because all your high scores are shared, another excuse to keep playing and beat your own records.
We said earlier that 26 years is enough time to think about improving some things, and that also applies to the core mechanics. Although we could consider Streets of Rage to be a fighting game, the only thing you need to know is what your jump and attack buttons are. While other games have a 3-buttons system (punch, kick, block), Streets of Rage 4 does everything (but blocking, because you can't do that) with the same button; in our case, using an Xbox One controller, X did all the magic: just press X for a single hit, A+X for flying kicks, and forward+forward+X for a special kick/punch (it depends on your character). If you want to get fancy, you can also use special moves with the Y button (X+Y is your star attack) or hit those behind you with RT.
Maybe to compensate for how simple these moves are, all your special attacks consume a little bit of health (there's no Special bar), but that's counterproductive because you end up always using your X combos, and maaaaybe your special X+Y attack if it's available and you're desperate. In other words, you only need to learn when it's safe to attack your enemies, and then spamming X (as if you had another option...) will do the rest. In true beat 'em up fashion, you can also pick up pipes, knives, swords, and other throwable weapons, just like you need to break stuff and pick up food from the floor to heal you up.
Once you beat all 12 stages in the Story, you unlock the Boss Rush and Arcade modes, as well as the Stage Select mode. From the get-go, the only other mode available is Battle, which allows you to compete offline against other players. As you play, you can also unlock more characters, like Adam Hunter or the original versions of Blaze Fielding, Axel Stone, and Adam Hunter himself, not only using their original sprites but also the original movesets.
The problem? You can finish the game in less than 2 hours if you play in normal difficulty, and all stages are so short you have no time to enjoy them properly. If you go for a harder difficulty then you’re up for a real challenge, but again, the only difference between a casual player and a more experienced one is knowing when to spam the X button; nothing more, nothing less.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Streets of Rage 4 is not bad at all, but it's too short for a console/PC game. Also, the plot is as linear, cliche, and dull as you can imagine, which far from being a nod to the '90s makes all characters feel uninteresting... as if finishing the game in an hour and a half wasn't enough.
Local co-op is not dead!
For what it’s worth, it’s challenging and fun.
If you’re vegan, you can customize both health items. But you can go for pizza and a big burger too!
The controls are too simple, maybe? It would be nice to block or at least have a couple more options when it comes to punching and kicking. It feels cheap to always abuse the same combo.
Although there are 12 stages in the Story mode, these are super short…
You need to finish the Story mode to unlock more game options.
Honey's Final Verdict:
If you genuinely are into side-scrolling beat 'em ups, then playing the hardest difficulties or trying the Arcade mode (you only get 1 life) may sound like an attractive challenge. If that's not your case and the urge to be on top of the scoreboards is non-existing for you, then Streets of Rage 4 is not for you, and $24.99 is too expensive for a couple hours of meh.
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...