It took nearly 30 years, but one of the most popular Beat ‘em Ups has finally returned. Developed by Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games, Streets of Rage 4 is a follow up to Sega's Streets of Rage series, a trilogy of games released during the early 1990s for the Sega Genesis.
I’ve been a long hardcore fan of the Streets of Rage series and when I heard that a fourth title would come out I was thrilled! However, after putting some time into this new title, I quickly realized that there were some odd gameplay mechanic choices that hinders the overall experience.
Either you played Streets of Rage on the arcade machines with your friends, or at the comfort of your living room, great memories were created and cherished throughout the years. The gameplay was always one of the most relevant points of the franchise, and therefore, will equally be a strong emphasis in this review.
In this new title players can perform a special attack if they grab a star (stars are hidden throughout the stages). This powerful attack gives the player invincibility frames for a very short time but no longer covers the whole area, unlike its predecessors.
Like previous titles, players can perform the basic punch, jump, and grab. It’s the same mechanics as it was before: You can grab an enemy and toss him/her away. Also, the iconic move “→;→; attack button” from previous entries is still present in this game too and each character has a unique signature move. I really liked that they kept this system from previous entries and in this new game the move sets of each character are very fluid and a treat to the eye!
Players can perform another special attack that leaves a portion of your HP in a blue color. Afterwards, it is required to hit enemies in order to regain your HP again, but if you get hit before regaining it, you will permanently lose it.
My complaints start with this mechanic because using this ability means a high risk compared to the reward you get, so you will, most of the time, avoid to use this unless you are swarmed by enemies. I understand that this was used to prevent players from spamming the special attack, but why not follow the footsteps of Streets of Rage 3? It fared much better in this area. Basically, you have a bar that increases over time and when it’s full you can perform the special attack without health penalties. This is not my only complaint though, since unlike its predecessors, when you get stun locked (and it happens a lot in this game with some really unfair moves from enemies) you can’t use your special attack. To make things even worse you don’t have a roll or run ability (aside from Cherry and some characters you can later unlock) so dodging some moves is impossible if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Many times I would see the attack coming but couldn’t do anything because of the game’s lack of dodge mechanics and since the special attack doesn’t work once you get stunned, your only option is to watch half of your health bar be taken away. This kind of gameplay turns out to be quite unfair and unbalanced in my opinion and it feels like older games are a bit more polished compared to this. Now to make things even worse, some enemies have the ability to create a white shield around them that negates any damage and also some of their attacks can even override your attacks entirely.
Movement: As you might already have guessed, movement can be on the sluggish side due to the lack of running and/or rolling ability making you a sitting duck in many situations. After playing with a Streets of Rage 3 character (you have the roll and run ability), I feel like that should be the way to play this game from the get go.
Food: To grab food on the ground players have now another button designed just for it. It’s a welcoming change that contrasts previous games because sometimes I remember eating food by mistake since the attack button and the eating food button were the same. To avoid this, players would have to avoid attack near food in previous titles but now this is no longer a problem!
Items: I know it’s a small new feature but I liked the fact that you can now grab a thrown item in midair. You can throw an object at your enemies and right away grab it in midair. Spamming this attack can really help you get away from, otherwise, dangerous situations. However, you need to be careful with some enemies that can also do the same to you! Aside from this, I wish characters could perform different special abilities with certain items like in older games. For example, only Blaze could perform a special ability with a knife or only Axel could perform a special ability with a pipe, etc.
There’s another cool feature that was implemented in this game: The Combo Streak. Basically, it counts the number of times you attack in a row without taking any damage. If you take damage or lose too much time to perform the next attack the combo breaks. Combos are important to gain extra points and thus extra lives!
(I liked the fact that you can interact with arcade machines by zapping them and then you go to a retro small section of previous games. Really cool feature and a blast from the past.)
Overall, I think the gameplay of Streets of Rage 4 is fairly good, but it could be so much better and more polished so I guess it was a bit of a disappointment to me due to the, somewhat, unbalanced gameplay. Some previous games, while not perfect, feel a bit more polished and well designed.
There’s a lot of content in this game regarding the playable Characters since you can have up to 17 choices! You start out only with a small range of playable characters, 4 to be more precise, but as you play the game various times you will earn enough points to unlock all the other characters. 12 out of the 17 characters are simply the retro versions from previous titles and they maintain the same abilities that they had on those games too. I think playing with retro characters was a really cool feature, but I would like to see all characters having the “modern approach” too. For example you can unlock the retro versions of Max, Skate, Shiva and Dr. Zan but you can’t play the modern versions of them.
Regarding the enemies in the game, developers decided to include the “old enemies” from previous titles but some of them suffered a great change in terms of designed and/or move set. For example the bikers were drastically changed. Previously bikers would punch you, grab you, or attack you with an item and now they instead head-butt you or kick you. In this particular case, I prefer much more the old bikers. I feel like the new bikers are kind of dumb and the fact that they can head-butt you even from off-screen or grab you straight away is really annoying. However, there were some good design choices regarding other enemies like the guys with sunglasses that can now throw items at you as well as grab them.
When it comes to bosses, I can’t say I like them very much, really. There is one or two that I find pretty fun (like Nora or Shiva) but most of them are a bit plain and/or just frustrating. As I previously said, the white shield ability that Bosses have can get really annoying, especially in specific bosses, in particular, The Commissioner or Barbon because they can hit you very fast and are immune to your attacks at the same time leaving you with no time to run or to counter attack. It’s unfair seeing bosses constantly spamming this shield ability and/or stun locking you and that’s why I can’t find enjoyment in them.
It’s pretty great that developers made a Story mode and an Arcade mode. Arcade mode was the only way to play the old titles (you had to go through the entire game without losing all your lives. Losing would mean starting from the very beginning!) but with Story Mode you can now have a more relaxing time playing the game and if you lose you only have to start again from the last stage. There’s also the Battle mode (it’s a PvP mode) and the Boss Rush mode. The Battle mode is super fun! You can have up to 4 players playing all against each other!
It’s pretty cool that the developers put in the game all characters info and their attributes as well as an art gallery for characters and enemies design.
In Streets of Rage 4 you can have up to 4 players playing through the various modes! When I played through steam remote play there was no lag issues whatsoever and it was a very fluid and an overall great experience! However, playing via “Online Game” didn't go so smoothly as it was somewhat laggy. I suggest playing this via steam remote play and host it if you have a good internet connection.
Let me just say that this game is a looker! The graphics are just gorgeous and I love the backgrounds and all the little details you can uncover. You can be standing next to a pool and see your very own reflection in it or you can stare at the guy eating ramen in the background. You can also uncover secret Easter eggs hidden in the background like, for example, the picture of Ash when you fight against Nora!
The soundtrack of this game was a bit of a hit or miss for me. It doesn’t have those memorable tunes like the old games had but they aren’t bad. A very cool feature incorporated in this game was the fact that you can always toggle to the retro soundtrack from previous games anytime you want.
All in all, I think Streets of Rage 4 is an above average game and is a nice treat to the fans of the Saga. These games are part of my childhood memories and that’s why I feel very fortunate to see this title coming to life and I hope to see another Streets of Rage game in the near future! However, I would like to see some improvements, especially in the gameplay department, I know that this game could be much more polished and still has much room for improvement.