After 25 years the classic brawler is back with a fresh art style, new characters and classic side scrolling combat. Streets of Rage 4 has changed the series in some ways but has also remained faithful to its classic arcade DNA. Is it worth jumping back into the fray after all these years? My full review of breaks down what you can expect from the mean streets of Wood Oak City.
Streets of Rage 4 Review Details
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and Nintendo Switch
Developers: Dotemu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Genre: Action Combat
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating : T for Teen
A story 25 years in the making
The story is a little light as one might expect, especially from a series where the fists do all the talking. The major plot points are presented in an interesting comic frame format that matches the new art direction for the game. The story picks up ten years after Streets of Rage 3 where our heroes have defeated the criminal mastermind Mr.X. Fast forward a decade and Mr.X’s offspring, the Y Twins, are wreaking havoc in Wood Oak City. Blaze Fielding pulls together fighters both old and new to once again take back the streets from an evil crime syndicate.
Improved beat em’ up gameplay
The retro arcade lineage is alive and well in Streets of Rage 4 and it’s what makes the game so endearing. The side scrolling brawling mechanics are the same as you remember – keep pushing forward and scrap it out with everything in sight. Along the way you gain weapon pick-ups and other items to mix up the combat sequences. To help modernized the side scrolling experience new characters have been added to the roster.
New characters hit the streets
The instantly recognizable Blaze Fielding and Axel Stone make their triumphant returns. If you are returning to the series, their play style will be instantly recognizable. In an effort to keep them true to their past form they do come off a little more cumbersome. This is mostly remedied with a few tweaks to some of the gameplay mechanics.
New characters also join the lineup in Cherry Hunter and the cybernetic Floyd Iraia. Cherry is actually the quickest character in the starting lineup and the character I had the most fun playing as. Floyd is a powerful hulk but also quite slow, I’d recommend starting off with Cherry to experience the game at its peak form. Iraia is slower but extremely powerful, once you master the mechanics of the game more, he’s a good option.
As you play through the game various 8-bit classic characters become available with their very own move sets. This really adds to some of the replayability with so many characters to unlock.
A new bag of tricks
There are some new adds to the old school combat formula with special attacks and “Star Moves.” Special attacks, like previous iterations of the game, can be perform with a sacrifice to your health. The twist is if you string together combos while your special is active, you can potentially regain that health. Star Moves are unique to each character and can be performed once you collect all the stars in each level. They offer some incredible on-screen visuals with flaming uppercuts and massive laser beams.
Catch me if you can
Another new gameplay addition I really enjoyed was the weapon catch. This allows you to throw any weapon in your possession at an enemy, if it makes contact it will bounce back and give you a split second to grab it in midair. If you stay fast on your feet you can really dole out serious damage with this technique. It’s another great addition to the combat formula to keep things fresh.
Streets of Rage multiplayer mayhem
Streets of Rage 4 is best enjoyed with a multiplayer partner, this is where the game really shines. 2 player online co-op is a blast, offering players a reason to come back again and again. Tandem moves are extremely satisfying to pull off, finding a rhythm with a partner is a lot of fun. The game also comes packing a local four player co-op mode that really dials up the intensity. If you can’t find a partner the game is still a lot of fun solo, don’t fret if you are a lone wolf.
Up for a challenge?
The game offers a wide variety of options when it comes to combat difficulty and extra modes.
Streets of Rage gives you a choice between 5 different difficulty settings topping out with the extremely challenging “Mania.” The game also includes a few extra modes in Boss Rush, Arcade and a Player vs Player battle mode. There’s a little bit of extra content here to keep you coming back, but the story modes still reign supreme.
Stunning visuals and sound
Streets of Rage 4 is fluid and gorgeous, with developers opting for unique hand drawn visuals. The characters look excellent and the lush urban backgrounds have a nice variety to them. The visual eye candy really kicks up a notch when characters aforementioned Star Moves are activated. These moves dominate the screen with each fighter’s custom move.
The included soundtrack does a great job building on the classic 8-bit beats for a new generation. The electronic dance tracks help to match the tempo of each fight. You can even unlock the Streets of Rage original soundtracks to really take a step back in time. Sound effects are also spot on with solid punching sounds and character voices.
Final thoughts on Streets of Rage
After a 25-year hiatus Streets of Rage 4 returns with a great side scrolling beat em’ up experience. It has enough old and new mechanics to keep veterans and new players entertained. The introduction of Star Moves and Weapon Catch helped to mix things up with the older fighting mechanics. The unlockable 8-bit characters and old school music really add some replay value to extend your time in Wood Oak City. Streets of Ragereally shines with its excellent gameplay and multiplayer integration. The co-op mode really gave me a fun retro arcade experience. This is one brawl you should dive head long into!
+ Well balanced, addictive gameplay
+ Hand drawn graphics look amazing
+ Multiplayer is excellent
– Formula didn’t innovate that much
– More modes would have been ideal
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF STREETS OF RAGE 4
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.5/5
Overall Rating 4/5 (80%)