Streets of Rage 4 Review (PC)
As much as I try, I often need to be careful when I review games that are among my favorite of all time. Streets of Rage is one of those franchises that I love dearly. Not necessarily because it is award-winning material. But rather, I love how entertaining the previous games are. And I have very fond memories of playing with friends. I was so excited when I learned that Streets of Rage 4 would be hitting consoles and PC. With every developer diary and trailer, my hype level increased to point where I was worried that it would not live up to expectations. I am so thrilled to say that Streets of Rage 4 is easily the best of the series, blending retro fun with modern upgrades.
Typically, Streets of Rage is not known for award-winning storytelling. A bad guy has hold of the city, you beat people up all across the city, then defeat him. And while Streets of Rage 4 has a similar premise, there are subtle upgrades that turn the story into something a little more meaningful and interesting. Streets of Rage 4 brings us back to the mean streets to take on the Y Twins, who are the snot-nosed brats of the previous villain. Axel, Blaze, Adam, and two other new characters take them on in a very cool and stylized way. Yes, there are certain moments that make it feel like a traditional Streets game. Yet the development team at Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, and Dotemu found ways to upgrade it from your traditional brawler.
For starters, the levels make much more sense when it comes to telling a story. As you travel to specific areas, it feels like a natural transition through the city instead of abrupt level changes that were typically goofy in the previous games. For example, you start on the streets in Level 1, with Level 2 taking place at police headquarters. You don’t just show up there like you would in previous games. You obviously have been wreaking havoc in the city, and the natural transition would be to wind up in jail. In jail, you have to fight both criminals and police. Yet as you work your way through, you will see criminals and police fight each other, which would naturally happen if this was a real jailbreak.
There are several other moments like this where the development team has you go to specific levels in an order that feels natural. They also gave purpose to enemies that we have seen countless times in the franchise. Remember the biker girl with the whip? She, along with many other enemies, return in Streets of Rage 4. Yet this character, along with many others, has been upgraded to serve a more specific purpose instead of targets for you to beat up. Minor spoilers here – when we meet her, she isn’t just a random, soulless character. She uses her whip to give other enemies more strength. This ups the difficulty level and challenge, which I greatly appreciated.
The key to making a perfect modern version of a classic game is to mix retro with the new. And the development team has done an amazing job of doing that. As you have seen in the trailers, you can eventually unlock classic versions of the characters in the Streets franchise. The pixilated look takes a little getting used to, especially when they are mixed with the beautiful, modern hand-drawn animation. But they are so fun to use, especially if you unlock and use the classic soundtrack with them. And with online and couch co-op, it was so fun having so many characters at my disposal. I hope that one day we will see some DLC with these characters in the same art design as the rest of the game.
If you aren’t interested in these retro characters (and I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be), then you will be happy to know that there are several shout outs and cameos in Streets of Rage 4 to satisfy your nostalgic heart. I won’t spoil who makes an appearance, but I will say a certain object of great importance to the series shows up an art piece that you can use to beat people up. When I saw that and other cameos, I couldn’t stop grinning.
With any brawler, you expect the action to be intense and the controls to be responsive. In this case, the action is phenomenal and the game handles like a dream. I had only a few instances where I saw some frames dip on my PC, but it didn’t detract from the action. There are plenty of awesome action sequences in the game. The enemy variety type is solid, there are tons of weapons this go around, and there are plenty of tough bosses and environmental challenges. Like a typical brawler, each character has their strengths and weaknesses. You get weak and fast, slow and strong, or somewhere in the middle. But please, make sure you try all the characters. They each have awesome special moves that you should try out.
Depending on the difficulty you choose, you can beat the game in 2-3 hours, but there are plenty of incentives to go back and replay the fantastic story, or try and beat the game in arcade mode. Arcade mode takes a more traditional route and challenges you to beat the game with one life. It’s difficult but brings you back to the good old days of being in the arcade with friends. I also want to point out that online multiplayer was a little iffy for me, but since we were lucky enough to get an early review copy, I’ll have more thoughts on how well it works when the game fully launches. But between you and me, I prefer the couch co-op anyway.
One last thing I need to mention is the hand-drawn animation. It is BEAUTIFUL!!! The colors just pop, and they do so throughout the game. In the heavily lighted areas and darkest corners, the colors are vibrant and muted appropriately to give the city a real dirty look. This is a beautifully rendered urban environment. And the soundtrack is better than ever. Yes, you can unlock the retro soundtrack, but you won’t want to after hearing the new music composition. Hands down, this is the best looking and sounding game in the franchise.
Hands down, Streets of Rage 4 is the best game of the franchise and one of my favorite modern brawlers. Those who lean heavily on retro games will no doubt love the story and action. It’s beautiful and has an amazing soundtrack. Fans of the franchise will love this entry, and those looking for a few hours to kill will also be entertained. Streets of Rage 4 is easily one of my favorite games of 2020.
Streets of Rage 4 launches April 30th, 2020 on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Loads of weapons, enemies, and action
Killer soundtrack and beautiful animation
Many callbacks to the earlier games of the franchise.
A few frame rate dips
Online multiplayer was a little iffy but should improve at launch