Beating up criminals to an electronic sound was all the rage in the 90s, along with button pants and platform shoes. Streets of Rage was the name of the series that caused a sensation at the time. The first two parts were "state of the art", with Streets of Rage 3 the Klopp series heralded its own demise. So far: Streets of Rage 4 offers new fodder for fans of nostalgic beat 'em-ups - and does it far better than its predecessor.
It took a long time for Streets of Rage 4 to hit the market. Around 25 years after the last part of the beating video game series, a successor for PC and consoles has now been released. The fourth part of the series should actually be available for fans of straightforward beat'em-ups by the end of the nineties, at least if you believe the rumors that were circulating at the time. The title should have been intended for Sega's Dreamcast - then, when the console was about to end, Streets of Rage was over. The fans themselves took care of a short interlude, releasing an unofficial remake - but Sega cashed it. Then it became quiet about the nostalgic flogger with the wonderfully weird characters.
Streets of Rage 4 is back: Celebrate the nineties!
Blaze and Axel are back and their names are at least as much nineties as the style of play of Streets of Rage 4. Even if the game is a modern piece of software, the basic structure remains pretty old-school, to put it in an appreciative way: nostalgic.
There was a lot you could find cool as a kid in the 1990s: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marvel heroes, and Sega consoles. And because the latter were so popular, the spanking series Streets of Rage also had its big time in the colorful nineties. In retrospect, the synth sound could be described as an aberration of taste, at least compared to the orchestral sounds that game developers use today to really draw fans into a video game.
And then you start Streets of Rage 4, listen to the electro music, start tapping your feet and can't wait to swing your fists. Through Streets of Rage you feel the 1990s and with it maybe your childhood. The new old beating game from Dotemu, Lizardcude and Guard Crush Games is kind of a trip back in time. The gameplay is almost unchanged, reduced to the essentials: you run with your character mostly from left to right, mess up opponents and collect coal. It gets really crazy when you suddenly run up or down or can work your way through trains.
Wave after wave, you knock your way through hordes of enemies with the help of fewer but more efficient attacks - in order to ultimately kill a level boss. Sounds simple? Is it. But works well. Even better if you invite your friends to play along - today you can even do it online.
Streets of Rage 4: Punch the Sucker
Streets of Rage 4 follows the predictable concept of the series, doesn’t break new ground, but has a catch. The first part of Streets of Rage was the successful entry into a new spanking series, Streets of Rage 2 was an absolute highlight. The third offshoot then had to struggle with too many changes, it was ok, but nothing more; Streets of Rage 4 breathes new life into the series, but is too modern to be passed for as nostalgic. The look is consistent: polished, smooth, but above all beautifully colorful and hand-drawn.
The modern sequel is a balancing act between what fans love about the old brawler and what is now understood by "smooth gameplay". Streets of Rage 4 ripples along, that's not meant as a shortcoming. The few hours of gameplay fly by, interrupted by a few game-over-screens and occasional moments of frustration when it turns out that the controls could sometimes be a tad more precise. The animations are all the more successful. Nothing catches, every punch hits the sucker and the effects ensure that you like to beat up criminal clones en masse without the eye getting bored.
There are many good reasons to at least try beat 'em up. On the one hand, there is the old-school charm of the entire genre, which no longer exists in the essence of then and now. On the other hand, the soundtrack ensures that players enjoy banging their way through the atmospherically designed levels - and that fans are rewarded for their efforts with lots of Easter eggs to be discovered. The level of difficulty is already quite crisp on "Normal", Streets of Rage 4 is a challenge.
SoR 4 as a new old beating orgy
To think that the developers simply put new textures over old pixels would not do justice to the commitment of those involved. There are many good and new ideas behind Streets of Rage 4. So there is a completely new story that takes place around ten years after the events of the predecessor.
The combat system has also undergone a refreshment treatment. There are new combos of light and heavy attacks or a cool finisher to show off to the opponents by pressing "forward" and the combo button. And then there's the possibility of refilling the health of the fighters to be able to counteract the level of difficulty a bit. This is also necessary because there are special attacks that cost life energy. And so a cycle is completed that sounds nice on paper, but can really shine in the game.
Instead of hopping and punching like in the past, Streets of Rage 4 offers the player more variants to fight their way to the level goal. In addition: each of the characters plays noticeably different and uses completely different attacks. The mobility also differs. Slow fighters hit hard, but slowly evade enemy attacks. Practice is required.
Unlockable characters or variants of characters provide some long-term motivation. It's not absolutely necessary, but a cool gimmick, not least because it creates a connection to the classics.
Motivation is everything
The fight ratings provide even more motivation. After each level, the efficiency of the beating is assessed. How well you do depends mainly on the combos you have made and the hits you hit. Because in some levels opponents only appear in small groups, it is difficult to achieve high ratings at the beginning. The more opponents come, the easier it becomes - at least in theory, because then the risk of being beaten up also increases.
Streets of Rage 4 quickly shows that an offensive approach is not always the most efficient. Patience is required: instead of knocking individual opponents out of their boots with their appearance, you can “collect” opponents in order to then thrash them in groups and in a targeted manner. This works extremely well thanks to the effective special attacks.
Patience is a virtue in Streets of Rage 4 anyway, because too often you rush forward - and then you can't go back. Annoying when the urgently needed life replenisher disappears from view. It becomes all the more frustrating when the game-over-screen lights up.
Streets of Rage 4 is also great fun in the cooperative offline mode with up to four players. This also works online, then in pairs and also well, but not always due to sometimes occurring connection weaknesses. You can literally see that individual players are struggling with poor management. Nevertheless: Overall, Streets of Rage 4 runs pretty smoothly. While solo mode used to be the "way to go" for Streets of Rage, today the couch co-op session is the highlight of the modern-nostalgic brawler.
Media for Streets of Rage
Number of players: solo and multiplayer, online multiplayer
Age: USK from 12 years
Playing time: 10+ hours of play
Difficulty: medium to high
Long-term motivation: medium
Developer: Dotemu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Year of publication: 2020
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Costs: from 24,99 euros
Streets of Rage 4 is not pure innovation, but an homage to a popular genre of the 1990s. Much of what fans liked about the beat'em-up back then can also be found in the modern sequel, but more finely balanced and with more depth. Cool attacks, cracking combos, a multitude of playable characters and enough motivation for several rounds of the game: this is how Streets of Rage 4 can be summed up. In addition, there is a grandiose look with hand-drawn graphics, butter-soft animations and a soundtrack that not only reminds of then, but corresponds to the original.
How much player behavior has changed over the last 25 years becomes clear pretty quickly with a round of Streets of Rage 4. If you used to have a party alone, nowadays the game of fighting comes across really well in cooperative mode. They'd rather play together in 2020 than in 1994, when the series hit its low point with Streets of Rage 3, which was still solid. Now Axel, Blaze and Friends are back and at the same time move as bulky as they did then, but wonderfully fluid through levels that are reminiscent of bad gang films from the nineties. Don't get it wrong: The style is almost perfect, because it fits the game like Axel's fist on the eye.
Streets of Rage 4 is a bit of a return to old virtues, paired with shallow playful innovations that add action-packed options to the comparatively monotonous basic concept. The fighting system is easy in this fighting game. With practice and patience you can cope well with higher levels of difficulty; however, the fights are sometimes extremely crisp, especially the boss fights.
Streets of Rage can have a successor after the fourth part - even if it could take several decades again. Please don't change the style of the music!