Streets of Rage 4 Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Switch
The Streets of Rage series holds a special place in my heart. Many of my carefree youthful hours were spent on my Mega Drive battling through those mean, enemy filled streets. There was always something magnificent about grabbing a controller, throwing one to a friend and bashing the living hell out of pixelated gangsters in unison.
When I heard about Streets of Rage 4 I was excited but also quite apprehensive. How can you modernise a classic but keep the traditional core gameplay intact? It was certainly a hard task, the developer needs to tackle the balancing act of creating something that feels modern yet still has that Streets of Rage feel to it. To be fair, I think they did an excellent job and just about nailed what I, personally, was looking for in a sequel to this series.
Right from the off, long time fans of the series will feel at home playing Street of Rage 4. The player movement, the music and even some of the enemies could be ripped out of the original games from the 90's. It is both nostalgic and a great homage to the game's origins. It was pleasant seeing enemies I faced as a kid with a fresh coat of paint, even if they moved and acted exactly the same as the original versions most of the time.
Not everything was ripped straight from the past though, Streets of Rage 4 does come with a few new tricks up its ass-kicking sleeve. There's a 4-player co-op, both local and online and even a versus mode. If you have had enough kicking the AI's butt to the curb you can take your aggression out on your co-op partner instead. There's also a boss rush mode and an arcade mode to battle through if you fancy it. I do, however, feel that none of the other modes are as fun as the main campaign.
While the gameplay remains mostly the same as the original games there is a slight change to the formula which I really liked. Whenever you use a special attack, it costs a portion of your health bar. However, the portion does not disappear, it turns green and can be regained by striking foes. If you get hit though you will lose whatever health you failed to get back. This system creates a risk-reward flow to the gameplay which is probably my favourite 'new' part of this sequel.
The gameplay follows the template previously laid by the game's predecessors, fight your way through enemy filled stages while trying to stay alive. You have health pickups, weapons and collectable stars that act as uses of your epic special technique. There are unlockable characters and rankings on each stage but overall, it's just a jazzier version of the original games, which in my opinion, is just what was needed. There's no point re-inventing the wheel, especially when the wheel was fine to start with.
Graphically, Streets of Rage 4 is superb. I played it on a 4K HDR TV and a 4K monitor and everything from the characters to the environments look sharp, bright and very colourful. The animations, while they match the original games in some ways, are more intricate and fluid. The game is instantly recognizable as being Streets of Rage title but with a glossy fresh look that oozes style and charm.
The soundtrack that you will be beating crooks to is truly amazing. It's very similar to the original games and I think some of the tracks are very reminiscent of the original game's music. After watching a video about the sound design of Streets of Rage 4, it seems my thoughts were not far from the truth. Both Yūzō Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima who worked on the original game's soundtrack worked on Streets of Rage 4, using some of the old techniques they used originally to recreate some of those awesome vibes.
Using the original techniques and hiring some familiar faces really gives the soundtrack an authentic feel. It's crunchy, it's clean and it's a great soundtrack the builds on the predecessors in every way. I loved the original soundtrack and the soundtrack from Streets of Rage 1 is engrained into my psyche. Streets of Rage 4 is as good, if not better. It's easily one of the best soundtracks I have heard for a very long time.
Like I said earlier, it was a big task to make Streets of Rage feel up to date and fresh yet retain the classic style that makes the original games so popular. I think overall the developers did a great job. It feels fresh yet familiar and if you're a fan of Streets of Rage or a newcomer who likes side-scrolling brawlers, you will enjoy your time the latest entry in this legendary series.