Amongst the best beat’em up series ever created, jammin’ ‘90s beats and over the top street fighting, the iconic series Streets of Rage comes back with a masterful tribute to and revitalization of the classic action fans adore.

Publisher: Dotemu   
Reviewed on: Xbox One S
Also available for:
PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Cast: Olivier Raynal, Barbara Weber-Boustani, Quinn Lafontaine, Bruce Sherfield, Avant Strangel

Developers: Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, Dotemu
Creative Designer: Ben Figquet
Lead Game Designer: Jordi Asensio
Technical Director: Cyrille Lagarigue

I’m no Streets of Rage super-fan. Although I’ve played all the games in the series, I couldn’t tell you any of the characters’ names. I can enjoy a good beat-em-up however and what developers Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games and Dotemu have created with Streets of Rage 4 is an utterly refreshing, yet familiar approach to the genre and franchise. 

Combat is the same button-mashy side-scrolling arcade fun you’ve come to expect from the franchise. It’s fast, fun and satisfying to play. 

As each character in the game, you can do dash-attacks, grab moves and everyone also has their own defensive attack that can’t be spammed as it takes your health. The basic combat abilities are the same between each character, but they each have their own small differences. 

I played through single-player as Cherry Hunter, a new character in the franchise who is very nimble but doesn’t have as powerful attacks as the others. Some of her abilities I preferred though, like being able to jump attack people’s heads — really helpful against enemies holding knives — and her movement speed was just more my style. The game also introduces Floyd Iria who has bionic arms capable of grabbing enemies from afar, but he also moves slower and plays like a tanky wrestler. Two originals return as well in the form of Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding who both play just like fans will remember with some slight adjustments. 

Not the safest place to hang that - image captured by author

Not the safest place to hang that – image captured by author

One notable new addition to combat in Streets of Rage 4 is a ‘star attack.’ Inside levels, you’ll find stars hidden in breakable objects and you can use these stars to trigger a special attack that seems like it’s taken straight from the Street Fighter franchise. Each character has their own star attack, but they all do a lot of damage and damage multiple enemies in the room. I basically always tried to save these stars up until the end of a level and spam them on a boss, but they’re equally as helpful in a tight spot to help clear a room. 

There’s a total of 12 levels in Streets of Rage 4 that increase in difficulty and end in a boss fight. All up it took me around 2-3 hours to play through the game by myself. I did get some help from the game’s most notable new features which make the series much more accessible. 

You now have several difficulties ranging from an easy mode to a super-hard, but that’s just the start. You can also change what character you’re playing in the middle of a level, restart and continue with no punishment. There’s no need to worry about dying too much either as you have infinite continues. But most importantly, if you’re really struggling you can give yourself an extra life at the cost of your end-of-level score. The lowest option changes your lives from two to three, while the highest changes them from two to five. Even with the five lives, you’ll die pretty fast, but ultimately this lets the franchise be a lot more accessible. I gave myself that extra life on the last couple levels without a worry in the world because it went from being a really hard game to a decent challenge, which is what I was after. 

In continuing the trend of being able to play the game the way you want, you’re also able to boot up arcade mode if you wish where the game over screen will send you all the way back to the main menu. It’s fantastic to see so many ways to play included in the game for different types of players. 

Team up online to kick some ass - image captured by author

Team up online to kick some ass – image captured by author

With all of that said, I do wish there was a better tutorial — or a proper tutorial at all included. The game is pick-up-and-play for those who have experience in the genre before, but it’s not a popular genre anymore, so a proper explanation on how and what to expect would have been nice for newcomers. 

Streets of Rage 4 is gorgeous in a way I didn’t expect. Screenshots can’t do the moving masterpiece justice. This is due to the fact that all backgrounds aren’t static, they’re alive with life. Making your way through a street you’ll notice police attending to some arrests in the background, or even just a civilian enjoying their coffee. The detail given to each background helps make the levels feel alive. Even if it’s crazy how some people are completely okay with about a hundred people fighting in the streets.  

The character designs for our heroes are all also stunningly crafted with an eye for the muscular. Everyone in this game is crazy jacked up. It’s as if the last game came out in 1994 and all these characters have been doing is just been whacking out a solid 1000 pushups a day the past 26 years. 

You can play four-player local co-op, but I didn’t test this out at all. I did try the online co-op which disappointingly only allows for two players, not four. You can set your games to public and allow anyone to jump in if you wish, or just play online with a friend.