Review

Mother Russia Bleeds Review

  • First Released Sep 5, 2016
    released
  • PC
Mike Mahardy on Google+

The good fight.

There is nothing subtle about Mother Russia Bleeds. Heads explode into clouds of pulp, riots erupt in city squares, and prisons become Jackson Pollock paintings of blood, corpses, and human bile. In short, Mother Russia Bleeds is an exercise in frenzied combat and hyper-violent themes. The problem is, it doesn't always know what to do with them.

As a 2D brawler, Mother Russia Bleeds plays host to ideas dozens of years old, hearkening back to the days of beat 'em ups on arcade cabinets and early consoles. Mother Russia Bleeds allows you and up to three other players punch, kick, headbutt, and shoot your way through crowds of thugs in an alternate reality 80s Russia, with simple controls and a variety of weapons to use along the way.

Where so many brawlers succumb to repetitive encounters, Mother Russia Bleeds, on the other hand, is a shining example of how to extract complex scenarios from simple mechanics.

This is due in large part to the way its stages unfold. You not only grapple with a slew of multifarious fighters, but also wrestle attack dogs, leap away from speeding motorcycles, and evade clouds of poisonous gas. You'll learn how to control your fighter easily, but defeating a boss while trains barrel back and forth across the screen is another task entirely.

One of the many chaotic fistfights.
One of the many chaotic fistfights.

In fact, the boss battles are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative combat situations. Of the many present in Mother Russia Bleeds, a few stand out: luring helicopter turrets to shred your surrounding attackers; using flashbangs to stun opponents equipped with night-vision goggles; hurling enemies' grenades back at them as they advance behind a wall of riot shields. Mother Russia Bleeds is replete with brawls like this, and they upset the pacing of the beat em' up genre in exhilarating ways.

Mother Russia Bleeds exudes a gorgeous retro pixel-art style, reflecting the existing design traits of its early brawler influences. Blood pools in the corners of the stage, with rough edges making their way down to the rectangular limbs of rotting corpses. The grisly aesthetic at play is an homage to the past, but it's rooted in very adult themes and background compositions: some of the most shocking include sexual acts at an S&M club, or the deranged acts of drug addicts going through withdrawal.

This is where Mother Russia Bleeds both excels and falters. For every insight it has about oppression, violence, and the direct correlations between both, it makes missteps elsewhere. It examines the effects a dictatorship can have on the common person, and whether violent action is ever justified when the government has gone too far. But too much of this brawler seems present just for shock value. Just as intriguing ideas gain traction, Mother Russia Bleeds introduces prison rape tropes or sexual jokes that upset any profundity it almost found.

Mother Russia Bleeds is replete with creative brawls, and they upset the pacing of the beat em' up genre in exhilarating ways.

A common thread is drug addiction--how it sneaks up on people, introduces itself slowly into their lives, and takes hold when they least expect it. From a gameplay perspective, drugs actually help you through the brawler: you can use Nekkro, a substance the dictatorial government uses to control its lower class citizens, to heal yourself or grant increased damage for a short time. If you don't completely behead an enemy, you can siphon the Nekkro from their blood, giving you more to use in the event of a future emergency.

This creates a tense risk/reward factor throughout fistfights: should you drain that enemy's Nekkro now, and use the health to defeat the next mini-boss? Or should you destroy the crowd of enemies quickly and hope the Nekkro hasn't completely drained from their veins in the aftermath?

Then there's the matter of cooperative play, and here, Mother Russia Bleeds is it at its finest. The obvious thrill of fighting alongside a friend or two is present, but the Nekkro dynamic becomes tantamount in multiplayer situations, considering you can heal allies with your drug supply. In some cases, I kept my Nekkro to myself. In others, I valued my friend's revival over my own peril. Drug addiction becomes not just a storytelling theme, but a gameplay motif as well.

Mother Russia Bleeds explores hyper-violent themes, sometimes to its detriment.
Mother Russia Bleeds explores hyper-violent themes, sometimes to its detriment.

It's in its final moments that Mother Russia Bleeds approaches greatness, just before it stumbles. The final boss is one of the most abrasive difficulty spikes I've ever encountered in a game, let alone a difficult beat em' up. It took me 90 minutes to finally best. Compare that to about 20 minutes on the more difficult enemies I encountered throughout my playthrough. For all of the ways Mother Russia Bleeds paces itself so well over the course of 6 hours, its ending is drawn out to a fault.

But for all of my frustration with the encounter, the difficulty of this boss made thematic sense: I had eliminated many thugs along my journey through a war torn Russia, from army captains to sadistic drug lords. But as its story comes to a close, and without spoiling the resolution, Mother Russia Bleeds asks the more important, if not slightly clichéd, question: isn't your biggest enemy yourself?

This is Mother Russia Bleeds' greatest strength: it may appear to be a simple brawler with retro art reminiscent of the beat em' up golden age. But it goes much deeper. It alleviates the monotony of some of the best brawlers. It introduces wrinkles that make each level feel fresh. And it weaves complex themes into its gameplay in ways that, although not subtle, are nuanced. Mother Russia Bleeds knows how to upset many expectations of the genre--I just wish it wasn't always trying to shock me.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
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The Good

  • Tight controls and combat mechanics
  • Clever stage design and boss fights
  • Complex storytelling themes interwoven with gameplay

The Bad

  • Tiresome and clichéd jokes present for shock value
  • Massive late-game difficulty spike

About the Author

Mike Mahardy beat Mother Russia Bleeds alone and cooperatively, and as was the case with Double Dragon and River City Ransom, prefers having a friend along for the ride.
41 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

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Slade2star

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Edited By Slade2star

F&W Game Club loved Mother Russia Bleeds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5BhmfiLmzo

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Gelugon_baat

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Here is a technical issue about additional players joining in during scripted moments.

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garfield

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A french game, which is about Russia, which is about Soviet Russia, which is about Alternative Soviet Russia, which is about the Alternative Soviet Russian Mafia. Oh, boy.

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deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

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I used to like Streets Of Rages on megadrive, so looks like a nostalgy ride. I know i wouldn't enjoy it for longer than 1 hour in this day and age, so i might just wait for a sale on this.

Doesn't really seem like this brings anything new to the table. It's a pure tribute, carbon copy of the old classics, so meh... The art style and the ultraviolence fit well for this kind of game though.

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Gelugon_baat

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After having watched quite a number of videos, it seems the different player characters are just there for the purpose of visual contrast in multiplayer sessions. They practically play like each other and despite their supposedly different backgrounds, they have the same lines regardless of who is being picked for the speech bubbles during dialogues.

The range of player characters is only there for user-friendliness, but adds no value to the gameplay or story-telling.

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RSM-HQ

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Edited By RSM-HQ

@Gelugon_baat: I'd normally state watching a video or two isn't good for assessing a game, but you are right about that, much like Final Fight, Golden Axe, or even a more recent example Scott Pilgrim: Vs the World; the character differences are superficial. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

But stating it has "no value" is missing the point, if four played as Sergei it would make the experience confounding during fights.

Dragons Crown was criticized for not locking character selections one per person, because it made the game hectic in big set-pieces. Even with color palette swaps it doesn't really help when you've got alot going-on-screen.

Along with that, as mentioned to Groowagon, it was probably to avoid balancing issues.

As for story, well, it is a Beat em' Up before all else. But I also would have liked differences from each character, a missed opportunity I guess.

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deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

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@Gelugon_baat: ...just like in all the old 2d brawlers...

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RSM-HQ

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@groowagon: "all" Not technically true. Played Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage 2,3, Remake? They all play differently and have strengths and weaknesses. Even having changes due to boss rivalry.

I haven't noticed much change in Mother Russia outside of animations, but I think that's more to prevent balancing issues.

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Gelugon_baat

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@groowagon: Yet I don't like that. Old is not gold.

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deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

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@Gelugon_baat: i agree. that's why i don't really understand the trend of making carbon copies of oldschool games.

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D_

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I'll be coppin' this for sho

Looks like it would be fun multiplayer

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RSM-HQ

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Edited By RSM-HQ

Thought GS would skip on MSB for reviewing. Seeing as they only review a few indie games.

Good game, but not really on par with Castle Crashers or Vanillaware games. Regardless with straight up Beat em' Ups being so rare, I'm just glad it surpassed my expectations.

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deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

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@RSM-HQ: what? there's more indie reviews than triple A reviews. look at the reviews list on front page for example.

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RSM-HQ

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@groowagon: Might be a change of how they handle reviews now, I dunno. . from what I've seen previously they don't.

Never saw a review for War for the Overworld, Aquaria, Freedom Planet, and Slain just to name a few.

From my understanding they only review Indie games that had a lot of build-up, from either an event, or marketed by Sony/Microsoft/Steam and was surprised Mother Russia Bleeds got reviewed.

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Iemander

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For once, GameSpot beat Eurogamer in reviews quality. Eurogamer's review reads like an SJW attack on beat em ups as a genre instead of a proper review.

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johno357

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Edited By johno357

in ray donovan last night there was a film in it called the kremlin bleeds... hmm...

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deactivated-5a3920d6b9003

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Typical Gamespot. Everyone talks about graphic, not gameplay.

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Setho10

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@Sozialminister: It's a beat-em-up. You hit one or two buttons over and over until everything is dead. Repeat 8 times and the game ends. The only difference here is that you siphon your health from fallen enemies instead of getting it from a chicken in a trash can. Outside of the story and the presentation every beat-em-up is pretty much the same. This one is functional and seems to be decently balanced. There's nothing else to discuss.

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RSM-HQ

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Edited By RSM-HQ

@Setho10: That's a lame way of summing up a genre. Acting like dashes, jugglers, special attacks, grab variety, blocks, parries, and other methods ain't a thing. . .

Let's try your logic with another type of game_

'It's FPS you hold down a trigger and press another over and over till everything is dead. Repeat 8 times and the game ends. Every FPS is pretty much the same.'

Any other genre you want summed up into repetition?

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deactivated-5a3920d6b9003

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@Setho10: Well its pretty brutal and its violence feels way more satisfying as in mortal kombat imo. The AI party mates are pretty crappy though. I think thats discussion-worthy.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Sozialminister: Not everyone. I, for one, am more concerned about gameplay than graphics.

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asakapala15

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cyka blyat

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Gelugon_baat

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Soon, we would have the Tomorrow Children. I can already imagine dudes with an irreverent sense of humor (like Giant Bomb East) making some oddball and incredibly ignorant ode to Росси́я.

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stevo302

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I get the feeling some modern artists doing the retro pixel look don't really understand the necessary requirements for it to work. There needs to be a contrast of colours and outline, otherwise the look of everything is never defined.

Parts of this game just look like one toffee, barf coloured mess.

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RogerioFM

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@stevo302: Yeah, I agree, I like the colours and contrast of the characters, but the background is a washed out mess.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@computernoises: I notice that the four players are trying to figure out how the game works, especially at the 8th. minute point.

I still don't know how the game decides which enemy would be incapacitated and which would be killed outright. It seems random to me, which if it is, it is not good game design.

UPDATE: Apparently, it's not random. Any downed enemy can have his/her/its health sapped. It's not just those with prompts above their sprites - seems like those prompts were just there as a tutorial lesson of sorts, though they could have been mistaken as some kind of visual indicator for a gameplay element.

UPDATE II: Actually, it is random. Some enemies would convulse when they fall down and these can be harvested, but there is no clear factor which determines how this happens.

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hyksiu

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Hit girl never bleeds though.

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RogerioFM

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@hyksiu: I think she's old enough to do it now.

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hyksiu

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@RogerioFM: She already did.

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PrinceEV

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PrinceEV  Online

Even the original Street of Rage on Sega Mega Drive has a better graphic artistically/technically than this!

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deactivated-59e0c3e2b083b

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@princeev: Eh... no.

Probably (what yankee boys played as) Streets of Rage III

may be one of the few Beat'em ups of the Golden Age

that looks better than Mother Russia Bleeds.

(finished it up again last year, no video watching, so I know what I'm talking).

In fact, it seems this game is the main reference for them, taking into account the way characters move.

On a side note, it's hilarious to read people talking about pixel art AS IF THEY KNEW how to pull it off right... and near to none (not even the reviewer) talking about the CRT monitor option. Did anyone visited Le Cartel's page? Do you know why they made this game? Then I'm afraid your opinion is useless as it's (as usual), incomplete.

Yankee boys only talk about what they watched and they were told, never about their own experience. Classic.

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RSM-HQ

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@princeev: I'm not really following.

Did you hear of the Beat em' Up Shadow of the Beast a few months ago? No. Well it had great graphics and art direction, but had terrible gameplay_

I think GS gave it a 4/10.

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@princeev: So? This game could have looked better if they wanted it. It has been intentionally done like this. Using graphics as a comparison factor (from the technical perspective) is not the most valid approach.

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crazynotstupid

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@Warlord_Irochi: Ya but I think they went a little too far with that graphics thing so it actually looks more grainy than some of those old beat-em-up games.

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VFighter

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@crazynotstupid: Replay the original Streets of Rage, it was more colorful but every bit as grainy looking. Older computer games also had really bad pixelated graphics, which this reminds me of but in a good way.

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Edited By iandizion713

Holy cow thats some ugly art. Look like my poop scribbles. But i kinda feel you should have scored +1 because of awesome title. Mother Russia Bleeds, now that is a badass name. Id buy this franchise in a heartbeat.

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Mother Russia Bleeds

First Released Sep 5, 2016
released
  • Linux
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4

Mother Russia Bleeds is an ultra-violent co-op brawler overflowing with an unmistakable style and unforgettably brutal action for up to four players at once. Set in an alternate U.S.S.R, the story centers on a desperate crew of imprisoned street fighters that must overcome an oppressive criminal authority and crippling drug addictions through any means necessary.

7
Good

Average Rating

16 Rating(s)

6.9
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence