Review

Streets Of Rage 4 Review - The Beat-'Em-Up Boys Are Back In Town

  • First Released Apr 30, 2020
    released
  • PS4

Streets of Rage 4 expertly revives a beloved beat-'em-up franchise with great music, visuals, and most importantly, solid gameplay.

Everybody has a favorite old game series that they'd like to see make a comeback, but modernizing a long-dormant franchise requires a deft touch. Not only do you have to please the old fans--who see their longtime favorites through rose-tinted nostalgia goggles--but you also have to find a way to make the game appealing to a newer audience. Fortunately for longtime Sega and beat-'em-up fans, Streets of Rage 4 adeptly walks the tightrope of classic and modern appeal while busting some heads in the process.

Taking place a decade after the third game (which released 26 years ago), Streets of Rage 4 reunites Axel and Blaze to unmask an evil plot devised by the children of series uber-antagonist Mr. X. Joining them are two new fighters: Cherry, a hard-rockin' young woman with deft moves and (literal) killer guitar riffs, and Floyd, a cybernetically-enhanced hulk who might not have speed or high jumps, but definitely has a myriad of ways to get his giant metal fists up in somebody's business. As the story unfolds, you meet characters old and new, sometimes in surprising places... but don't expect much from the plot, as it exists simply to take you to new and exciting locales where you pound a rogue's gallery of enemies into the pavement.

And there is a good amount of pavement-pounding to be had. The 12 stages in Streets of Rage 4 offer a lot of variety in scenery, obstacles, and enemies. While the clean, sharp lines of the new art are very different from the low-res, gritty pixel look fans have come to love, the HD hand-drawn characters and backgrounds look spectacular, and are packed with fun details and little Easter eggs that'll take you by surprise. The stages are fairly typical beat-'em-up settings--a dive bar, some sewers, back alleys, Chinatown--but the animations of crowds, steam, critters, and machines make these archetypal stages feel fresh and exciting. Equally excellent is the soundtrack, a techno/dance-inspired collection of hot beats from Eastern and Western game music composers, including veteran Streets of Rage alumni Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima.

Of course, good visuals and music are nothing without the gameplay to back it up, and SoR4 delivers on that quite well. The controls are easy to pick up and, once you're a bit more familiar with them, are lots of fun to experiment with, as punches, power moves, and special skills can be chained together for slick-looking, satisfying combos. Each character has a different specialty: Blaze does some wild acrobatics that can juggle foes in the air, while Floyd uses his huge cyber-arms to grapple enemies with across-the-screen throws and two-person head-smashes.

Like in most beat-'em-ups, Streets of Rage 4 will put you in situations where you are outmatched by a large horde of enemies. In grand genre tradition, you have access to special moves that can help clear crowds and grant temporary invincibility at the cost of a bit of your health bar--but, in a clever twist, Streets of Rage 4 actually lets you earn that spent health back by comboing enemies without getting hit. (If you do get hit, that spent life is gone, so make sure you use your skills wisely!) Each character also gets use of "star" moves that, when activated, causes massive damage to everything in its path. These are very limited and can be replenished with special items found in the levels, so they're still best saved for critical moments.

Difficulty-wise, Streets of Rage 4 puts up a formidable fight. There are multiple difficulty levels to chew on for players. However, if you're still struggling, you can get extra health and lives --at the cost of earned points used for unlocks and ranking. It’s rather annoying, however, that SoR4's difficulty isn't a linear curve. Some stages are significantly shorter than others, and there are several points where things become a lot messier out of nowhere as strong opponents and hazards spawn in inconvenient places. The boss fights are particularly uneven--you might be fighting an opponent with a fairly easy pattern on one stage, then get absolutely demolished by the end boss of the next. The very frequent on a "super armor" mechanic (where enemies can be damaged but not stunned or knocked down) for a lot of the boss fights is also frustrating, as it often feels like an unfair way for boss characters to have an extreme advantage over you.

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Of course, you can always bring along a buddy (or two… or three) to cause some extra damage. Even with the addition of more enemies onscreen in multiplayer, you'll likely find that having some extra hands and feet to fight alongside makes tough areas a lot easier. Local multiplayer supports up to four teammates, but if you're stuck at home, you can still team up online for two-player games.

An average start-to-finish playthrough runs around two hours--though, depending on how frequently you game over, it could take a fair bit more time to see the ending. It's pretty lengthy for an arcade-style linear beat-em-up, but still very short if you're the type to simply play through a game once. There's some replay incentive, though: Earning points while playing will unlock new modes, extras in the gallery, and retro variants of characters from previous games. Using these new characters and jacking up your difficulty level will both give you more potential points and increase the challenge. At times, it does feel like some of the extras weren't given as much care as the main game.. The "retro soundtrack" is just old Genesis and Game Gear Streets of Rage tracks put in the game's levels seemingly at random, and certain unlockable characters have a tremendous advantage in damage-dealing--so much so that they can make some of SoR4's hardest areas almost trivial.

All in all, though, Streets of Rage 4 is an admirable comeback for this long-dormant series. It looks great, sounds great, and plays very well. Even if the experience is relatively short, it's the sort of game you and your buddies can easily enjoy playing and re-playing. If you're craving some classic brawling action with a modern edge, these rage-filled streets are calling your name.

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The Good
Slick fighting that feels fun and fluid to engage
Great visual style with stylish animations and details
Fantastic soundtrack from a variety of artists
The Bad
Extras are rather underwhelming
Uneven difficulty at times, especially with bosses
Some of the unlocks seem way overpowered
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi is a longtime Sega fan and is always happy to see some Genesis-era favorites get the love and attention they deserve. Review code was provided by the publisher.
24 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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captainwonton

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No online 4 players?

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Kintaro5000

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@captainwonton: The online co-op was a last minute addition, and so it seems like the net code isn't especially great. Two player co-op even struggles, on occasion.

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YearoftheSnake5

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I had no idea this was coming out until the day after it was released and I saw an impressions video in my Youtube feed. I immediately went to the eShop and bought it for Switch. It's awesome. I love the art style and music. My son and I have been playing co-op.

5 • 
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cejay0813

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Need DLC. Game was fun but other than max ranking each level on each difficulty its rather short lived. Mind you I'm still in the process of doing that but I'd like more content. More characters and levels would be nice. I'd pay cause the game is really that good for the genre.

Having it on the Switch is a real winner because I can pull it out to play anywhere with zero compromises to performance.

2 • 
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odolwa99

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20...6...years. What the hell, Sega!

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Daidochus

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Edited By Daidochus

PLayed with a mate the other day, we did it on Mania after 12 hours of trial and error. I know all the boss moves out of my head. Max and Shiva are the easiest bosses oh and also that DJ guy.

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VelcroSnake

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My biggest complaint about the game is that lots of people keep saying that Axel got fat. The dude isn't fat, it's just the art style, clothing and beard that give that initial impression. Heck, you can even see his abs in the animations, or just look at the character artwork in the extras.

*flips table*

2 • 
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OpenMind23

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This is on my Steam wishlist for when it goes on sale.

I can remember playing Streets Of Rage 2 on my MegaDrive over 20 years ago and it was great fun. Looking forward to playing this.

I just think that the UK price of £22.49 is a little high and waiting for it to drop to £15 😊

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Cherub1000

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Had no idea this was a thing? Awesome, looks like a great laugh... depending on the price

2 • 
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EdwardNygma

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I will definitely check this out.

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Barighm

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I didn't think SoR4 was hard at all. The bosses' "hyper armour" is just a warning for their special attacks. It's simple attack recognition. None of the sequences in SoR4 come close to the guantlet that was the final elevator in SoR2, or that bastard Zamza. And SoR2 is the easiest of the lot...

Oh, and try playing Adam. Yes, many of the unlockable fighters are really strong, but Adam is considered one of the best overall, so give him a shot if you think the starting cast is a little weak.

3 • 
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VelcroSnake

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Edited By VelcroSnake

@Barighm: I think it might be a deal where people aren't picking up on enemy patterns or actually understanding and using their characters abilities. I've watched a lot of streams where people don't bother to check the controls or look at the Fighting Tips, and end up making the game harder on themselves, never using Blitz Moves, spamming their Special moves and wondering why they die so fast, walking straight at bosses and punching away when the boss is telegraphing their own moves, not learnign from enemy attack patterns, etc...

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Articuno76

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@velcrosnake: I've done the game on Normal and Hard now (and about halfway through Hardest) so this isn't the most authoritative stance, but so far I've found that between the super armour and the lack of a run/roll the game pushes you to think more about where the enemy is going to be in a couple seconds, rather than where they are right now.

This makes the footsie jostling of trying projecting enemy attack lines, baiting attacks, and moving into place take up a higher ratio of your playtime than in previous entries.

I'm not sure that's better or worse, but it's certainly different.

2 • 
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USDevilDog

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I've been waiting for this game for a long time. Next up on my Sega dream list: Skies of Arcadia 2, Golden Axe sequel, Guardian Heroes 2, Phantasy Star 5, and Panzer Dragoon 4 or Saga 2, etc. I can go on. The point is Sega has some awesome IPs sitting dormant for years.

3 • 
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Barighm

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@USDevilDog: I dunno about those other games, but there is a Panzer Dragoon remake listed on GoG's store page.

https://www.gog.com/game/panzer_dragoon_remake

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USDevilDog

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@Barighm: Thank you Barighm. I'll check it out.

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Renunciation

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Edited By Renunciation

If anyone who plays this game (SoR4) has also played Fight'N Rage, let me know how they compare.

5+ hours in each game would be nice, but I'll take what I can get. :D

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Barighm

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Edited By Barighm

@Renunciation: The general word I'm hearing is that Fight'N Rage is more advanced and progressive whereas SoR4 hinges more on classical mechanics.

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Renunciation

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@Barighm: So... F'NR has old-school graphics with somewhat advanced gameplay, while SoR4 has somewhat advanced graphics with old-school gameplay?

Got it!

I was mostly looking for a comparison based on overall "fun factor" , and it's my fault for not being a bit more specific.

Regardless, I appreciate the reply.

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videogameninja

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Gorgeous art style… Check!

Blazing soundtrack… Check!

Proper co-op action... Check!

Nostalgia factor… Check!

An excuse to beat up piles and piles of enemies… Check!

Let’s take this to the streets!

-RAGIN’ 4 MORE STREETS OF RAGE NINJA APPROVED-

5 • 
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lionheartssj1

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Had a lot of fun playing through it on co-op, but the difficulty really did feel like it spiked sometimes. Sharp art and animations, great music. Nice throwbacks and Easter Eggs too. Definitely recommend.

2 • 
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Kintaro5000

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Edited By Kintaro5000

Kinda expected a bigger writeup considering how long this took to come out. Better late than never, I suppose.

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DancingCactus

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DancingCactus  Online

Hey look! It's not a 10! Good job!

5 • 

Streets of Rage 4

First Released Apr 30, 2020
released
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Streets of Rage 4

8
Great

Average Rating

27 Rating(s)

7.8
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
Cartoon Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes