Video games are all about fantasy. The fantasy upon which beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage series rest is, what if you could beat the living hell out of an entire city and also, eating whole roast chickens cured knife wounds. Streets of Rage 4 looks to stay true to the genre’s basic formula, while improving on the rhythm of play.
First off, Streets of Rage 4 is a true sequel and not a remake. It’s set ten years after the last game, with the characters aging appropriately. Axel is now a full-on daddy, Blaze is a grown-ass lady, and old series vet Adam now has a daughter named Cherry, who wields a guitar in battle. All of these characters are brought to life with gorgeous animations by the team behind Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and they feel more like those of a fighting game than a beat-em-up.
And that’s no accident — at least one member of the Streets of Rage 4 dev team is a deep fighting game fan. As a result, the game builds on the usual beat-em-up formula of chaining combos and executing the occasional jump kick. Here, players can pull off moves that launch enemies into the air and leave them open to juggles. And since it’s a co-op game, the truly skilled can knock enemies back and forth between each other. Just be wary of friendly fire and don’t start the game by kicking your teammate in the head and rocketing them clear across the screen, like I did.
Speaking of, most classic beat-em-ups feature invisible walls that prevent players from leaving the screen but allow for enemies to pass through them. This meant that camping the edge of the screen was an extremely useful tactic to take out enemies before they could get a hit in. You won’t be able to do this in Streets of Rage 4, because enemies will bounce off the edges of the area just like in a fighting game.
This focus on more technical play permeated the demo of the game I played. Rather than launch enemies away from me, for example, my health-draining special move initiated a combo. There’s a strong focus on chaining moves and keeping enemies airborne, rather than just mashing the attack button.
I love the rhythm and flow of beat-em-up games, and Streets of Rage 4 feels like a great evolution of the genre. We’ll have more as the game gets closer to release, which is currently set for sometime next year.
While you’re here, check out the rest of our PAX West 2019 coverage, including titles like Marvel’s Avengers and new tech like Google Stadia.