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Game Info:

Streets of Rage 4 
Developed By: Dotemu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Published By: Dotemu
Released: April 30, 2020
Available On: PlayStation 4. Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Genre: Arcade, Action, Multiplayer, Fighting
ESRB Rating: (Ex. E10+ for Everyone 10 and older: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief)
Number of Players: Singleplayer, optional Multiplayer
Price: $24.99

I would like to thank Dotemu for the review key for this article.

Back when Sega and Nintendo were vying for supremacy, Sega released Streets of Rage (or SOR for short) to cement their grasp of the 90's beat-em-up market. While it and its sequels were great, the series languished afterward, and aside from a fan remake that Sega C&D'ed (though they were nice enough to let it circulate for a while before they did), one of the classic series of the nineties was left to atrophy save some brief use in the Project X Zone crossover series. That is, until now.

Streets of Rage 4 is the canonical continuation of the series after SOR3, set ten years after Mr. X and his criminal syndicate were overthrown for good. While a bit vague on whether the story follows after the American or Japanese version (as their plots differed), what is known is that a new syndicate is in town, planning to pick up Mr. X's legacy, and heroes both old and new are going to have to walk down the Streets of Rage to take back Wood Oak City.

The gameplay is classic side-scroller action where you pummel criminal scum through several levels, take down their bosses, and keep going until you've broken the back of crime lords who have taken over, both figuratively and literally. There are some alternate modes like an unlockable boss rush, a pseudo fighting game Battle Mode, and an "Arcade" mode where you try to beat the game on one continue only. Regardless, the single-player campaign forms a large part of the action.

Streets of Rage 4
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great throwback to the classic games while still introducing some new mechanics
Weak Points: Very short campaign
Moral Warnings: Lots of physical violence; mild language (few uses of h*ll and d*mn); some skimpy and barely legal street outfits; an ambiguous situation where you must fight the police and it's difficult to tell which are and are not corrupt

The campaign is made quite replayable by the fact you can unlock new characters either by completing the story or by earning a certain score level (that is saved over time), including "retro" versions of past playable characters, upscaled yet still in all their original pixelated glory, with their classic move-sets included. They all can play much differently than the modern-day versions, each having their unique timing to their attacks, which can make replaying stages interesting.

The SOR4 characters have access to special attacks, which can drain health if you get hit but replenished if you avoid damage after their use while continuing to land hits on enemies. They also have access to super attacks that are unblockable damage to all enemies in your range, but these are rare and replenishing by hard to find star powerups. The retro characters instead get to call for the classic "police car" support that will fire into the player screen area, doing a large amount of damage to all foes. Dashing is limited to a few SOR4 characters and only some retro ones. Given this can be valuable for dodging attacks, it can be challenging to play with the slower characters who lack this feature.

Graphics have a cel-shaded comic book style. Old-time fans may find this divisive, as it clashes with the grittier style used in the earlier titles, but I found it looks good and the returning characters are quite recognizable. There are a few "retro" secret boss battles you can discover, and these areas are perfectly accurate to their original games, though they can be weird in contrast to the more colorful SOR4 art if you find them using the SOR4 playable characters. Overall, I got used to it, but it's still a bit different from the prior title's tone.

Sound is again a departure from the prior games, and while a few tracks are reminiscent of the electronica and trance style used in them (and there is a retro soundtrack option if you want to forego the modern music as much as possible), most of the music tends to be an eclectic mix of electro-funk like music with some grunge and synth infusions. It still is pretty catchy, and some of the music is downright epic, such as the final boss theme (which Hotline Miami music fans will like while still fitting the game theme to a T). Regardless, some of it is a departure from the previous games in style and could be a reason to exercise that retro music option for some. Sound effects and voice-overs are fairly good (though the later is tad muffled and cheesy) as well.

Controls are pretty intuitive, especially if you are a veteran of the classic titles. I did notice they now have a separate key for picking up items as opposed to being the same as the attack key, but you can rebind it to the classic style if this bothers you. I played on a handheld Switch, and aside from mild hand cramps at times, it was by no means a chore to press buttons and the directional pad.

Streets of Rage 4
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 83%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10 (+3 for denouncing corrupt law enforcement)

Stability is generally good, though there are some mild load times compared to the nearly instant PC version. Some very minor degradation in overall fidelity is inevitable compared to the PC port, but it's of the sort you'd have to strain to notice, like slightly less intensive shader and shadow effects. That in mind, the actual levels are butter smooth and load times are only really noticeable on the title screen most of the time. I was unable to get the online multiplayer features working at all, the lag was utterly horrendous to the point it was unplayable. PC was much better in this regard from what little I played on that version.

Morally, we have several issues.

Violence is pretty brutal. On top of various forms of "bare-knuckled" (as the series title is known in Japan) combat, we also have various lethal and non-lethal melee and projectile weapons on display, including pipes, swords, guns, and bombs. There is no blood display or gore. The good guys are willing to refrain from bloodshed if possible, but some enemies are taken down by obviously lethal attacks, though with the reasonable justification of self-defense.

Language is not too severe, maybe a few h*ll or d*mn mentions in story cutscenes. Sexual content is mainly limited to character outfits, which tend towards the skimpy for women, but nothing you couldn't find outside of a daytime PG-13 movie at worst. This is pretty far rooted in a realistic setting, hardly any evidence of supernatural or occult practices in view. Both the player characters and enemies do have a few attacks with an elemental theme, though a lot of this is either utilized via some form of technology or is simply done as a stylistic effect. Otherwise, there is no evidence of actual spell casting of the sort associated with any identifiable religion or cult.

Ethically speaking, you are a group of vigilantes fighting against a criminal gang and a police force that is utterly riddled with corruption. Some non-corrupt officers are assisting you, but otherwise many of the police are shown to be on the take. However, in some cases, police are enemies of you (for unsanctioned vigilante activity) and other enemies (for disturbing the peace), and even though at least one of your team is a deputized officer, there is no option to identify yourself, and said team member does have the justification they were going undercover and thus may not be believed by his fellow officers anyway even if they aren't corrupt. That aside, your crusade against the criminal syndicate is done so non-corrupt law enforcement can resume doing their jobs as an explicit story goal, so your actions are irregular but generally done to assist law and order when it can't be established via normal means.

It is worth noting the game is pretty clear that not only is the corruption plaguing the city wrong, but it also shows those who worked to remove that corruption as being properly rewarded for doing so and for those who remained honest cops as being recognized for their integrity.

Overall, as a game, it's a worthy successor to the previous SOR games, some minor difficulty spikes, and a few cheap enemies aside. Morally, it's got some violence obviously, but no worse than any other '90s style beat-em-up title had. Any teenager or older would be just fine playing this game, and it's worth the asking price.

About the Author

Daniel Cullen

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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