Streets of Rage 4 shoulders the weight of nostalgic expectation from a fanbase patiently awaiting its hotly anticipated arrival. Diverging too far from the formula would be a dangerous play, but thankfully, this absolutely hits the mark.
You can't talk about a sequel like this without acknowledging the outrageous pedigree of the franchises past; there have been no mainline entries since Streets of Rage 3 dropped for the Mega Drive way back in 1994.
The self imposed pressure placed upon publisher DotEmu to produce an authentic take, updated to incorporate a modern feature set and delivered across multiple platforms, must have been quite the hurdle to overcome.
We're pleased to report that Streets of Rage 4 succeeds in delivering exactly what fans of this classic are looking for.
Little effort is made to ease newcomers into the fray; Streets of Rage 4 assumes you care from the outset, and ensures that you're given little time to breathe before the action kicks off. We'll be careful to avoid any hefty spoilers here, but the essential set up is as follows.
Ten years have passed since the previous game, with the offspring of nefarious antagonist Mr. X (appropriately named the Y twins) seizing control of the power vacuum left behind in his wake and plunging the city into chaos. Cue defensive backflips and frantically searching for apples in bins.
Honestly, the story is throwaway, all things considered, and simply provides loose context for you to engage in rapidly escalating fisticuffs.
Those familiar with this particular sub genre of arcade brawlers will feel right at home here; Streets of Rage 4 boasts the simple button combo, multi lane movement action you know and love.
Special moves consume health (which can be recovered incrementally through successful basic attacks, and nibbling health items), there's throws if you get the timing right, and rare opportunities to unleash special finishers.
From time to time, mini set pieces will occur during a particular stage that shift the dynamic in interesting ways. These small, few and far between moments sit nicely alongside the boss encounters, and force you to stay on your toes.
It's simple and it works, and alongside a rudimentary combo system, if you have a longing for these kind of mechanics, Streets of Rage 4 will scratch that itch.
Once you beat the main campaign, you'll be given access to stage select and an arcade mode, which offers up several modifiers to up the ante. There's a battle mode with 8 arenas, if one on one brawling is more your style. Difficulty wise, even on regular this pulls no punches.
There's no hand holding to be found here, and alongside a host of options that adjust the overall challenge, not to mention the co-operative play, there's plenty to see and do. Multiple playthrough's are also made more viable thanks to the individual fighting styles of each character, and their associated unique attacks.
Four player local co-op is a wonderful addition, and with two player online support (and the option to Share Play on PS4), there's numerous ways to get friends involved.
The action can get pretty hectic on screen once additional players are thrown into the mix, but thankfully the art style and graphical performance ensures stability is maintained even in the most relentless fights.
Graphics and sounds
Streets of Rage 4 is unquestionably a stunner. Much like with the upcoming Windjammers 2, there's a level of detail to the hand drawn, 2D art style that surpasses the original trilogy in every respect. This is exactly how a game should be updated graphically for the modern era, and they have absolutely set the benchmark for how it can, and should, be done.
Performance across the board is rock solid, with no instances of slowdown or resolution dip. From a technical perspective, it's one of the most impressive multiplatform releases of the year so far.
Streets of Rage 4 is a nostalgic trip worth taking, that doubles down on what worked before, whilst simultaneously reinvigorating the genre.
Streets of Rage 4 is available now, for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, PC, and Switch.
Review copy provided by DotEmu.