Posted on 29 Apr 2020 by Jay Shaw

Streets of Rage 4

The Defence

Developer: DotEmu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Publisher: DotEmu
Genre: Arcade, Fighting
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 30 Apr 2020

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
AMD Phenom II X4 965
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTS 250
AMD Radeon HD 6670
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
AMD Radeon HD 5750
HDD: 10 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Streets of Rage 4 is, surprisingly, the fourth entry in the venerable beat-em-up series and one fans have been waiting for ages to finally play. Let’s get the most important thing out of the way up-front: Yes, you can still suplex dudes and throw them down holes and out of elevators. Is the legacy of Axel, Blaze, and Adam worth your time or has the series gone the way of Mr X? Let’s try to work that out.

The Trial

Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t entirely stick to the classic formula, which may annoy some old-school fans but the new features work their way into the game flow expertly and become second nature once you start using them. First of these new features is the heavy attack and its associated vampirism mechanic which I expect will be most contentious for old-school fans. When using a heavy attack a small portion of your health is marked; melee attacks will refill the marked section while getting hit will make you lose the marked section. Multiple heavy attacks in a row will mark off more of your health. This makes heavy attacks a fine balancing act of constantly gambling with chunks of your health, something that becomes even more precarious because one of your heavy attacks is also a defensive move that makes you immune to damage for the duration of the animation.

Combat is otherwise fairly straightforward; you have your standard Streets of Rage attack sequence (which can be strung into a heavy attack for more hits), jumping attacks, grapples, and an attack behind you. Some characters also have additional abilities such as sprinting or a short dash which can lead into even more attacks. Lastly, you have a powerful super attack that consumes a star (a collectible item) but deals massive damage in a large area. You can’t really get away with just spamming one attack as different enemies will counter different things. Some are great at stopping you from grappling, some will uppercut you out of the air, and some will utterly own you if you approach head-on.

The combat system can occasionally devolve into you getting bounced around by multiple enemies, as many beat-em-ups do, but it’s a lot rarer than games like Double Dragon and you can usually break out of it if you’re careful. Sometimes breaking out can be as simple as using, or not using the recovery move which lets you hit jump after being launched into the air to land on your feet. Most enemies only have one or two attacks and learning them will let you deal with opponents efficiently but sometimes this can mean slowing right down and waiting for an enemy to give you an opening. One enemy type even requires you to watch their pose as they’ll either counter your attack or unleash a powerful combo if you get in front of them.

Adam is an absolute power house.

Enemies on opposite sides of the law will also battle each other. Sometimes these are preset circumstances but criminal and cop enemies will engage each other during the course of normal combat too. You can’t really sit back and let them thin themselves out but it can buy you breathing room to deal with a separate group or just provide a tasty target for whatever poor shmuck you’ve decided to launch across the screen with a kick that could split the atom.

Aside from a few different moves, player characters have a great deal of variety too. In classic Streets of Rage style everyone has their own stats. Axel and Adam are stronger than Blaze but Blaze is faster and Cherry – daughter of Adam Hunter and sister of Skate, which results in an unfortunate slang term for a name – has a guitar she’s not afraid to break heads with. There’s also Floyd, requisite big guy and cyborg armed student of cyborg armed Zan from Streets of Rage 3. As you accrue points you’ll also unlock classic characters, pixelated sprites and all, with their classic move sets and everything. You can unlock all the characters from the three previous games.

Some old characters even make appearances in the game; Max is a tough boss battle and Victy the kangaroo is tending bar, boxing gloves still on as he wipes down a glass. One boss even has a homage to the classic cop with a bazooka special attack from the original game. There are plenty of other references tucked away too. Feroccio, a cop enemy, is a direct reference to the Streets of Rage comic. Another cop dressed in black and blue is named Barney. Buildings and signs from the original games also appear in the background of levels and other enemies share names with their original incarnations. Two dual-boss battle even references Rihanna and Beyonce of all things. A piece of graffiti on a window even references a six year old post on Stack Exchange – we bet most won’t get that one. Honestly, we could write a thousand words just on the crazy amount of well done references littered throughout the game.

Even the license plate is a reference. Meanwhile Blaze is becoming The Avatar.

Let’s get back on track: Streets of Rage 4 has a wonderfully colourful art style that manages to transition between evening streets, rain swept ship decks, dojos, neon lit rooftops, and even a castle with stained glass windows while never looking out of place. There’s an almost pop-art style texturing added to some scenes, usually on background objects, that can be a little too noticeable from time to time but generally blends in perfectly fine. Our one major complaint graphically comes from Blaze’s walk cycle, for about two frames of animation she loses all depth on her torso and looks like Wile E Coyote has dropped an Acme anvil on her. We noticed it about half way through the first level and just couldn’t unsee it after that.

Sound design is similarly excellent. While there’s a toggle for a retro soundtrack comprised of the soundtracks of the first two games. The new soundtrack is brilliant and does a great job of selling each location and exciting encounter. Just like the art though, we have one complaint: the castle level music sounds like it belongs in Castle Crashers, as in it literally sounds like it’s from that game and feels so silly and out of place given the point at the game it plays. You’re supposed to be demolishing the last stronghold of your decades old enemies and there’s a jaunty, comical tune playing while you introduce some poor git to the pointy end of a huge sword or your fists. Attack sound effects are also good, a mix of modern fidelity and old-school style. Punches sound like someone slapping a packet of bacon but it works, it’s a fundamentally violent sound but light-hearted enough to fit with the series style.

Story is more prominent than any of the previous games and this time revolves around the old gang going vigilante, having left the police force years ago, to battle the Y twins – offspring of original trilogy villain Mr X who is now deceased. It’s unclear whether the game references the original Mr X or his replacement, though an image of the Neo X mech from Streets of Rage 3 on a stained glass window would seem to indicate it’s the original. The new villains are kept out of gameplay until their boss fights in the end-game but appear in the inter-mission scenes with some regularity. Mr and Ms Y are formidable enemies and Mr Y even has an attack pattern that references the original Mr X battle, making him familiar but still fresh to fight. We won’t spoil the ending but punching the twins in their stupid faces in the final battle is a very satisfying end for long-term fans.

Streets of Rage 4 isn’t just single-player story mode shenanigans either; an arcade mode ramps up the challenge while coop lets you bring along a friend for the ride. A battle mode pits player versus player with any of the unlocked characters in single-screen arenas much like a traditional fighting game. Lastly a boss rush lets you challenge yourself in a gauntlet of the game’s toughest foes. There’s also a stage select that lets you jump to any point of the campaign at will once you’ve beaten them in the main modes. Multiple difficulties ranging from “button mashing will get you through” to “why did I choose to torture myself like this” provide plenty of challenge and a fairly moderate learning curve. Softening the blow of a rough defeat are modifiers which provide extra lives at the cost of a significant percentage of your score.

The Verdict

For both old and new players of the series, Streets of Rage 4 is the definitive entry. What few flaws it has are so minor they may as well not exist and the inclusion of so much of the series past, both playable and not, provides a hefty dose of nostalgia while never falling into the trap of relying on that feeling to appeal to fans. With eight hours in the game, we’ve still got stuff to unlock and haven’t even started on coop and arcade modes; replay value here is off the charts, going above and beyond what we’ve come to expect. If you like the originals, or just like belt-scrolling beat-em-ups, you can’t pass up Streets of Rage 4.

Case Review

  • Punchy: There’s so many unique characters, one is bound to fit your style.

  • Classics: A lot of the originals has made its way in but never feels like nostalgia baiting.

  • Bosses: Every boss has a unique mechanic and challenge without feeling gimmicky.

  • Artsy: There’s a huge purple butt plug in the background of one level. Classy.

5 Score: 5/5
Forget the competition. Streets of Rage 4 is the best beat-em-up since Streets of Rage 2.


  • Controls: Fully rebindable keyboard and gamepad. Vibration strength selection.
  • Sound: Music and sound effects volume selection. Retro soundtrack toggle.
  • Video: Screen shake toggle, brightness selection, fullscreen toggle, button icons selection. Toggles for; vsync, low latency over performance, blob shadows, environment and background details, show frame rate. Frame skip amount selection. Resolution scaling. Quality options for Shadows, ambiance, reflections, particle amount, overlay details, post effects, and ambiance factor.
  • Language: Portugese, Dutch, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and both simplified and traditional Chinese.
5 Score: 5/5

When my fellow Judge first game back to me, after having spent some time with Streets of Rage 4, his first words were “it’s like Streets of Rage 2, but better.” Rarely have words been spoken which is so wrong, and yet so right at the same time. This…where do I even begin? It’s amazing. Everything about it is just…just right. Featuring so many characters, including all of the legacy greats as well as some interesting new ones. Each with very distinct, unique fighting styles. It brings with it everything, literally everything, from every previous Rage game, as well as a few new tweaks that just make it even better.

Remember those really cool, but really dangerous power attacks? The ones that would do massive damage, usually a combo of some kind, but also drain your health if your action bar wasn’t full? Those are back, just as strong, but now always drain your health. However, it’s not gone permanently. Rather, each application reduces your total health, but allows you to recover it all simply by hitting enemies. Assuming you land enough hits before you take one yourself, you become a raging, immortal force of nature, powered by sheer gumption and some of the best retro-future graphics I’ve ever seen in a side-scrolling brawler.

It’s like the game came straight out of my memories, with the nostalgia filter applied to it full force. Making it not only as good as it was, but genuinely as good as you remember, if you follow my meaning. You know how nostalgic memories fill in a lot of the gaps in how rough something was at the time? Like the old Transformers cartoons, for example. Everything was so beautifully aminated and lively in your head, but is a bit dull and really cheap in reality (though still amazing).  Well, then this is The Transformers The Movie, if you follow the analogy. Just go buy this game. It’s amazing.

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