Brawlers have had great co-op experiences since the ancient arcade days, and Mother Russia Bleeds doesn't mess with that formula. Up to four local players can join in the fight at the same time, each selecting their own character and favorite drug. Anyone can drop in at anytime just by pressing start on the gamepad. Reviving fallen players is a big part of the cooperative experience, and since Nekro is required to bring them back to life, frequent deaths can really put a dent in the flow of the game. Both story mode and arena battles support local multiplayer, and if you're feeling especially frisky, switch on friendly fire and see who yells at who first.
Mother Russia Bleeds goes for this grungy, over the top pseudo-80s aesthetic, and for the most part, it works. The visuals are top-notch. Gorgeous pixel art decorates each and every scene, and we're not talking chunky Mario graphics. The backgrounds are filled with detail, stuffing corners with graffiti and grime to really nail that vintage look and feel. Enemies even show cuts and bruises as you pound them to a pulp. The writing invites a cringe or two with its labored attempts at sounding edgy and grim. You could argue it's going for intentional cheese, but it doesn't quite hit the mark either way.
Mother Russia Bleeds focuses a lot on combat, but the unfortunate fact is the fighting isn't that interesting. Combos feel short and isolated. Sure, you can chain a couple of punches into a few finishers, but try to sprinkle in some other moves and it grinds to a screeching halt, forcing you to start the chain all over again. This makes each section feel like a "press buttons until enemies go away" affair. Not much strategy, not much variety, just pound the baddies until you can move on.
Gamepads are pretty much a requirement to fully enjoy the Mother Russia Bleeds experience. All co-op players will need one to join in, but even if you're going solo, you won't want to touch the keyboard. It's just awful. Call it a quirk of the genre, perhaps, but unless you've got a decent controller laying around, Mother Russia Bleeds should probably stay on your wishlist.
Overall, Mother Russia Bleeds is a solid game that banks on brawler nostalgia to reel players in. It looks good and it's easy to get into, but once you scratch the surface you start running into all sorts of shortcomings and glitches. Boss battles are uneven, dodging is flat out broken, progress isn't saved very often, and so on. Local co-op is a smooth enough experience, but you'll pine for online support, especially when the game starts to get tough. A good beat 'em up that falls just short of greatness, though it's not a bad time waster when you're in the mood for mega violence.
The Co-Op Experience: Join up to three friends locally as you guide four street brawlers through the dimly lit alleys and nightclubs of Russia.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.