The synths kick in as the neon lights reflect off the city streets, slowly the drums add to the atmosphere. From off screen strolls a a gruff man with long blond hair and an ere of anger in his stride. Soon the screen is filled with a gang intent on being served justice...with your fists. It's a familiar scene for gamers who grew up in the 90s - an almost identical aesthetic to the SEGA Streets of Rage titles - but this time - it's on modern systems with slick hand drawn visuals, high definition graphics, and similar addictive music. This game is no mere remake though, Streets of Rage 4 is a brand new entry in the series that feels both fresh and pays homage to the originals.
Streets of Rage 4 takes place 10 years after the events of the 3rd game, reuniting many of our favorite characters including Axel and Blaze (SoR 1, 2, and 3), Adam (SoR 1) and newcomers Cherry and Floyd. You'll be taking on the Y gang who are intent on taking over the city with mind controlling audio. Along the way you'll find many familiar faces and derivatives of enemies of the past like Bongo, Electra, the various Signals, and others. Some retain the attack patterns of their predecessors, while others bring a new spin to boss fights. And yes, there's still that dang guy that charges at you with knife.
Streets of Rage 4 looks absolutely gorgeous. The hand drawn style of the characters feel like the natural progression from their pixelated past. The environments are complex and detailed, with multiple layers giving a sense of depth and scale. The use of modern lighting techniques adds a sense of style that was only faked in previous games, real reflections of neon lights and the scattering of color through stained glass are eye popping. But it's the music that really stands out with its dynamic tunes that rise and fall based on the level's action and theme. This is seriously one of the best videogame soundtracks in years. And with good reason.
In terms of how the game plays; while it shares a lot with common beat em' ups from the era, there are some nice new touches to combat. Special moves, while they still drain health, allow you to recover by comboing enemies instead of permanently losing it to quarters. There's also countering and flow to combat with a strong focus on the combo meter to maximize score. Speaking of scores, you'll still want to break every object you encounter along the way, in the off chance someone stashed a briefcase full of cash in that garbage can. Increase your score, earn extra lives.
Co-Op in Streets of Rage 4 can be played with two players online, or up to four players in couch co-op. Sadly there is no combo co-op support. In terms of how co-op changes the dynamic of the game, there's a few big things. While players do have their own pool of lives and special moves, they share a combo meter as well as the ability to have that combo broken by enemies. This increases the chance of big combos, but also increases the chance of losing them. The game offers a classic option with friendly fire, but you can turn it off if you'd like.
While there's no co-op special moves or classes where characters directly play off each other, the game does feel tuned for multiple players. There's a nice balance in keeping back the tide of enemies when there is more than one brawler. Thankfully each brawler does feel different and you can usually trade off one trait for the other by choosing a character - speed, technique, power, stamina, and mobility.
There's a bunch of content to experience in the package as well - from concept art, to unlockable "classic characters" and retro music. Various gameplay modes and difficulty levels keep you coming back to earn experience keep unlocking content.
For me, as a longtime fan of beat em ups, Streets of Rage 4 is near perfect. There may be a bit to nitpick here and there about how well the beat em' up genre ages and quality of life improvements that could have been added, but they are few and far between. Lizard Cube, Dot Emu, and Guard Crush games have developed a title that is fun to play, is loaded with content and style, and can be enjoyed with friends both near and far. It feels like the true successor to the Streets of Rage series it is.
Streets of Rage 4 is out now on Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. It features four player couch co-op and two player online co-op.
The Co-Op Experience: 4 players team up on the couch or 2 players online to take back the streets. Choose to play as Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Flloyd or Cherry Hunter
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.