I played a lot of Streets of Rage 2 and 3 in the 90’s and Streets of Rage 4 is really faithful to the classics while adding some great new modern features with progression systems and unlockable characters. It’s been very fun and has a relatively deep combo system and needless to say it has a gorgeous art style. I’ve just been having a blast paying solo, co-op and figuring out combos.
I think Streets of Rage 4 has a decent length of 12 stages, a good number of boss fights and a fun variety of enemies. Just like the originals it’s your character fighting bad guys on the streets and there are different variations with different attacks and they have varying degrees of health. The initial enemies are basic and you can do what you want with them and then you meet Donovan, whose uppercut is super annoying and anytime you try to do a jump attack he will counter it.
He’s the first hurdle and makes you rethink your approach. Streets of Rage 4 has a good number of enemies that will take away certain options and force you out of your habits which is a key part of good player engagement which I love. The big difference between this installment and the classics is the combo system which is amazing. The new combo system is great as we have air juggles, wall bounces, special cancels, combos into supers, tag team juggles, grabs into launchers, jump attack cancels.
You also have a defensive special that has invulnerability frames and an offensive special that tends to move your character forward which can be great for avoiding environmental hazards and extending combos. These special attacks drain your HP but you’ll notice that your HP bar is green instead of black and that means you can get your health back recharging it through offense but if you get hit at any time the green bar goes away and you’ve lost that HP.
Sometimes Streets of Rage 4 can be unfair as enemies will just fly in from off screen as they enter the fight with an attack. You’ll only avoid the hits by chance or by remembering where and when these enemies appear. It’s fine for the first few times you play but as you’re trying to get better at Streets of Rage 4 it can be frustrating to deal with getting hit just because you didn’t remember that on a certain stage a random enemy flies in from offscreen after you killed a weaker enemy.
It’s a small annoyance but old school beat em ups all had their fair share of broken or overpowered tactics, so I guess that it fits in here as well. I’ve been playing with Adam who is a great character and one of the stronger ones. There’s 5 characters to choose from and 2 other ones available via DLC. I’ve spent hours just figuring out different combos because they’re so fun and not just fun they’re vital to your survival. The best thing about the combo system is how it benefits your character through the point system.
Every 8000 points you get an extra life and on harder difficulties there’s plenty motivation to rack up points through the combo system. On top of that your in-game points get added to your end of level point bonuses for time, extra lives maintained, supers not used and that all contributes to the progression system that unlocks new characters and classic Sega Genesis models. There’s a grading system as well so if you’re into that kind of thing you can try and get a S Rank on each stage.
Streets of rage 4 has multiple high-level difficulties available at the start which means that if you want to test yourself from the beginning you can do that. I jumped straight into hard mode and I could feel the pressure to maximize combo damage and move intelligently. I wanted to try out new combos in a practice mode but Streets of Rage 4 lacks any practice mode so I had to practice in two player battle mode and constantly restart the match which is super annoying.
I don’t know how Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t have a practice mode and that’s my one big criticism, it definitely needs a way to practice on a bot or a dummy and I’ve heard they will be adding a practice mode in future DLC. I just hope it applies to the base game as well because people shouldn’t be charged for practice mode. The fascinating thing about the point system is that it’s based on damage and not the number of combo hits.
Since the points come from damage you never have to feel bad about using high damaging weapons or a throw instead of doing a flashy combo. You can juggle someone in the corner after a jump kick launcher and then just grab another guy and it all goes equally to the point bonus. If you have a group of enemies in front of you a long corner juggle can focus down all of them and get you a multi kill.
Launching an enemy mid screen and following up with an air combo can get you away from a dangerous threat on the ground and get you to a better stage position. If you’ve used a special attack and drained your HP, combos will regenerate your HP quicker than single heavy attacks. Comboing a dead enemy continues to build it back up with each hit so the more combos you do the more specials you can use.
Apart from them just being awesome and fun they are important to maintaining the point timer. If I’m hit before the timer expires you lose the combo and you lose any point bonus so you have to be defensive while you’re playing. Extending a combo even on an enemy that’s already dead keeps the timer at max, so you can set up the next attack easier without risking the timer expiring. You can also do this by throwing a weapon at someone far away or throwing an enemy into the air. There are multiple ways to keep the timer going and you want to keep it going for as long as possible.
All of this is just so engaging, interesting and encourages me to use all my abilities and always be changing my approach. It’s great and I don’t have anything bad really to say about Streets of Rage 4. The music is awesome, I love the old Genesis sprites and they even come with their classic move sets and specials. They play like they came straight from the original games. I had a blast and I can’t recommend it enough. So, any old school beat em up fans should definitely try out Streets of Rage 4.
Streets of Rage 4 is available on PS NOW until Monday, August 2, 2021.
Fluent fighting that feels fun with lots of combos to learn and master. Great visual style very reminiscent of the old school classics and it has a fantastic soundtrack. The difficulty can be unfair at times, especially with bosses and a practice mode would have been amazing to learn all the combos but overall it is an amazing experience of an old school beat em up.