We older gamers pine for a Streets of Rage comeback, the legendary trilogy that dominates my fond memories of the 90s. Cleaning up the streets whilst kicking ten bags of excrement out of the toe rags that terrorise them never got old, and Microsoft knows the score with them offering all three Streets of Rage games as part of their Games with Gold program this month. As we still wait for any sort of return of the series, if it ever comes, we have to make do with games that are inspired by them. One game that I’d hoped would scratch that itch is Raging Justice from MakinGames Ltd, which was officially announced back in February. So Raging Justice releases, and does it take us back? Do the characters of Nick Justice, Nikki Rage and Ashley King fill the shoes of Axel, Skate and Blaze? Well, not really.
Although its aesthetic is similar, Raging Justice, unfortunately, doesn’t come close to the games it’s clearly inspired by. The story remains the same, the streets of an unnamed city are held over a barrel by a local crime lord, and it’s down to you to take them back level by level. You do this by selecting one of three earlier named characters. They are nicely varied, but none are very fun to play. Their movesets are limited, and their movements are poorly animated. Streets of Rage was so popular because it was ahead of its time with gorgeous pixelated graphics that make full use of the now primitive hardware; Raging Justice feels like it’s capable of so much more than what is delivered, especially on the systems of today. Nick is a retired cop who has brawler-type moves but moves like an ironing board with stiff animations while taking guys out with a series of haymakers. Nikki is more martial arts trained and has better techniques in her attacks, and she’s quicker too, but Ashley is by far the best character with his punching flurry attacks. Ashley is very reminiscent of Skate with his hipster look, complete with headphones and backpack, but his lack of move variety, which plagues all three characters too, sadly lets him down.
The limitations persist with the enemy variety too. The first couple of levels of the campaign introduce you to some thug stereotypes rife for slapping the spit out of. Skinny punk types, stocky guys armed with bombs and scantily clad women with tasers come at you hard, who are then later joined by dogs, fat guys that bulldoze into you and roid-heads. At the end of each level is a boss that is bigger and tougher than anyone you’ve faced, but after taking them down, you’ll fight easier versions of them later on. What’s wrong here is the repetitiveness of the recycled enemies that are thrown at you relentlessly. At certain points, enemies might fly at you on motorcycles or be dropped off in a van, but these moments don’t take away the feeling of enemies just being copied and pasted. You can use a multitude of weapons that you will find ranging from barrels and crates to wrenches and baseball bats. The former are great for throwing at enemies, whilst the latter can be swung causing a unique hit animation that sees the victims splat against the background; this has never been seen since Batman Returns for the SNES and the superb arcade-only title Vendetta. Each weapon strike also comes with a humorous quote, such as “Home run” or “Timber”, which is a nice touch.
The story mode comes with two possible outcomes determined by whether you’re a good cop or bad cop. How do you determine this? By choosing to arrest criminals you fight and executing warrants given to you at the beginning of each level. You’re not expected to memorize the names of the enemies, so wanted criminals are highlighted. Using your character’s roll attack by double tapping in either direction or knocking down enemies delivers a chance of them getting up in a dizzy state; if this happens, you’re able to use the grab button to stick the cuffs on them. The ending is only determined by the wanted criminals, so arresting anyone and everyone doesn’t affect anything other than your score. It’s a fun addition to have the option to arrest people, but making them dizzy is purely pot luck, it’s way too easy to accidentally KO the ones that are wanted.
Each level takes place in a variety of locations that are nicely detailed, such as a graffiti and trash laden alleyway and sleazy bar to a construction site and even a circus. Each one is visually impressive with plenty of things to see within them. Sometimes you’re able to drive a handful of vehicles on offer, like a lawnmower to run down thugs easily. Unfortunately, these opportunities don’t become available very often, and they don’t last long when they do.
Raging Justice is a tough game to play from start to finish, regardless of the difficulty setting. Enemies attack relentlessly, and bosses can interrupt combos without warning. You do have a generous amount of health and continues, but they can be taken away in a heartbeat. Things are made a little easier and a lot more fun by playing with a friend locally who can join in at anytime, but just like side-scrolling classics of old, you share continues. Once you’re done with the story mode, you can play Brawl mode which puts you against waves of opponents in a battle for survival that gets increasingly tougher.
Developer: MakinGames Ltd
Publisher: MakinGames Ltd
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch
Release Date: 8th May 2018
For more information on Raging Justice, click HERE