PAX East 2020 Hands-on: Streets of Rage 4

Developers Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games are reviving the renowned Streets of Rage series in a beautifully animated fourth installment. Published by Dotemu, Streets of Rage 4 is coming to PC and major consoles in Spring 2020. I was able to sit down for some co-op with developer Cyrille Lagarigue of Guard Crush at PAX East this year as we cleaned up the dangerous city streets.

The 90’s are coming back with a fury, but don’t worry, this fourth installment still packs a serious punch in 2020. 

Before we even began fighting crime, I was captivated by the striking hand-animation created for the game. This unique visual style is thanks to the team behind 2017’s Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap remake. Between Streets of Rage 4 and Cup Head, I’m more convinced than ever that hand animation has a charm that can’t be replaced.

Streets of Rage 4 cleverly integrates a visual style that looks both modern and nostalgic all at once. Channeling inspiration from comic books, the animations are sure to catch your attention as you discover the variety of attacks and special combos available to your character.

The initial release of the game will feature five playable characters. Each combatant has their own move set and visual style, challenging players to learn how to best play to their strengths as they encounter a wide variety of enemy types. Two characters are returning from previous titles (Axel and Blaze), two are brand new for this release (Cherry and Floyd), and one (Adam) has been reworked from his original version to the point that the developers consider him ‘new’ to Streets of Rage 4.

Alongside regular combos, special attacks consume health to unleash while mega-specials use a star resource obtainable at set points throughout levels. Every attack felt satisfying as I landed combos, unleashed flames, and toppled mobs of enemies.

As someone who has struggled with the chaos of side-scrollers in the past, I was genuinely surprised at how collaborative Streets of Rage 4 feels in two-player co-op mode. Players can easily coordinate joint assaults or set up kills for their allies in a way that feels truly tangible.

When we reached our first boss, timing our ranged attacks and interrupts became vital as we struggled against a snake-wielding villain that quickly halted melee assaults. Bosses have stepped up their game since the 90’s and offer players new mechanics that require creative solutions.

Not only is the animation of the game striking, but so is the iconic, electronic dance inspired soundtrack. This is no doubt due to the fact that the composers for the original Streets of Rage games, Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, have returned alongside new collaborators for the project.

The legacy of Streets of Rage is absolutely alive and well. I have faith that players new and old to the franchise will enjoy beating down crime as they tackle the campaign mode, strive for high scores on higher difficulties, and team up together in co-op. If you’re excited for the game, I’d also recommend checking out the behind the scenes shorts released on Dotemu’s Youtube channel.

Streets of Rage 4 is expected to release Spring 2020 on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Two player online co-op and four player local co-op will be available with the release.