The side scrolling 2D brawler returns in some style. Raging Justice – The FNGR GNS Review;
There was a time when the side-scrolling brawler was the undisputed King of the gaming world. With the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage ruling the 16-bit era, the Mega Drive was the home of a genre that took over the world. You can see by the reaction to the Streets of Rage collection being free on Xbox Live Gold this month to notice just how loved the series is, and how in demand a new game in that genre has been. Well, Raging Justice scratches that itch and then some.
Raging Justice is going to make you feel at home almost immediately. From the menu to the character selection to the first levels, it’s a nostalgia hit instead of a retro-esque remake, something it would seem they’re keen to stress. Gone are the pixelated, colourful visuals that we associated with this genre and instead, a highly stylised world with pre-rendered character models that look they’ve been pulled out of the original Mortal Kombat fill the screen, looking pretty fresh and certainly more appealing to a modern audience.
The movement and the combat will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a side-scrolling brawler, though there are subtle differences. You’ve got your kicks, punches, jumps and jumpkicks (for those pesky motorcycle riders). You’ve got two buttons which can be mashed together to form combos. Jumping attacks along with dashes will all prove essential in later levels and boss fights, and you’ve got special moves also (though they nix your health, so use them cautiously). The combat feels solid and while it’s not going to win any awards for originality and isn’t exactly Arkham levels of polished, the combat is what you remember from these types of games in the first instance, and they’re given a good reboot here.
To add to the classic brawler feel there are naturally weapons and other objects you can use as an offensive, including knives, swords, dynamite, fire hydrants, trash cans, baseball bats and more. They all have different levels of effectiveness and can’t be used for more than a few seconds (some only once) but are handy if you find yourself surrounded and need to take out a few goons a little quickly. And of course, your health is increased by eating food that mysteriously appears from garbage and elsewhere. Full on cooked chickens, just thrown away. One of gaming great mysteries is finding out just who throws out a full damn cooked chicken. Someday I’ll find out. Someday.
A cool addition that makes Raging Justice stand out a little though is the arrest mechanic, which allows you to cuff your enemies and send them packing rather then pounding their face into the ground and that be that. At the beginning of each level you have a list of bounties which are wanted, and your points will increase if you manage to cuff them after beating them so hard they can’t see straight. It’s a neat extra layer of the game which makes it stand out amongst its peers, and whilst it’s easy enough to notice when a bounty is ready to be cuffed, it can be a whole other challenge to get back over to them and get it done. It can be a little frustrating to not just simply beat everyone to a pulp just to clear the screen, and it can get a little confusing. It’s easy enough to just keep bashing your attack button and forget that you need to arrest certain enemies over other ones.
The more you arrest the more points you receive but arresting everyone is going to be tough as there are moments when there are just too many enemies on the screen at once, leaving you feel a little lost amongst the chaos. It’s easy to forget, but adds a nice layer of replayability to each level if you want that extra challenge. Talking of extra challenges, if you’re after a mode that will really test your old-school reflexes, Brawl mode pits you against waves of enemies with you having nothing but a single life to survive on. It’s hardcore and only for the purists. I didn’t do very well, though I imagine Paul will have the time of his life taking down goons with a great big Thanos-esque smile on his face.
So Raging Justice is a fun trip back to those times when all that mattered was choosing between Axel, Blaze or Skate and taking on every goon the game could throw at you. It harks back to the couch co-op hilarity that came with powering through level after level with friendly fire very much switched on (as it is here, also). It’s difficult in the right places and offers a significant challenge to those who have been missing this genre. It’s definitely not perfect and unfortunately its ‘arrest’ mechanic just doesn’t work as well as it should, resulting in missed opportunities happening far too often upon being overwhelmed by the madness of it all. The visuals are going to split people down the middle and if you didn’t really get on board with the genre back in its heyday, there’s little here that’s going to change your mind as it treads a similar path.
There’s plenty of fun to be had if you turn off your nostalgia goggles, but there’s little denying Raging Justice doesn’t do an awful lot else to escape from that particular shadow.
Raging Justice is available now on PS4, Switch, PC and Xbox One (reviewed on Xbox One S)
Developer: Makin’ Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.