Having played a lot of beat ‘em ups when I was younger like Final Fight, Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and Golden Axe to name a few; I’ve often wondered why I haven’t really seen any big releases in the genre since Castle Crashers almost ten years ago. Well I could see Raging Justice being our next big beat-em up for this generation.
Being a spiritual successor to Streets of Rage more than anything, sharing very similar level structures, design and general plot, players of Streets of Rage will be able to see many similarities in some parts of the game. Of course, this is a modern adaptation so there’s also some new things as well. There are 3 characters to choose from; each with individual movesets, speed and damage output which allows players to use different play styles that suit them best. Each of these characters have access to police equipment which opens up some interesting mechanics you won’t find in your classic beat ‘em ups.
Beating the living hell out of everyone in your path is always the main objective but there are a few gameplay additions to Raging Justice which make it interesting and a bit more of its own thing rather than being a good way to feel nostalgic. Since our heroes are all equipped with cuffs there is a warrant mechanic which allows you to be a Good Cop, and arrest the criminals for a food drop that gives a health boost or be a Bad Cop, and knock them out for a money drop to increase score. The system also applies to average enemies but the main ones effected by the warrant system are marked by red outlines and have their names mentioned at the beginning of the level. I feel like I should mention there are a good amount of special enemies named after various people from the gaming community which is very nice.
Before going into the main story of Raging Justice there are three difficulties to choose from. Initially I started out on Normal but quickly found myself stuck in one of the later chapters of the game because I had no credits (resets with 3 lives) or lives in general left and since this carries over between levels since each difficulty is essentially it’s own save I had to jump over to Wimp (easy) to finish the game. Despite my difficulties I have to give the game praise on its ability to offer a challenge. There is also a harder setting which I didn’t try besides the first couple enemies but there is definitely a challenge there for more hardcore players. Use of the Good Cop, Bad Cop System is especially important to stop situations like I found myself in since arresting all warrants in a level gives a ‘1-UP’ whereas If you KO all warrants you get a shotgun to deal serious damage.
Working your way from the streets all the way to the mansion at the end would be boring if there wasn’t much else to do besides arrest and knock people out. So there’s a few other things which can keep you occupied and coming back for more outside of the difficulties. One thing is challenge lists for each individual level which has various objectives such as beat the level in a certain time limit or arrest all warrants, amongst other things. There is also the classic score system with leaderboards for each level in the game so you can aim to become the best cop on the streets against friends or the globe.
Outside of story mode there is another mode called Brawl which lets you fight it out in a wave survival in various spots from the story. There are no challenges or warrant system here however there is scoring and a best time, so you can use this mode to test your skills against other players and increasingly difficult waves of the many enemies in the game and environment specific hazards up to the final boss. I should also mention that local co-op is supported so you can get a friend and bash skulls together.
Visually and for the audio I have to praise it. Mostly the audio. It is spot on, and exactly the kind of soundtrack you’d expect to hear in a beat ‘em up. From the slower beat of the main menu to the fast opening to the first wave in Brawl mode it’s honestly spot on. Sound effects from the enemies are unique to each individual enemy type and despite their repetitiveness, it feels right purely because of what Raging Justice is and what it’s taken inspiration from. Visually it uses that sort of weird realistic style but you can tell it’s CG. Initially I wasn’t a big fan but after putting time in I can see why this was the style used and appreciate how it offers a different style for a game genre which hasn’t really had much love since the 90’s when we couldn’t get as munch visual variety as we have now.