I miss Streets of Rage. I grew up playing classic beat ‘em games, and Sega’s gritty brawler was easily one of my fondest memories. Enough with a trip down memory lane, and instead let’s focus on dirty needles and beating pigs with Mother Russia Bleeds. This side-scrolling action game strokes that nostalgia button in all the right ways. Moving left to right, beating down tons of enemies, and plenty of blood and gore; it is super satisfying. This game hits all the right notes, well except the lack of online co-op, but we’ll get to that.
Sticking with the tradition, Mother Russia Bleeds provides a simple plot that involves the main characters being kidnapped, being pumped full of some crazy drug, and then escaping to wreak havoc on everyone unfortunate enough to walk in front of them. The plot is paper thin, but that is by design. These games are about one thing, and that is certainly not narrative.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
Controls are fairly straightforward, with a punch and kick button. There is also a dash and jump button, as well as the quintessential grab. Dashing can be combined with punches and kicks for quicker attacks, and everything works as advertised. Combat is simple, but the blows feel great. This game focuses on being visceral on all fronts, and it succeeds. Beating down enemies is both disturbing, and satisfying.
There are also weapons to pick up and use, as well as environmental hazards. The game makes great use of its setting to really lay on the grit. I felt dirty when playing the game, which I assume is the desired effect. Boss fights are entertaining, but without local partners, they can be frustrating. The game does allow for a bot partner, but they are pretty much worthless, especially in boss fights.
In addition to just laying waste to enemies, there is also the drug mechanic. The drug has two different effects that can be selected from the outset, almost like a loadout. One function heals the player, while the other activates a drug-induced rage mode that powers up attacks. Upgrades can be unlocked over the course of the game, and it ends up being a pretty neat mechanic.
There are other modes outside the standard campaign, and they pretty much run the gamut of standard fare. Arena and survival are the main courses, but the most befuddling omission is the lack of online co-op. This game is designed to be played with friends, and removing the ability to team up with other players online is perplexing. This day and age online play feels like a given, so when a game, especially one with a focus on cooperative play, comes packed without it, it stands out.
As I mentioned, the game has a really great look to it. The 2D pixels are both beautiful and disgusting in the same breath. Character animations are limited, but effective, and the world just feels dirty. It pulls off the atmosphere it was going for perfectly.
Mother Russia Bleeds is a great game with some truly oppressive decisions, with the lack of online co-op being the most obvious. Still, those looking for that Streets of Rage itch to scratch, this does it, and does it well. I just wish there was a bit more to it, of and of course online co-op. Not sure I mentioned how much this game suffers from not having that option.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.