Raging Justice brings the scrolling beat ’em up genre of the 90’s to the modern day. Plus it’s a passion project made by ex Rare devs so you know it’s worth your attention.
Release Date: May 8th 2018
Genre: Beat’em Up
Developed by MakinGames
Published by Team17
Reviewed on Xbox One S; Also available on PS4, Switch & PC.
The city is in chaos. There are reports of corruption at the highest level, the crimerate is through the roof and the mayor has been taken hostage by the mysterious crime lord who runs it all. Thankfully two tough as nails cops named Rick Justice and Nikki Rage, along with a gutsy street kid named Ashley King, are going to fight back, save the mayor and prove no one is above the law.
Its simple, just as it was back in the old days. You pick you character and you walk towards the right of the screen. Punching, kicking and throwing an almost unending number of punks and goons as you go. Each enemy has their own special attacks, including tazers, charged runs and dynamite. Then there are the bosses; massive, overpumped mountains of men who’s physiques defy the laws of physics and biology (and probably chemistry too somehow).
You won’t just be relying on your fists and feet in order to take on these behemoths. On top of your own crowd clearing special move, which comes at the cost of some of your health bar, you will also find hard hitting weapons to aid you on your mission.
There’s something very satisfying when you club a pair of thugs into a wall with a sledge hammer or flatten a whole screens worth down with a tractor or ride-on mower. There are all kinds of items available to help you clean the villainous scum of the streets from baseball bats to pigeons (yes really).
There are two modes you are presented with. First is your typical arcade/story mode which is synonymous with the genre. Choose your difficulty (wimp, normal, tough guy), choose your character (strong and slow Rick, all rounder Nikki or fast but weak Ashley), then smash your way through the game’s 9 stages, knocking seven bells out of every one you see.
I know what you’re thinking “so far, so Final Fight” but Raging Justice tries to add a little twist to the proceedings with a set of challenges to complete during each stage. These include general things like beating the level within a certain time limit, hitting a score target to more unique tasks such as hitting dynamite out of the air and back to its owner or smacking two enemies with a baseball bat at the same time.
The other addition are warrants. As you play through the stage, certain enemies will have a red outline; this indicates that there is a warrant challenge linked to them. Now you have the choice to knock them dizzy then arrest them, “GOODCOP”, or kill them with a weapon, “BADCOP”.
Arresting folks is a fun alternative to mindlessly thumping everyone, with the added bonus of gaining a health item for each one you complete. Unfortunately, with alternative endings locked behind you successfully managing these GoodCop/BadCop tasks, it can be very frustrating as you will often find yourself about to cuff someone only to have the arrest stolen from you as one of the other enemies kills them with a stray attack before you do.
The other mode is Brawl, in which you choose an arena and a character then battle wave after wave of increasing tough enemies with only one life to do it. It’s not exactly in depth but it’s a fun enough addition to the main game.
The multiplayer options here are the same as with the single player, except now your kicking the crap out of people with a friend. This really is the way scrolling beat’em ups are meant to be played. Unleashing a can of whoopass with a mate is just inherently more fun, especially after a night out. With so much happening on screen it can get a little crazy too and when you turn on the “friendly fire” option expect those same “Sorry, that was an accident” THWACK! “Yeah sure, so was that” moments that were rife in the classic beat’em ups of old.
Raging Justice has gone for big chunky character designs, detailed gritty backgrounds and an art style more inline with the silicon graphics seen in Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct on the SNES than the Pixel Art look that is the trend for most retro style games. It gives the game it’s own identity and doesn’t look like anything else available at the moment (at least to my knowledge). The animations can be a little clunky at times, especially the bosses, but it’s nothing that pulls you out of the game to be fair. A larger criticism is that there aren’t many enemy types, so you may get a little tired of seeing the same old faces keep popping up for you to knock back down.
The sound effects here are top notch. Every punch, slam, crack and boom has a sufficiently weighty tone behind it, adding impact to the events on screen. It also has a fitting musical score for thumping people in the head too. The music’s an enjoyable homage to 90’s synthrock but in this genre there is always one to whom all will be measured (somewhat unfairly) and that’s Yuzo Koshiro’s work on Streets of Rage 2 and while good, Raging Justice soundtrack isn’t as memorable as the SEGA classic but then… very few are.
As a massive Streets of Rage 2 fan (still my favourite game of all time) I have been looking forward to play Raging Justice from the second I learned of its existence. Now while I can’t say that this knocks SoR2 of the top spot (the nostalgia alone meant it never had a chance), what Raging Justice does do is bring the forgotten genre into the modern day and it does it well. With the addition of challenges and the GoodCop/BadCop system, MakinGames have added longevity to a game that is short by design (as most brawlers were).
There are some annoyances such as those mentioned previously, along with some collision detection issues involving a steel girder that manages to hit you whether or not you’re actually under it when it comes down. Also some of the boss fights feel needlessly drawn out due to the small window given to inflict damage during the gameplay loop (boss is vulnerable for a short time, boss becomes invulnerable during his attacks, boss calls for gang of regular enemies then sits in the corner, invulnerable again, while you take them out, repeat).
These niggles aside, Raging Justice is just pure fun. It harkens back to the classics that inspired it while adding enough to give it it’s own identity. Its simple gameplay combined with its challenges and leaderboards give it the “one more go” factor that will keep genres fans coming back for more. Even for those who haven’t played this type of game, there’s plenty of fun to be had. As my non gaming wife put it, after we played through the campaign, “it’s repetitive but addictive” and who am I to argue with her?