Raging Justice is a modern take on the malnourished beat ’em up genre, bringing that classic side scrolling carnage up-to-date. Gamers with a bit of age behind them will remember the fine state that this formula was in back in the 90’s, with titles such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage sitting front and center. Funnily enough and an interesting note, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage II and Streets of Rage III are all currently available through Microsoft’s Games with Gold scheme. The big question is, if you’ve already jumped on these games and thirst for something similar, new and engaging, does MakinGames’ Raging Justice scratch that itch?
Selecting from a total of three protagonists; Rick Justice, Nikki Rage and Ashley King, players are dropped into a city that’s full of crime and corruption. It falls to you to clean up the streets once and for all, one beaten down thug at a time. Despite Raging Justice’s very clear inspirations, the game does provide a few layers of extra depth that’s more fitting for modern day gaming, but we’ll get to that shortly. The aim of the game is to make it from one side of the level to the next, clearing up hordes of gangs, ring leaders and even dogs, along the way. It couldn’t be a simpler concept if it tried and it’s all the better for it, I might add.
Raging Justice supports three difficulty settings for the main campaign; Wimp, Normal and Tough Guy. Once you’ve selected your difficulty, you’re then able to select one of the aforementioned protagonists, each coming with their own unique play styles. When I first booted up the game I decided to test it out on its normal difficulty. Oh my, what an ass kicking I took. The difficulty curve is somewhat out of line on the normal setting, a setting that’s typically reserved for those that like “some” challenge. Instead, the game slowly gives you a sense of security before hammering you to a pulp later in. Suffice to say that I soon switched it down to the lowest setting.
I definitely recommend starting the game out on its wimp difficulty, because even here, it’s still quite a challenging experience but much more welcoming. When you’ve chosen your poison, you’re ready to dive into the chaos of Big Smoke City. Each stage, with nine in total, presents you with a list of optional challenges and comes with leaderboard support for those all important bragging rights. The implementation of a “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop” mechanic is pretty neat too, being that your actions on the street will veer you off in your deserved direction. This largely depends on whether you arrest specific enemies or beat them down with a pool of obtainable street weapons.
Still, it’s a nice touch nevertheless and certainly adds to the replay value. When you touch down on any given stage, you’ll come face to face with a sizable band of foes, each of which tends to house their own unique attack patterns and gimmicks. Standard thugs, dynamite throwing enemies, shock prodding ladies and many more will try to hinder your progress. Taking on the role of Rick, Nikki, or Ashley, you’ll punch, kick and grapple your opponents on your journey to the end game. Weapons will be littered throughout, either picked up from fallen foes or via smashable environmental objects, which will sometimes dish out a health pickup instead.
The actual gameplay, despite its harsh difficulty, is very easy to gel with. It’s not at all hard to find that classic rhythm of moving, beating, moving, and beating. Outside of the weaponry (bats, swords, knives etc…) you’ll also be able to man the occasional tractor and mow down the opposition. When served enough damage, specific enemies will stand dazed for a moment or two, giving you just enough time to wander over and arrest them. This doesn’t really change up the fields of play, but again, it’s a nice inclusion that adds a kick to the otherwise brutal pace of the game. When all is said and done, Raging Justice is the pinnacle of easy to play, but very hard to master.
On top of the standard actions, players can utilize a special attack. However, this will cost you a sizable portion of health to prevent spamming the function. Oddly enough it does very little damage, but it does prove very useful as far as clearing some ground is concerned. My only real gripe with the game other than its difficulty curve is that I often found that it’s hard to pull of a combo before the opposition interrupts it. Many a time did I aim to dish out three punches in rapid succession, only to be put on my ass soon after. It would have been nice to see some more control on this front, but with that to the side, this is hardly a deal breaker.
Much like the classics, when you reach the end of each stage there’s a boss battle that you’ll need to contend with. These battles are by far the most difficult confrontations in the game, easily swallowing up your limited life/continue count if you play too safe. Mercifully, these battles are not all that hard to predict, seeing as most of the boss enemy’s loop their attack patterns continuously. Without the elements of replay value, the campaign will take anywhere between two – three hours to complete, with twice – three times that amount of playtime thrown into the mix when chasing additional goals. Certainly enough content vs the generous asking price.
Outside of the campaign, which can be played via local co-op, there’s also a brawl mode. What’s this, I hear you cry? Well, if the main game isn’t challenging enough, the brawl mode offers up a wave based system that adds to the longevity of play. The audio of the game is well crafted, which can also be said about the decent soundtrack. In regards to the visuals, Raging Justice serves up a unique style that sets it apart from its peers. The level design is also commendable too, taking players to some well designed and diverse locations throughout. It’s fair to say that Raging Justice wont appeal to everyone, but those that love a good old side-scrolling brawl, wont be disappointed.
Raging Justice comes tethered to a particularly steep difficulty curve, yet ticks many of the boxes that it needed to to stand out as a solid beat ’em up experience. This may not be the next Streets of Rage II, but it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re on the market for a modern day version of that formula. It’s fun, brutal, often unfair, yet ultimately satisfying in the long run.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.