SOR4: Mr. X Nightmare Review

I was pretty happy with Streets of Rage 4 last year. It hit back after too long a hiatus with excellent gameplay, incredible visuals and nostalgia galore. It was, in my eyes, GOTY worthy and the full package. And yet, here we are checking out the newly released DLC, MR.X Nightmare. And would you believe it, it only enhances that already incredible base offering.

The highlight for me are the three new characters; original boss-turned-good guy from SOR4 Estele; a fully fleshed out reimagined Max; and retro boss-turned-good guy Shiva. My partner in crime Graham was especially pleased to see old favourite Max get a new outing, while I grew to enjoy Shiva a lot, so much so it’s a tough call between him and Cherry as my default go to now. Estele is great too, with some excellent power moves at her disposal but she’s just a tad too slow footed for my playstyle, whereas Shiva is lightning fast across the levels. Regardless though, all three combine to make for an excellent range of DLC characters.

Just behind the new characters is the new mode introduced here; Survival. Framed as an experiment by Dr. Zan, it’s an endless, wave-based mode that tasks up to two players to survive as long as possible. Each wave takes roughly 1-2 minutes to beat, and they gradually get harder the further we get. This sort of idea isn’t exactly new, but I have to say that this is one of the best implementations of the mode I’ve played, mainly thanks to that super satisfying combat. As you can see in the video below, enemies are just thrown at us, with the small arenas becoming increasingly crowded with not only more foes, but environmental hazards such as fire or electrified fencing too. We only get one life, though there is a saving grace in co-op where a downed player can be brought back as long as the other player survives the wave.

This is just one of the perks we get for beating a wave. After each, two randomised options appear for players to choose. Some will offer buffs to strength or agility at the cost of the ability to heal or jump, while others grant special attacks and combos with elemental effects such as poison or electricity. Yet more drop powerful weapons or stat boosts, or even an AI companion that can be upgraded after each wave. While there are two options to choose, only one player gets a perk per wave, so it becomes a game of strategy and compromise to get the best results. Poor Graham yielded many perks to help buff my health for example, and even then he was usually the last man standing! Perks stack too, so these health buffs add up, or we can have both fire and electricity effects attached to a weapon attack, for example. The randomness doesn’t detract in the way I’d usually find either as there are a ton of great perks, so rarely did we find a choice that didn’t have at least one good option. Obviously once we both die all is lost, but when reviving a player they get to keep everything earnt up until that point, which is a nice touch.

Survival also features weekly challenges; set level sequences that at least offer players a chance to learn and improve a run rather than relying on the total randomness of the default mode. Regardless of the mode played, after each full run the characters used get another nice bonus: new moves! An XP bar fills in depending on how far we got, and as each segment is completed we gain a new move, up to a total of five. From now on, when we select that character again we’re presented with a new option of choosing between the unlocked moves. Handily, the game also tells us what the inputs are below it so we don’t accidently swap out a favourite move, as the names will take some time to learn. Perhaps the only downside to this method is that in order to unlock all characters extra moves we’ll need to play Survival a lot. I’ve done about half a dozen runs now (each between 10 and 17 waves) with Shiva and have only unlocked two moves. It does appear that we also gain those of our co-op partner though, so this effectively halves the time but that is still a lot of time to invest. These moves can be used in any mode as well, so there is more incentive there, but can only be unlocked via the survival mode. Luckily, it’s a blast to play.

Dotemu did a fantastic job with honouring the legacy titles before, and here is no different. Classic stages are mixed in with the new, and come presented in a scanline, pixelated view that really got the nostalgia going. Some new music from the excellent Tee Lopes (the composer behind the wonderful Sonic Mania) rounds out the package, and is the icing on the top of a fantastic cake.

Outside of these headline additions there are a number of improvements to the game, ranging from frame time adjustments to difficultly balances and more. Much of this, including the new Mania+ difficulty mode, are free, while the new mode and characters will set you back around £7.99. It’s a fair price considering the range the new characters offer as well as the endless Survival mode and all its unlocks – plus, the base game is in Game Pass, so if you’ve enjoyed the last year or so with it you’ll definitely get your money’s worth here!

Conclusion

Streets of Rage 4 was already fantastic, and the Mr.X Nightmare DLC just improves it immensely. New characters Max, Estele and Shiva are great, while the Survival mode offers endless options for replayability as well as new unlocks to use throughout the game. It’s an utterly brilliant DLC all round, now excuse me while I head back to get working on those unlocks…

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Fantastic new characters
  • Survival mode is great, and offers endless challenge
  • Visual updates, new audio and music, and quality of life additions make an already incredible game even better
Bad
  • Unlocking all the new moves will take a loooonng time
10
Incredible
Gameplay - 10
Graphics - 10
Audio - 10
Longevity - 10
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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