This one hurts. I can quite clearly see that the developers are passionate about the Sega Mega Drive classics that are Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 as I am, and I can clearly see that they wanted to try and evolve by putting their own spin on the genre, but Raging Justice is just not very good and misses on every point of what made Streets of Rage a classic.
Taking inspiration from both Streets of Rage and Final Fight, the game centres around three cops (though one is a kid, go figure!) that end up on the wrong side of town trying to rescue the major from a gang of organised thugs. It’s an obvious homage and perfectly innocent in that regard.
It’s a tall ask to get the character of Streets of Rage out of a game inspired so heavily by it, but aesthetically Raging Justice is just incredibly ugly and generic sounding. Characters look straight out of a Claymation nightmare, while the music is just utterly dull and bland. At the very least it’s all consistent, but it doesn’t change the fact that its presentation is a massive weak point.
The three playable characters also don’t thrill in diversity, as the differences between them are minor at best. All have a single special move that uses a huge chunk of health to disperse surrounding enemies, a throw, various punches and kicks, and a dash attack. With only minor stat differences, the three are almost identical in how they play, limiting the replay value.
Streets of Rage and other Sega arcade games like Golden Axe initially had a vehicle you could call in, or a magical attack that would clear the screen, while later games in the Streets of Rage series replaced these with multiple special attacks. Raging Justice does neither of these things, instead having a single dispersing special attack. To make things worse, this crowd control is just not worth it here because of the massive chunk of health it takes off.
What made the Streets of Rage characters more appealing were how many moves they had that were unique to them. Instead of a suplex, Skate would climb on the enemy’s shoulders and pummel them, Max had a few unique jumping throws, and even the black sheep of Streets of Rage 3 – Zan – had a few electrical attacks.
Of course though, Raging Justice is a game about cops, as was Streets of Rage, only these cops can arrest stunned enemies for health. It’s not the only way to gain health – the really fat enemies drop burgers upon knocking them out – but this is the only reasonable method of managing the huge amount of damage enemies can do. Having played the original Streets of Rage recently, this is par for the course, but it frequently descends into suplexing enemies to stun them and recover health.
Across the nine or so levels, there are objectives to achieve as well as a number of targets that contribute to either being a good cop by arresting them or a bad cop by punching them to death. This quickly goes out the window when weapons and lawnmowers are concerned, since they turn a dire situation into a cakewalk.
Bosses are initially just regular enemies from later levels but without any hit-stun, while the proper bosses verge on simply being huge chunks of meat. They usually have phases where they tag out to allow other minions to attack instead, thus allowing the player to arrest them and restore some health, but really they’re not all that interesting and the game only has a limited number that have to be re-fought. Their designs are not as horrific as “Ash” from Streets of Rage 3, but they do come uncomfortably close at times.
Though they’re reasonably well thought out, even the controls themselves don’t feel as responsive as they could be, particularly for dashing which takes either two or three quick taps of a direction and feels clunky.
You may be getting the feeling that I didn’t like this game very much, but that’s only really because I’m holding it to the high standard of the classics such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage that it so clearly wants to imitate. It’s otherwise a relatively fun brawler that gets the job done and is of a reasonable length and difficulty, and is playable in local co-op. However, in order to stand out, it needs that bit of inspiration and originality. Being able to arrest stunned foes is the only thing this game does differently and while it’s great for flavour, it’s not a key selling point on its own.
Aside from the campaign, there’s also a bunch of survival maps where players are tasked with beating wave upon wave of foes until they defeat the required number. There are multiple maps unlocked this way, but this is merely more of the same in many regards.
There’s so much wrong with Raging Justice that it’s easy to forget that it’s not completely unbearable. It’s an average romp through arcade-like levels and while the key gimmick doesn’t hit a home run, it at least is fitting with the theme. That said, this does sadly come off as a cheap imitator that misses the mark more often than not, and as I eluded to earlier, that hurts for me to say.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 – Also available for Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch