Even as a fan of the genre, I can admit that the “beat ’em up” is far past its heyday. After peaking in the 90’s with series like Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Double Dragon, the genre fell on hard times as games got more complicated and made the jump to 3D. Outside of a few notable titles like Double Dragon Neon, the genre is mostly being held up by indies at this point. MakinGames and Team17’s Raging Justice is the latest title to take a stab at this genre.
While Raging Justice does try to stand out with its pre-rendered graphics and arresting mechanic, both of those features miss their mark. As a result, Raging Justice winds up being a pretty dull, standard beat ’em up that should suffice for genre fans, but won’t do much for anyone else.
Raging Justice follows cops Rick Justice, Nikki Rage, and Ashley King as they attempt to save a kidnapped mayor, a tried and true story formula for beat ’em up games. The story is laughably written and predictable, but it’s not supposed to be much more than window dressing that gives these cops an excuse to beat up baddies.
The game is also fairly short, only consisting of nine levels that will last anywhere from three to fifteen minutes, getting longer and harder as the game progresses. While a lack of content may be a turnoff to newcomers, this does mimic the length of older titles, and Raging Justice is fairly cheap, so this likely won’t be an issue for most beat ’em up fans, myself included.
Visually, Raging Justice’s pre-rendered graphics that hearken back to titles like Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct initially pop, but falter on closer inspection. While some of the character and environment designs can be charming, crude animations and a lack of any remarkable visual depth make Raging Justice look ugly at some points. This style is initially what pulled me in, and the concept has lots of potential, but it just wasn’t realized fully here.
Across Raging Justice’s nine levels, the player must punch, kick, and throw enemies around in archetypal beat ’em up fashion with three characters that all play slightly differently. This functions perfectly fine and should satisfy the demands of the core fanbase of the genre. Fans of titles like Streets of Rage should feel right at home immediately.
The game even lets players kick enemies on the ground, pick up items to use as weapons, and use character-exclusive special attacks at the cost of health much like Vendetta, which is another clear inspiration. Raging Justice is prone to the occasional cheap difficulty spikes synonymous with the genre, but the game also lets players choose from various difficulties, which offsets that annoyance
The dynamic with weapons being available to pick up for both and players also leads to some exciting situations, though the constant throwing of dynamite in later stages can be annoying an hard to dodge. For the most part, Raging Justice plays like a standard Streets of Rage or Vendetta clone, but does try to set itself apart with a warrant and arresting system.
After beating up or throwing around some enemies enough, they will get stunned; once they are in this state, all three characters can arrest said enemy to gain back some health. Specific adversaries also have warrants out for their arrest, and players have the choice of either arresting them for extra benefits or just beating them down.
While this concept does sound good on paper, its implementation is lackluster, rewards for arresting enemies are somewhat minimal, and its usually more of annoyance to go out of one’s way to arrest specific enemies, especially during some of the crowded later levels in single player. Outside of this system, there is nothing inherently wrong with Raging Justice’s core gameplay; it just winds up not standing out in any specific way, even though it tries and wants to.
There’s a bit of fun to be had playing with friends in multiplayer, but even then the games simplicity, length, and occasional ugliness means Raging Justice likely won’t become a staple co-op title for many. Again, this is something that derivative of the genre for Raging Justice to do without really spicing it up in any significant way.
Once players see everything the main story has to offer, they can try out the wave-based brawl mode that has its own leaderboards. This is an enjoyable mode to test each character out in and serves as an ample side activity for those who plan on sticking with the game.
Raging Justice does have some ambition, but that ambition winds up being unfulfilled. It’s pre-rendered graphics are underdeveloped enough where they can become ugly, and warrant and arrest system feels a bit tacked on and players can easily ignore it. On the gameplay side of things, Raging Justice doesn’t do anything wrong; it just doesn’t do anything of note either.
As a fan of beat ’em ups, I did find a bit of enjoyment in the game at a basic level, but there is no reason for me to return to Raging Justice in the future over something like Streets of Rage 2. Raging Justice should provide some adequate indie beat ’em up fun for genre veterans, but it is not very memorable, and its appeal likely won’t ever be any broader than that.
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