Genre: Beat ’em Up
Rating: PEGI 12
According to the developers at MakinGames—Nic Makin (Director, Lead Programmer, Anna Makin (Director, Marketing), Steve Burke (Music, Sound) Jay Howse (Art)—they sought to bring the beat ’em up recipe from the 90’s, such as Streets of Rage 2 and Double Dragon, into the 21st century. This is a noble goal, but some readers may remember that this kind of aspiration is common within the genre; Wulverblade and Mother Russia Bleeds, are two recent examples. But because Raging Justice has been in development since 2010, with the game entering into the Steam Greenlight program in 2015, being late to the party may not be all that fashionable.
By genre definition, players should expect feet and fists scheduling an incalculable number of appointments with faces. Striking foes until their meters are depleted is standard practice here. Knives, swords, sledge hammers, baseball bats, trash cans, and even a tractor are among the weapons that can be found. Screenshots from the alpha version of the game included blood, but I believe that has been removed (unless activated by a code I do not know).
One boss is a cross between a biker and a gimp. Another boss is a pimp complete with “hoes” as backup, spinning around with a walking cane and using backhand slaps as attacks. Men with shirts off and women showing cleavage are common.
Thugs have overrun the city, led by an enigmatic crime boss. Nikki Rage, a former member of the military, Rick Justice, a middle-aged veteran of the police, and Ashley King, a teenager who grew up on the streets, set off to rescue the mayor, who has been taken hostage in his own mansion. While traveling there by car, they are accosted by several good-for-nothings who toss an obstacle onto the road from the top of an overpass, causing our heroes to wreck their vehicle. Traveling by foot, the team fist fights its way to victory.
First, I would like to address the most noticeable aspect of Raging Justice: the aesthetics. Though I would not describe the animation of this game as smooth, the pre-rendered graphics are reminiscent of the 16-bit days when Donkey Kong Country was considered one of the greatest games ever (and still is), and when Sega…tried…with Sonic 3D Blast. For those seeking even more nostalgia than that, despite the fact that it used digitized FMV, Raging Justice foremost reminds me of Pit Fighter. For these reasons, I can say that MakinGames successfully simulates the retro feel of an arcade-era brawler. Final Fight comes to mind in particular. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the music and sound, which strike me as amateur.
The simplicity of Raging Justice can be attributed to its genre. Up to two players can pick between the three available characters. The trio possesses identical inputs, but not identical move sets. What this means is that each can punch, kick, jump, and grab, but the type of attack varies. For example, Rick Justice’s moves are slow, powerful, and few in number of blows. The women are predictably progressively weaker in sheer striking power, but are flashier in style. Ashley is the most stylish, given that she simply imitates what she has seen on TV; her Crane kick, for example, is imported straight from Karate Kid.
Every beat ’em up needs decent bad guys to…beat up. The basic goon comes in the tattooed, shirtless, backwards cap-wearing and mohawked and tank-topped variety. The women models exchange their Electra whips for hand tasers, and they relish opportunities to use them while I am occupied with another enemy. The next encounter is a trenchcoat-sporting terrorist likes to sprinkle the screen with TNT. After that is a straight up meathead who oftentimes activates invulnerability frames while attacking, reminding me of Abadede from SoR2. A fat boy follows, who will remind players of Big Ben, right down to his charging attack that barrels through everyone. Besides a few Rottweilers, this rounds out the common enemies, with meathead and fat boy serving as bosses in the early stages; an ostentatious pimp, a biker gimp, and a conjoined monstrosity serve as bosses, with the exception of one, who shall remain undisclosed in this review. Suffice to say, Mr. X would be proud.
The actual gameplay is uneven. When executing basic punch and kick chains, several enemy types, such as the creepy terrorist guy, can break the chain and retaliate, especially against Nick’s attacks. That is, if a chain can ever be finished for flanking foes. I found myself abusing throws for crowd control more than executing hit chains. On rare occasion, I was able to grab an enemy and pulverize them not until their health is depleted, but until they fall. This triggers a dizzy effect upon the foe, who can now be arrested. This is key to the “good cop/bad cop” mechanic. Challenges such as arresting five thugs, or hitting two with a baseball bat are issued at the beginning of each stage. Warrants for arrests are included in this list, and the target perps will appear on the screen blinking red. Beat them down for a “bad cop” bonus, which will result in the bonus of cash, gold, or jewelry (points). A successful arrest generates health pickups.
Those health pickups will be precious! Raging Justice lacks the quality of life features that I have become accustomed to in modern beat ’em ups genre. For example, being knocked down does not prevent me from getting hit. The only invincibility frames in the game happen while throwing someone or when using the special attack by pressing punch and kick simultaneously. And using the special attack does relatively low damage compared to the damage that I take from doing them. Things become even worse when fighting a boss, who always, always, interrupts attack chains, resulting in an unfavorable exchange of health reminiscent of going toe-to-toe with a boss in Maximum Carnage. It does not help that some bosses, such as the pimp and biker have prolonged invincibility frames and attacks, forcing me to beat up more thugs before continuing with the boss. Lastly, it is too easy to become trapped between normal enemies, and suffering 80% damage as they strike continuously without triggering a knockdown.
Raging Justice certainly captures the look of beat ’em ups in the past with such accuracy, that even the featured heroes are…not designed to win a beauty contest. The more weapons that litter the screen, the more fun that I have. However, I do not feel empowered while using the basic attacks, but vulnerable; at no point do I ever feel like the one (wo)man wrecking crew that I could be in other games within the genre. For all the features to like in Raging Justice, there as there are as many disappointments, resulting in a game that is merely average.
Review code generously provided by Team 17.
The Bottom Line