There is something really satisfying about a scrolling beat ’em up. The torch that was lit by the likes of Double Dragon and Final Fight is still being carried decades later. Modern-day brawlers, such as Streets of Rage 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge are bringing the old-school back for both new and original fans. Developer Seba Games Dev and publisher BlitWorks offer a new, old-school beat ’em up with Fight’N Rage.
“Fight’N Rage is a brand new old-school side-scroller beat’em up. Inspired by the classics from the “golden age”, and with an art style that mimics the aesthetic from the 90’s arcade gems, this game pays homage to all classic gameplay features that makes this genre one of the best from its time!”
Woah, calm down there press blurb. I’m doing the review and I’ll decide if Fight’N Rage is ‘one of the best from its time’. The truth is that Fight’N Rage is already a few years old at this point and has seen a release on pretty much everything. However, this is a review of the more recent Xbox Series X version. In terms of the differences between this new release on current-gen consoles and the release on the previous-gen, there is pretty much nothing to cover. But, when talking of Fight’N Rage as an overall title, irrespective of the machine that you are playing it on, there’s so much more to write about. I think the game now runs at a buttery smooth 120fps on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S but other than that, Fight’N Rage is exactly the same as it was previously.
Right from the moment that you load Fight’N Rage, you are hit with a huge blast of very 90s arcade nostalgia. The music and the title screen, before you even start the game, sound and look like you just stepped into an arcade circa 1991. There’s even a faux arcade cabinet boot-up screen that has more than a couple of references. Once you do start the game, you are then greeted by a massive menu with loads of locked content. The only play mode at the start is ‘yer basic arcade one. You alone (or you can team up with two friends offline) have to take on massive groups of enemies as you battle your way across a post-apocalyptic future to deal with The Boss and his mutant henchmen… err, henchmutants. Story-wise… does it even matter? Just as with these classic beat ’em ups of the day, the story here is inconsequential.
There are three playable characters to pick from. You get Gal, who doesn’t look too dissimilar to Mai Shiranui from Fatal Fury, complete with massive bouncing boobs. Gal is a speedy ninja-type lass, but the weakest of the characters. Ricardo is a massive man-bull hybrid. A minotaur, I guess. He’s slow and clunky but the most powerful of the three. Then, there is F. Norris who is the literal middleman. An older (maybe a Chuck Norris reference) fighter that is a fair balance between speed and strength. All three characters play and feel differently and you’ll need to learn all three if you want to get the most out of this game.
All the usual scrolling beat ’em up fare is here. Items to find when you smash open barrels and so on, very Final Fight. Various weapons to pick up and use. Food to give you much-needed health. There’s also a power-up thing that gives you the ability to do some serious damage. The basic controls for Fight’N Rage are just that, basic. You have a single attack, a jump and a special attack button… that’s it. No light or heavy attacks, no punch or kick buttons, just the one attack. Now, don’t go thinking that makes this a rather limited game in terms of the fighting, because it doesn’t. The combat may be simple on the surface, but it’s also pretty extensive once you get into it proper. The direction you move the stick and exactly when you press the attack and even how many times you press it, all add to a surprisingly deep combat system.
With some practice, you’ll be pulling off impressive combos, juggling enemies in the air and watching them explode into a pile of bones (which is very satisfying and never gets boring to see). It’s really spectacular just how deep the combat is with Fight’N Rage especially as you only have one attack button. Button-mashers will be able to make their way through the game fairly competently. But to really get the most out of the characters and their move sets, you’ll need to put in some serious practice. Thankfully, one of the many, many unlockables is a training mode where you can learn each of the character’s moves, strengths and weaknesses. This training mode is paramount if you really want to understand just how deep the combat is.
Fight’N Rage is also stuffed with nods, references and jokes covering some of the most revered beat ’em ups ever made. Do you want a non-copyright infringing mix of the Battletoads and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Gal looking very much like Mai Shiranui from Fatal Fury, I have already covered. Ricardo is basically Hagar from Final Fight and even has a similar move set. The female enemies with whips are straight from Double Dragon and so many more. Street Fighter II gets several nods itself. Then, there are subtle references to very famous martial arts films too. Enter the Dragon, Kickboxer and others, get their own mentions for you to find, even Steven Seagal gets one. If you are a fan of the beat ’em up genre or kung-fu flicks, then you are bound to notice several cheeky allusions.
You know in a classic scrolling beat ’em up, that you always go from left to right? Well, you do that here too only, you don’t have to. You can mix it up and go right to left if you wish. This takes you down a different route and is like having two games in one. Then, there are secrets and branching paths down each of those two routes too, meaning even more for you to discover. Over 50 different endings, yes over 50. These endings are discovered by experimenting, playing as different characters, trying various routes and your overall performance. There is so much game here that Fight’N Rage isn’t a title that you will be playing for hours. You’re more likely to be playing it for days, weeks and months if you’re planning on getting 100%.
There are even multiple CRT screen and retro filters that you can use to give yourself a real 90s arcade feel. Though I personally turned them off just so I could enjoy the artwork more clearly. The graphics here are very obviously retro-inspired, very early-90s. And about those graphics. They are bright, bold and really capture that arcade style. The crunching sound effects and awesome guitar-riff heavy chip-tunes just make you think you are back in 1991. Fight’N Rage is the complete package and a package with a lot of content to unlock. As the trailer proudly proclaims, no DLC. You play to unlock all the extra content, not pay for it. As it used to be and as it should be. This is a game that pays homage to old-school beat ’em ups and does it really well too.
£17 or less is how much Fight’N Rage will cost you, depending on the format. You get a ton of content here with seven different game modes, unlockable characters, costumes and so much more. There are hours upon hours worth of game here. Under all of that though, the core gameplay is basic but really bloody enjoyable. I have to break out a tired old cliché as this is one of those games that is easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. The one-button fighting mechanics are simple to grasp and you’ll be kicking bum cheeks in seconds. But to really get to grips with the game and learn the characters, pull off impressive combos and so on? That takes so much more time and effort to really understand. The fighting mechanics of Fight’N Rage are both simple and very complex.
Even though you can blast through the main story in an hour or so, there’s so much here to keep you entertained for much, much longer. It’s a shame there is no online multiplayer. But then again, couch co-op is what these games are all about. Oh and if you have no friends, you can get the AI to play (once you unlock it) with you and do you know what? The AI ain’t too bad either. It can be a bit of an issue to make out exactly where your character is during mass brawls as there can be so much going on. That’s my only real niggle with this one. Fight’N Rage is packed with content and the branching paths, many multiple endings and simple but tight controls make this a must-play for fans of the genre. Old-school beat ’em up action at its finest. Available from the 1st of March on the current gen, or you can buy it right now on the last gen and PC.