Mother Russia Bleeds: Gamescom 2016 Hands On
Mother Russia Bleeds feels like the sort of game a lifelong Streets of Rage fan would want to play in 2016.
I know this because I'm a lifelong Streets of Rage fan, and it is in fact 2016. Mother Russia Bleeds feels similar in the moment-to-moment gameplay: you can throw people, you can punch, jump, jump-punch and waddle up and down the screen bringing the pain to a variety of mobsters. If you've played a side scrolling beat-'em-up, you'll be immediately at home, the sprinting punch is a near replica of Axel's special move from Streets of Rage II, in fact.
The real twist to gameplay here is your reliance on a syringe full of drugs to get you through the multitude of enemies. A squeeze of your left trigger pricks you with the syringe and recovers some of your health. A squeeze of the right trigger jabs the syringe into your neck, putting you in a berserker state as you unleash a whirlwind of hurt on enemies. A tap of the circle button while you're in this state sees you pull off a gory finisher which, in the case of my character, has me lifting an enemy above my head and pulling them apart in the middle.
Developer Le Cartel tells me that over the course of the full game there will be different syringes you can use with different powers, giving you a bit of control over how you play. You refill the syringes from twitching corpses of those you kill, those infected with a mystery substance that seems to have turned half of the people you fight into bizarre zombies. If you want to leave the creepy corpse-harvesting, you can just go for one of the melee weapons, knocked from the hands of your enemies when you splatter them into the floor.
Luckily, to stop you getting overwhelmed, there's four-player co-operative play, meaning you can bring as many friends as you've got controllers (provided you have a maximum of four controllers) to fight through this bleak vision of the U.S.S.R.
The game's character designs, excessive gore and pixel art all evoke the feel of earlier games too, not quite the same style as the glorious 2D beat-'em-ups it's so clearly using as inspiration, but enough to evoke a feeling of 'the past' that somehow manages to evoke feelings of its Devolver Digital stablemate Hotline Miami. It's not a negative comparison, although those expecting the puzzle-slaughter (a new genre I've just coined now) of Hotline Miami don't understand quite how much punching you'll be doing in Mother Russia Bleeds.
Not that too much punching can ever be a bad thing when it feels as compelling as this. Mother Russia Bleeds is looking promising, with each punch and throw landing with some real impact. It's the kind of game I want to play again and again to master, just the same as Streets of Rage or Golden Axe II. I mean, Mother Russia may bleed, but I don't intend to.