‘Streets of Rage 4”s ‘Mr X Nightmare’ is a dream not a nightmare

There’s something a bit beautiful about Streets of Rage 4 and that certainly continues with its Mr X Nightmare downloadable content (DLC). Of course, given the level of violence involved, it feels deeply wrong to call it beautiful but, well, it just looks that way. The beauty begins with its gorgeous visuals that somehow seem even more beguiling this time around and it continues thanks to various tweaks, new playable characters, and a neat Survival mode that’s obviously there to keep you coming back for more. And don’t worry – it will manage that, I reckon.

Good DLC is the kind of DLC that means you immediately wonder where to begin. Diving into Survival mode is a nice place to start. It’s where you’ll find yourself returning frequently over the coming weeks. As the name suggests, survival is everything here. Pick either a random simulation or a designated weekly simulation and the concept is the same – fight until you have no fight left in you.

Streets of Rage 4 - Mr X Nightmare DLC
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr X Nightmare DLC. Credit: NME

Each round pits you against a series of increasingly tough foes. There are power-ups to collect and often a bevy of different weapons. This is where Streets of Rage 4 – Mr X Nightmare highlights how bizarre it can be. Fancy hitting someone with a giant fish? Or a ridiculously oversized combat club that would look a bit much even for over-the-top 90s TV show, Gladiators? You can do it here! It’s simultaneously incredibly lighthearted and very satisfying too.

After each round, you’re then tasked with the job of picking out a perk for the next bout. These can be tricky to decide on. Do you want to get a little damage reduction or a fire shield that surrounds you? How about a perk that gives you vastly improved damage but stops you from jumping? Ultimately, it all depends on your fighting style but as the perks stack up, it’s appealing to figure out combinations that work well together, delivering a roguelike experience like Hades or Binding of Isaac, except focused on beatdowns.

Chip away at Survival mode and you unlock new things across all the game modes. That includes new fighting moves, and the ability to customise your character and build up your own fighting style. It’s a nice way of feeling like your existing favourite characters just got even more interesting and it’s ideally timed as, by now, most dedicated players will feel they’ve seen everything they could see here. Again, it’s intelligent DLC design that appreciates that you want an extension of what’s already there to lure you back in.

It’d be possible to spend a fair chunk of time with Survival mode and still feel like you’ve got your money’s worth but Mr X Nightmare hasn’t stopped there. There are also three new playable characters.

Streets of Rage 4 - Mr X Nightmare DLC
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr X Nightmare DLC. Credit: NME

The options? Estelle, Max, and Shiva. Each offer slightly different experiences. Estelle is the mid-range option here. She has that annoying special move that has no doubt driven you up the wall in the story mode – unleashing missiles from the sky – but is otherwise fairly standard to fight with. Pulling people into a headlock is a lovely animation to watch though, especially early on.

Alternatively, Max is heavy. Very heavy. It defies logic how he can actually be thrown by anyone in the game but somehow, they manage it. Heavy-hitting but a bit sluggish, how much you enjoy playing him will come down to your style.

My preferred option is Shiva. He’s fast. Ridiculously fast. Granted, he can’t carry any weapons. Instead, he immediately flings them outwards which isn’t always ideal but did I mention he’s fast? He drives you towards being as quick as possible, playing almost reflexively, and he’s great to play, feeling suitably different from anyone else on the roster.

This could certainly come in handy if you go the masochistic path of trying out the frankly ridiculous Mania+ mode which I only briefly touched upon due to being an utter coward.

However, that’s the beauty to Streets of Rage 4 – Mr X Nightmare – there’s just so much. It’s not just those visuals, nor just that satisfying rhythm to the combat, but the sheer fact you’ll fall in love with the game all over again. It’s rare for DLC to feel quite so successful in achieving this but this one does the job, hitting the spot perfectly. Remarkably well priced at £7.99, it’s almost too easy a recommendation to make.