Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups were all the rage back in the late 80s and 90s, with all kinds of iconic titles releasing and cementing themselves firmly in the memories of veteran gamers. Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… each of those brings back plenty of fond memories for me, whilst countless others have graced my consoles over the years too. I’ll ALWAYS have a soft spot for the genre. Whilst the 3D era had seen it wither away a little though, it has come back with a bang in recent years. Heck, the excellent Streets of Rage 4 and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge are evidence that the genre is booming right now, with both certainly capturing gamers’ imaginations. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other releases in the genre though, with The TakeOver the latest to catch my eye. It has already seen release on the Nintendo Switch and PC, but it has now made its way to the PlayStation 4 too.
The tale behind The TakeOver’s non-stop brawling isn’t really all that complex. Taking place in Steel Haven, a city that has been overrun by criminals, players take on the role of either the cop Ethan, his girlfriend Megan, or their muscly pal Connor, as they look to save Ethan and Megan’s kidnapped daughter. It’s not the most intricate of plots really, but it’s all told through neat comic book-style sequences that do add a bit of context to your journey. For the most part though, it could feel a little irrelevant, with the action that takes place on the streets the most important aspect of the game.
“There’s an element of strategy to combat, though the frantic nature of levels does mean you’ll mostly be button-mashing for survival.”
If you’ve played a side-scrolling beat ‘em up before (and particularly Streets of Rage), you’ll feel right at home with The TakeOver. Players will bash and smash their way through seven different levels that bring with them hordes of goons and boss fights, with each of the three characters offering slight differences to help differentiate them from one another. Ethan is an all-rounder, Megan is quick, whilst Connor is all about power. For the most part though, it won’t matter too much who you play as – the genre isn’t exactly known for a huge amount of variety between its character types, but instead button-mashing hefty combos.
This is an area in which The TakeOver really shines. You’ve got your basic move set with punches, kicks, grapples, throws, dash attacks, and so forth, with plenty of ways to lay the smackdown on your foes. However, there’s also a combo system in place that allows players to string together kicks and punches in succession to deal out HEAVY damage, with the flow able to go until you defeat a foe – provided you’re uninterrupted. Whilst it’s something we’ve seen in other titles in the genre, it felt more natural here and added an emphasis on isolating enemies in order to make the most of your attacks. It adds an element of strategy to combat, though the frantic nature of levels does mean you’ll mostly be button-mashing for survival.
“You have the rage meter that builds up throughout each level, which when activated allows players to dish out more damage and become temporarily invincible.”
It wouldn’t be a side-scrolling beat ‘em up without some neat abilities, right? Each character also has a gun they can use to pick off foes from range, whilst a special attack can be unleashed by sacrificing a small segment of your HP. They both give you extra tricks up your sleeve for awkward situations, though the ammo of your weapon is finite so you’ll have to make sure you collect it through each level. There are also other items to find of your typical beat ‘em up variety… you know… health and an abundance of melee weapons. They’re all super useful, so it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out and destroying objects in the environment to find anything that’s hidden.
Finally, you have the rage meter that builds up throughout each level, which when activated allows players to dish out more damage and become temporarily invincible. Again, it’s a good trick to have up your sleeve and can certainly get you through some of the tougher encounters, though it’s easy to exploit too. Find yourself facing off against a tough boss? Just activate it and make quick work of them. There were a few encounters that felt trivial thanks to its use, so it could have done with a little bit of balancing if only to up the challenge. But hey, it’s hard to complain about too much, especially since it was my choice to activate it in those moments…
“The combat is slick and satisfying throughout, there’s plenty of variety in the level design, whilst the different abilities and weapons at your disposal keeps things feeling fresh.”
My favourite thing about The TakeOver is that it gets all of the basics right. The combat is slick and satisfying throughout, there’s plenty of variety in the level design, whilst the different abilities and weapons at your disposal keeps things feeling fresh. It won’t take too long to get through the game’s main story, but it’s so action-packed and fun that you just won’t mind (and it’s great to re-visit too). It feels just like the classic arcade titles of the 90s, but with a neat modern twist. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it still feels so damn good to play that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy themselves.
I haven’t touched upon the excellent bonus levels either, which add a fresh twist to the side-scrolling beat ‘em up gameplay. You’ll take to the road and skies in more shooter-focused scenarios, and believe me, they certainly make for exciting little romps. I don’t know why mini-games like this aren’t introduced into more beat ‘em ups because their inclusion felt really refreshing here.
“There’s also a Challenge Mode for those who want to tackle levels with extra objectives and a Survival Mode for those who want to see how long they can survive an onslaught of foes in the game.”
You can play through The TakeOver with another player, though it’s limited to local play only. It’s not a deal-breaker really, but it would’ve been nice to have had the convenience of playing with friends online – especially since it’s a little bit more difficult to meet up these days. There’s also a Challenge Mode for those who want to tackle levels with extra objectives and a Survival Mode for those who want to see how long they can survive an onslaught of foes in the game. It’s cool to have some extra ways to experience the action, though I’ll admit my time spent with them was quite limited… I’m more about progressing through the story.
One of the things that stood out to me the most before playing The TakeOver were its eye-catching visuals, with the game certainly looking distinct in that regard. Meshing up 3D environments with stylised (yet somewhat static) character models, it certainly looks a fair bit different to most other releases in the genre. You know what, though? I was a fan. Sure, it could seem a little bit weird at first, but there was something so unique and stylish about the aesthetic that I couldn’t help but to love it by the end. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I was on board. I’ve got to give props to the banging soundtrack too, which fit the classic 90s vibe of the The TakeOver PERFECTLY.
The TakeOver is a thoroughly enjoyable beat ‘em up romp that’s slick, stylish, and full of variety across its levels. It doesn’t do too much to re-invent the genre (outside of the fun mini-games) and some of its mechanics can be easily exploited, but that won’t stop players from having a good time clearing the mean streets of Steel Haven.
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC
Click here to visit the game’s PlayStation page.