Mother Russia Bleeds (PC Review)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent side-scrolling beat ’em and even longer since the heyday of games like Streets of rage. So, when I got the chance to play Mother Russia Bleeds ahead of its official launch on the 5th of September, I threw myself straight in.
It goes without saying that this style of game will always be better with friends, so that’s how I played it. I sat down with three of my buddies(Local co-op only, no online multiplayer) and we each took control of Mother Russia Bleed’s four characters; Sergei, Ivan, Boris and Natasha. While the dialogue of the game is given in text-boxes with no audio, we made our own! Each of us put on our best Russian accents, some of which were truly awful, and we began.
Silly voices brought some levity to an otherwise gritty, serious game. Mother Russia Bleeds is set in an alternative Russia in the 1980s, with revolution against the Bratva as the main backdrop. At the end of the tutorial mission, there’s one of those ‘You can’t win this fight so stop trying’ boss battles that I tend to find quite annoying. But it sets up the next phase of the story as our ‘heroes’ are kidnapped and taken to a grimy underground lab, where they’re hooked on a drug called Nekro.
Nekro fills the role of both your first aid kits and your combat enhancer. You begin the game with access to a standard dose of the stuff, but you can unlock variations of the drug in Arena mode – which I’ll come back to in a second. Using left trigger gives your character a burst of health, and right trigger sends them into a rage mode where their attacks are temporarily boosted. In rage mode, you also get access to execute you can use on one enemy before it ends the effects of the Nekro.
Combat in Mother Russia Bleeds is a fairly standard affair. You’ve got a light attack and a heavy attack, as well as a grab and, of course, you can jump. While all four characters have the same abilities, they have different stats separating them. For example, Natasha has the weakest attacks and shortest range, but she’s the quickest and can jump the highest. Every characters has 10 Stars divided amongst the four attributes, with a maximum of four stars in each. It doesn’t make a colossal difference, as each character is definitely playable, but some feel slightly easier than others.
There’s a variety of weapons to pummel your way through scientists, hobos, soldiers, prostitutes, angry pigs, bodyguards and more. Weapons like; baseball bats, electricity poles, batons, and chairs let you dish out major damage to multiple enemies at a time, guns let you blast down enemies one by one, and chainsaws and tasers are great for building a combo on a single enemy.
Mother Russia Bleeds’ point system rewards long combos, and gives a higher count for those alternating moves as opposed to abusing light attacks for higher combos. There is also enough variety in the combo system that I found myself working out different combos I’d use in different situations, my favourite being a flurry of weak attacks into a single strong attack, grab, and more weak attacks before throwing them in the air. As they came down, I’d jump up and kick them, usually sending them hurling into their comrades like a bowling ball. Strike!
Mother Russia Bleeds is a total gore-fest. Enemies’ heads explode when you shoot them, bodies pile up without fading away, and enemies become bloody and cut as you beat on them. There’s one boss you can only beat by kicking him in to a combine harvester a bunch of times. You can imagine how that ends.
After you’ve played a chapter in Story mode, you unlock an environment from that chapter to play in Arena. Arena is exactly what you expect it to be. In an enclosed arena, you face wave after wave of enemies, each more difficult than the last, building your score and trying desperately to survive. While it’s decent fun, as these modes always are, the real draw is in trying to hit wave 10 and unlock new Nekro variants. All of these variants increase your combat prowess in some way, so finding the ones that are right for you and your team is pretty important.
Mother Russia Bleeds is a good game. Not a great game, but it’s a fun enough throw back to a genre that once was king. Developed by a tiny team of developers from France called Le Cartel, and published by Devolver Digital, it’s a fine pick-up for £11 on Steam. While it’s better in co-op, I had a decent amount of fun playing solo, too.
Editors Note: This review was covered by the wonderful Martin Hutchinson. While travelling from the Gulag to Red Square Martin manages to be a regular on the GamingEgos podcast and helps out over at GlitchFreeGaming.