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The TakeOver

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Developer: Pelikan13
Release Date: May 20, 2021


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PS4 Review - 'The TakeOver'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 31, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The Takeover is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up inspired by '90s classics such as Streets of Rage and Final Fight.

There are many lauded beat-'em-ups from the era when sprites ruled graphics. Whenever the genre gets brought up, people tend to mention the classics, such as Double Dragon and Final Fight, which were huge in arcades. Streets of Rage is often mentioned with those titles, since it was originally made for home consoles instead of the arcades. Of the games that cite Streets of Rage as its inspiration, The TakeOver is perhaps one of the more notable ones, since almost every element is reminiscent of that seminal Genesis/Mega Drive classic.

The story is going to be overly familiar to those who have played the genre before. Located in the eastern U.S., the city of Steel Haven has become overrun with roving gangs. Their threat is amplified when the normally warring factions band together under the leadership of a shadowy figure, making the job of cleaning up the streets much tougher for the city's cops. When the adopted daughter of police officer Ethan is kidnapped, Ethan and his girlfriend Megan team up with their friend Connor to rescue the child and put a stop to the madness.

The core mechanics are going to be very familiar to beat-'em-up fans, but for those who have a particular fondness for the Streets of Rage series, things will seem plucked from the games wholesale. The character designs of the heroes and some of the moves, both regular and special, feel slightly tweaked from those Sega titles. The enemies look like doppelgangers for the cannon fodder in those games. The heroes get attribute ratings similar to Streets of Rage 2, their dodge roll ability behaves the same as Streets of Rage 3, and one screen-clearing move sees a barrage of missiles come from the sky, just like in the first Streets of Rage. The game even has dual endings like the first title. It gives you the feeling that the game was aiming to be a spiritual successor to the franchise when it originally released on the PC in 2019, one year before Streets of Rage 4 was officially released.

For all that the game has plucked from Sega's series, The TakeOver still manages to come up with some interesting wrinkles of its own. Beat up enough enemies, and you can activate a Rage state where you move faster, hit harder, and are partially invulnerable for a short period of time. Of the many pick-ups you can get, one of them is ammo, which is fascinating since you always have a sidearm. Depending on who you chose, you can have a pistol or a shotgun, but its presence provides an extra "out" when things get hectic. You also have a rudimentary combo system in place where you can execute multi-hit combos based on how you manipulate the punch and kick buttons. If you're playing co-op, there's even some enemy juggling. The additions add some depth to the affair, but they also even things out with the enemy forces rather than making everything easy by default.

The campaign consists of seven stages split into over 20 sections that can be tackled in either local co-op or solo modes. For the most part, you'll traverse some familiar genre locales, such as an arcade, back alleys, bars, and docks. They're all fine, but the game takes a brief, strange turn when you wash up on an island to fight monsters. You use a machine gun with infinite ammo to defeat the monsters, and they never make an appearance again, so the section feels out of place despite being fun.

At the normal difficulty level, you and a friend can tackle the campaign in a little over two hours, but The TakeOver provides some modern conveniences. The game auto-saves your progress, so you can return to the section where you stopped playing, even if you continue after losing all of your lives. The game allows you to load up specific sections when you begin, so you aren't forced to replay the game from the beginning every time. Some of these things are taken away if you play the game at higher difficulty levels, but by default, players should be able to finish and see at least one of the endings.

Interestingly, if you're playing the game in co-op, you'll miss out on two sections. The first is in the third stage, which sees you racing against the clock and trying to reach the end of the track before time expires. Since you aren't given enough time to make it, you'll need to gun down enemy vehicles to get the extra time to get things done. The second section occurs close to the end, where you pilot a jet. It plays out similarly to the driving section, but since you are dealing with a jet flying at high speeds, most Sega fans will recognize this as a homage to the arcade classic, After Burner. Both sections are fun and act as nice breaks from the brawling action. Having these be co-op would have required a good amount of refactoring, so one can see why they were omitted, but it means that you can't experience the complete game unless you play it solo or decide to return to the stage selection screen and try them.

There are a few other things that may be annoying. Going against the genre, enemies never drop weapons, so the only way to find crowbars and swords is by destroying crates for loot. There are sections of the game where the foreground works against the player by covering up enough of the screen that it's difficult to focus on the fight. During gameplay, we encountered one instance where the transition to the next stage never occurred because the right trigger wasn't activated. The most prominent of these issues is the constant loading screens that appear throughout the game. They pop up between each section, and since the sections can be rather short, the lengthy loading screens can be an annoyance, especially since the same artwork is always used.

In addition to difficulty levels, the game offers a few other additions. Beating the campaign the first time unlocks a new character, Jackson, who has a baseball bat in his arsenal along with the standard martial arts moves. His addition is welcome since it adds some variety, but it is a shame that he's the only new character. Beating the game also unlocks a Survival mode that lets players take on specific levels to see how long they can last against an endless enemy horde. The jet level is also present, so players can get into faux After Burner gameplay anytime. A challenge mode lets you replay select previous levels with new objectives, such as being unable to use super abilities or being tasked with picking up every star that falls from foes. Beat the campaign a second time, and you unlock Relay mode, which lets you swap out characters on the fly during the campaign.

Graphically, things are mostly impressive. The backgrounds are a mix of realistic and super shiny, while the particle effects from some special attacks and explosions are very thick. The character models are completely done as 3D models, but the purposefully limited animations that mimic the classics aren't a hindrance. The aesthetic takes some getting used to, but the frame rates are absolutely solid, with the ability to fill the screen with every possible element without making a dent in the 60fps. The one knock is with the cut scenes. Going for a comic book style is fine, but the shading in some scenes feels overdone, especially when it looks like some characters have tons of face paint when that wasn't the intended design.

As far as the audio goes, the soundtrack is the most impressive part of The TakeOver. With a quartet of contributors like Richie Branson, Yuzo Koshiro, Little V Mills and James Ronald, the soundtrack is filled with a good mix of tracks from various genres, all of which fit well with the fighting vibe. The nods to some tracks from the Streets of Rage series can be over the top, but they're not distracting considering how the other elements are already pay homage to that series and other Sega titles. The sound effects mix in fine with the soundtrack, but the voices can barely be heard in combat. It might be for the best, as they lack conviction when you do hear them in the cut scenes.

The TakeOver is an absolutely solid beat-'em-up experience. Get past some of the shortcomings, like constant load times and bad cut scene art, and you have a title that uses a solid base with additions that feel just right for the genre without going overboard. It's fun either solo or with a friend, and while online play would've been nice, fans of the genre will enjoy every minute with the game.

Score: 8.0/10

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