Mother Russia Bleeds by Devolver and developer Le Cartel has arrived and it’s every bit as violent as some of Devolver’s other games – let’s see how much fun it is to play.
We actually saw Mother Russia Bleeds at the two most recent editions of Gamescom, with a reveal in 2015 and a near-complete version just a few weeks ago. Now, the final version of the game is here and it’s exactly as promised – an ultra-violent brawler for single or co-op play that takes place in an alternate version of the former U.S.S.R. In the game’s story mode, it takes you through numerous places that are best described as dark and depressing. There are back alleys, prisons, seedy clubs and questionable medical facilities, to name a few. Mother Russia Bleeds certainly paints a bleak picture.
In this picture, you pick one out of a roster of street fighting characters who were wronged by a criminal organization, and are now out for revenge. You’ll also have to overcome a drug addiction that was forced on you, which translates into the game by making sure you get a “fix” every now and then by searching defeated characters for what you need. This makes you stronger, and gives you an edge in battle as well.
Gameplay in Mother Russia Bleeds is best described as a mix between Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and Dead Rising. The game is firmly rooted in the tradition of the side-scrolling beat ’em ups of the 8bit and 16bit era – of which Double Dragon and Streets of Rage are good examples. Le Cartel has even opted for a retro look with pixelated sprites and backgrounds, but the amount of detail and the quality of the animation have received a significant boost. Where the game draws inspiration from Dead Rising is in the sheer number of (improvised) weapons you can use, and the crazy over the top ways you can kill your enemies.
While the brawlers that inspired the game were all about straight up hand to hand combat – aided by a bat or weapon here and there – Mother Russia Bleeds lets you mutilate people by way of a combine harvester and gives you access to chain saws as well. Character choice is important as well, since different fighters have different styles, moves and attributes. In this sense the game resembles later brawlers like Final Fight, which encourages multiple playthroughs.
Boss fights present extra challenges at semi-regular intervals, and the game gets progressively tougher as you beat level after level. Co-op play is available as well, which allows you to help out a buddy in a tough spot – but when you’re playing with AI their behavior isn’t quite as intuitive as you’d expect. Luckily, you’re able to play with up to four human players and the game becomes a lot more fun that way. Setting an opponent up for the kill while a friend of yours delivers shift justice is a great – although slightly sick – form of enjoyment. Mother Russia Bleeds delivers this type of fun in spades, even though the base formula is about as one-dimensional as the 2D games that inspired it.