22nd Nov2018

‘Mother Russia Bleeds’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Mother-Russia-Bleeds-Screen-1

One of the dirtiest, grimiest, most miserable and bloody side-scrolling brawlers I’ve ever played… and I love it so.

There’s something about the brawler genre that is close to my heart, from the days of Final Fight and the 90’s titan that is Streets of Rage 2 all the way through to its recent resurgence in games like Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe (another awesome co-op title for the punchy-punchy fans out there), all of these games shine in multiplayer and are perfectly suited to the Switch’s sensibilities.

If Streets of Rage 2 is a tale of retribution on the New York streets as directed by Walter Hill, Mother Russia Bleeds would be Gaspar Noe’s take on matters. Although limited in some aspects by the classic issues of the genre such as some enemies tantalisingly close but yet off-screen and thus just out of reach of a good kicking and the occasional rearing of the head of repetition, Mother Russia Bleeds has enough tricks up its sleeve to keep things feeling fresh for it’s 2 ½ – 3 hour running time and the fun (and yuck) factor definitely gives it replayability.

The story is pretty bare bones and comes off like a wonderfully trashy B-movie. Set in Russia in 1986, you play as up to four characters that make a living prize-fighting in a traveller’s camp which is raided by a shady corporation. Waking up in a putrid underground cell having been infected with a new drug called Nekro, you make your way to whoever is behind this whole ordeal with the assistance of your newfound ‘gifts’ and so the Soviet carnage begins.

Mother Russia Bleeds is grim. The four characters are the towering but slow Ivan, swift and confident Sergei, the feisty Natasha and the foul and insane Boris. The move sets for each character are quite varied with punches, kicks, charged attacks, dashes, sliding kicks, grabs and insta-kills galore (There’s also a ‘taunt’ button, Sergei spits at and beckons enemies, Ivan pulls out a bloody tooth and idly flicks it away…and Boris, oh Boris, you little tinker…you defecate into your hands and throw it at people, don’t you?) which make thrashing your way through the hordes of (surprisingly varied) enemies serious fun.

With it’s smooth, pixelated graphics, heavy amounts of gore and some pretty coarse dialogue, the game pulls no punches in the misery stakes, you’ll beat the Nekro out of toothless prostitutes, shoeless junkies and the local corrupt constabulary as well as some pretty inventive boss fights with a grotesque parade of sleazy characters. The health system is well-implemented, the aforementioned Nekro can be syringed out of fallen, twitching enemies and spent on either replenishing health or a brief turbo boost which turns your character into a killing machine for a few seconds, the already ominous deep house music that weaves around you as you make your way through the stages morphing into a high-pitched frenzy in these moments. I also have to mention the sheer weight of the sound effects, the punches cause your pad to shudder and give off wet, dull thuds with each blow and the first time I hit someone with a metal baseball bat I genuinely winced as the resulting ‘ping’, the four-player action just adds more fun to this gloopy melting pot.

Whilst it hardly re-invents the genre, it certainly reinvigorates it. The nasty, horror aesthetic and torrid setting kept me and my friends completely engaged throughout and I already know it’ll be a game that we play through again in a few months (there’s also a survival arena mode included if you fancy some high-score action). The over-the-top approach won’t appeal to all, watching characters explode, defecate and vomit their way through a game isn’t everyone’s ideal Christmas but for those of us who enjoy some sordid gaming action in this genre, nothing can really touch Mother Russia Bleeds.

Za zda-ró-vye, comrade.

Mother Russia Bleeds is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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