French developer Le Cartel has really done a number on the now-classic side-scrolling beat-em' up with an overdose of drugs, kink, and ultra violence in the upcoming Mother Russia Bleeds. Set in an alternate 80s USSR, the imagery and setting had familiar intonations, but as a whole concept seemed entirely foreign to me. Bouncers outside of a night club? Familiar enough. The people on all fours next to the bouncers wearing gimp suits and chained by the collar? That's a little strange. When you beat up the bouncers and enter an entire night club filled exclusively with people wearing pig head masks? Now we're talking.
Mother Russia Bleeds seems to want to make you uncomfortable. It doesn't shy away from the fact that your health potion is just narcotics. It doesn't stop you from pummeling the people in gimp suits, even though they're entirely passive characters. Most games lets you jump on someone you knocked down and get a few good punches in. Mother Russia Bleeds lets you unleash some serious rage, punching over and over (and over and over) until either they finally die, or you get too uncomfortable to keep punching. Yeah, even in these days when hyper-violence and gruesome dismemberment are commonplace, you'll still likely feel a little weird smashing some dudes face into the ground for several seconds. Thinking about it, it's reminiscent of that scene in Fight Club; "I felt like destroying something beautiful."
Of course, based on what I've seen and heard, this is all very deliberate on the part of the developers. They want you to be a part of this world where you either embrace this sort of obscene violence, or stick to your morals and get brutalized by those who do.
The gameplay is classic side-scrolling beat-em-up. Friendly fire was turned on, though there will be an option to disable it, which made things even more chaotic when the screen filled up with baddies clad in pig masks. You'll punch and kick your way through swarms of enemies, trying desperately to avoid hitting (or being hit by) your teammates. A syringe near your health bar indicates how much healing you can do, either to yourself or a downed teammate to revive them. When the syringe is empty, and your teammate goes down, you'll have to syphon off your own health to bring them back into the fight. Fortunately, when you get an enemy close enough to death, you can syphon the rest of their life into your syringe for later use.
If you grew up on Streets of Rage and Final Fight, you'll almost certainly have some fun with Mother Russia Bleeds when it hits in 2016. If you're at all sensitive to violence, however, some of the minor changes might be a bit off-putting. I, for one, embrace my digital inner psychopath, and look forward to hours of gratuitously pummeling friend and foe alike.