Final Vendetta Review: These Streets Will Make You Want To Rage
When Bitmap Bureau and publisher Numskull Games announced Final Vendetta earlier this year, it quickly became one of my most anticipated titles of 2022. After all, I enjoyed the UK-based studio’s previous offerings, Xeno Crisis and Battle Axe, which captured the spirit of the 16-bit era with their pixel-perfect presentation and challenging gameplay. So when I saw they were tackling my favorite genre, you better believe I was excited to clean up the streets in Final Vendetta.
The game’s premise is certainly a familiar one. The evil “Syndic8” (not to be confused with Streets of Rage’s Syndicate) has kidnapped Claire Sparks’ sister and taken control of London. Joined by retired pro-wrestler Mike Hag — I mean Miller T. Williams and street fighter Duke Sancho, the trio set out to rid The Big Smoke of its criminal element and rescue her sister.
Their mission will see them slugging their way through gritty ghettoes, subway trains, fancy nightclubs, and other staples of the beat-’em-up genre. Sure, the story and its settings are a near carbon copy of Final Fight‘s, but that’s pretty much the point, and it’s a perfect excuse to get out there and crack some skulls.
No Quarters Necessary
As you’d expect, the three playable protagonists play a bit differently, each filling a familiar archetype. The mulleted muscleman Miller is slow as molasses but hits like a Mack truck. Claire could very well be Streets of Rage heroine Blaze Fielding’s doppelganger with her speedy punches and stylish judo tosses. She may not deal much damage, but she’s perfect for getting in a few quick hits or a hip toss before getting back to safety. Lastly, Duke is the most balanced of the three, making him the safest bet for beginners.
The abilities the game puts at your fingertips aren’t the most robust, but they get the job done. You have your standard punches and kicks mapped to the square button. Meanwhile, pressing the square and triangle buttons simultaneously unleashes a special attack perfect for giving you some breathing room when you find yourself surrounded. As you probably guessed, you have to use it sparingly, as performing a special move when your super meter is empty will cost you a bit of health. Pressing the circle button will guard. However, I found this pretty useless as the animation is relatively slow, and many attacks seem to whiff through your defenses anyway. You can also attack downed enemies. But with how often you’ve got groups of foes bearing down on you, I seldom found this particularly effective.
Recent beat-’em-ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Fight’ N Rage, and Streets of Rage 4 feel like natural evolutions of the genre with the fresh mechanics they bring to the table. Final Vendetta, in comparison, is decidedly dated when it comes to delivering its beat-downs with its limited moveset and more methodical pacing. The moment-to-moment gameplay feels much more similar to Capcom’s Final Fight and Konami’s Vendetta. It should be no surprise, as those are the two classic brawlers from which Final Vendetta borrows its name. As a big fan of those titles, the old-school approach is something I can appreciate. And if you cut your teeth on the arcades in the late 80s and early 90s, I’m sure you will too. However, if you’re looking for a more modern approach to the genre, you’ll probably be somewhat disappointed with Final Vendetta‘s more rigid mechanics.
Powered By Nostalgia
When it comes to its presentation, Final Vendetta is sure to be a treat for anyone who spent their childhoods in the CRT-lit arcades of the late 80s and early 90s. It features detailed sprite work and exceptionally animated characters that move quite naturally. The backgrounds also look great, with plenty of eye-catching graffiti and other touches that bring each urban arena to life. I especially liked the nightclub, with its swanky magenta lighting and cool neon signage that popped off the screen. Though I must admit the character designs themselves are a bit of a mixed bag at times, with some lacking detail compared to others. However, given the studio’s size, a bit of inconsistency in its art style is pretty easy to look past.
As good as the visuals are, Final Vendetta‘s soundtrack is just as impressive. Produced by the English electronic music duo Utah Saints, it pays homage to Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima’s legendary Streets of Rage compositions. So if you’re a fan of dancey, Euro House and Breakbeat arrangements, you’ll likely love what the game offers on the aural front. Add to that some immensely satisfying sound effects to accompany the pixelated fisticuffs, and you have a game that looks and sounds excellent, perfectly capturing the essence of the era it aims to emulate.
Not Quite A Flawless Victory
Final Vendetta seems like a must-buy brawler with so much going for it. Unfortunately, at least mechanically speaking, the game has some pretty glaring issues that are pretty tough to ignore and manage to hurt the overall experience.
For starters, Final Vendetta’s hit detection can sometimes be a little wonky. It’s not common to have a group of enemies start pummeling you when they’re clearly a few vertical planes away from your character. Considering the ease with which your opponents can stun-lock you and chew through an entire health bar, this lack of precision becomes incredibly frustrating. The game also relies on throwing many hazards at the player from off-screen, such as bouncing barrels, swinging hooks, and more. And some of these threats, such as massive shipping containers, can obliterate your character with a single hit.
Much like Bitmap Bureau’s previously released Battle Axe, there are no continues or stage select screens in Final Vendetta. Instead, once you’re dead, you’re sent back to the title screen to lick your wounds. There are two difficulty modes to choose from: Easy and Hard. But the only real difference between the two seems to be that Easy Mode offers you seven lives as opposed to Hard Mode’s 5, and the bosses seem to take damage a bit easier. But aside from that, you’ll still have to contend with plenty of cheap deaths throughout the game.
The best beat-’em-ups offer a satisfying challenge where, even when you lose, you feel like you’re honing your skills and learning what to do next time. Sadly, that’s rarely the case in Final Vendetta. More often than not, I felt my successes were due to lucking out at avoiding gimmicky hazards or getting stuck in an endless cycle of abuse due to shoddy hit detection rather than hard-fought victories.
In addition to these balancing issues, I also experienced some occasional issues with the game’s controls. These ranged from a noticeable input lag when using weapons to instances of my character performing dashes or sidesteps (performed with double taps of the directional buttons) despite my thumb never leaving the d-pad. And yes, this issue persisted when using both of my DualSense controllers. I’m not sure if this problem is restricted to the PlayStation 5 version of the game or if it occurs on other platforms as well. In any case, I certainly hope it’s addressed soon.
With its excellent production values and weighty melees, Final Vendetta is a fun throwback to the glory days of arcade gaming if you can look past its occasionally frustrating challenge and some quality of life issues. Still, I can’t help but think that with a bit more spit and polish, it could have been something exceptional for fans of the beat-’em-up genre. If you have the patience to see your way through to the end, you’ll be able to unlock a few extra game modes such as Survival, Boss Rush, and even more challenging Ultra difficulty mode. Though I have trouble imagining many players will have what it takes to make it that far.
If you’re looking for an unabashedly old-school brawler that doesn’t pull any punches, Final Vendetta certainly delivers that much. But only the most patient of pugilists will be able to get the most out of this package.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS5 (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PC ; Publisher: Numskull Games; Developer: Bitmap Buereau; Players: 1 – 2 ; Released: June 17, 2022; MSRP: $24.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Final Vendetta.