Mother Russia Bleeds is a 2D beat ’em up game where you take on the role of one of four underground fighters. Each are insignificantly different and say the same dialogue so it comes down to your preference as to who to choose. There are two modes to play, arena where you fight until you drop and Story. There is nothing to drastically different to this title that you wouldn’t be able to hold your own if your familiar with the genre but you’ll want to start with Story nonetheless. You’ll start off in a grim looking camp and are taught the basics of combat as you fight some hobos for money.
Things quickly go bad for you as the fight is raided and you are detained & used as a lab rat for a new experimental drug the Soviets are making. This drug will be the main theme of the title and your greatest ally. With it you’ll be able to heal or enter in enraged, drug fueled mode where you can devastate your enemies and pull off Mortal Kombat like fatalities. To refill your needle, you simply jam it into any wounded enemy twitching on the floor and you can inject yourself with that, no problems. As you can likely tell by this point, Mother Russia Bleeds is full of extreme violence and tons of drugs.
Like any good beat ’em up there are weapons laying around at times to turn the tides on your enemies or be on the receiving end if you let your guard down and focus on the other unarmed foes. We have our usual weapons such as batons, tasers and even chainsaws but unexpectedly guns do play a rather big roll on later levels. Guns are extremely dangerous in this title; one shot is usually enough to do you in so disarming them takes priority in most situations. Some enemies do not drop their rifles upon death but occasionally someone will drop a pistol, shotgun or Ak47 that gives you the ability to effortlessly mow down tons of enemies. There is no way to tell how much ammo is left so it’s be wise not to get too confident and let yourself get surrounded.
With how gory and violent this game is, it lends the combat an impactful feel to it. You and enemies will start to look horribly wounded as you take damage, their deaths & innards look pretty detailed considering the retro look of it and corpses do not simply disappear, leaving you to witness the aftermath of the battle. As you get further into the game and the drug you repeatedly use starts to take its toll on you it becomes more and more twisted. While you may start off in a shanty town pretty soon you’ll be fighting fat gimps in the middle of a party with your new found “dog”. It helps to keep things interesting and unpredictable throughout even though most of your time will be punching someone’s face in.
Alongside punching you’ll have a button to kick, one to jump and another to dash. There is no blocking so the dash will be all you get in the form of defense. One minor feature that I love and many others of this genre lack is the ability to move when you charge your attack. There is nothing more awkward than to wind up your punch and have to take it out on thin air in order to be able to move again. Positioning is important as well, it can be easy to be a bit far into the background and miss your 2D opponent completely. If you are feeling particularly brave you can catch weapons thrown at you out of the air, considering you have good timing and don’t take a used needle to the eye trying to show off.
Unless you have friends nearby you will sadly be unable to show off to anybody due to Mother Russia Bleeds only having local coop. It is a blast with others and there is an option to turn off friendly fire for when you just want to quite literally stab your friend in the back. This can be replicated to an extent if you have no one to play with due to being able to add bots though they are not that great at staying alive. It’s a nice addition nonetheless. To spice things up the game may throw you a few curve balls like needing to protect an NPC, dodging sniper fire or leading a group of rebels against the military with mixed results but are rare enough to not be annoying.
What I do find tedious is the method in which you unlock new drugs. Having to survive to round 10 on an arena may be a good way to get people continually try the Arena mode but gets old fast. It takes quite a long time to get that far into the waves and by the time that you unlock a few you’ll be so worn out on the combat that you no longer care to try them. There are some interesting effects such as jamming an enemy with a needle to turn him into an ally so it’s a shame they are tedious to get. Each stage does have unique enemies so isn’t all bad and the ever growing stack of corpses as you fight on is awesome to witness.
There is little story to be found and what is there isn’t particularly interesting though serviceable. With none of the 4 characters having unique dialogue there is no reason to read it twice, luckily you can skip all the talking scenes by just pressing Start. At the end of the game you’ll have one final encounter and depending on how you handle it will get one of two endings. The sprite-work and gritty atmosphere are simply fantastic. From fighting a bunch of junkies in an empty pool to fighting zombie pigs in the sewer they are all a sight to behold. Music is pretty good as well and blends nicely with the mayhem of the combat. That’s what it really comes down to, do you love mayhem and are you fine with punching a dogs face in? If so, even with its few quirks, Mother Russia Bleeds is one of the best beat ’em ups to be released in quite some time.