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  1. A throwback to classic side-scrolling beat 'em ups of the 90s, The TakeOver wears its Streets of Rage influence on its sleeve, from genre staples down to some of the character and level design. This game isn't just a copycat though and manages to throw in a couple of novel ideas into a formula that hasn't changed much in decades. But despite those shake ups, only die-hard fans of the genre are likely to dive into The TakeOver. In a story that definitely feels like it came out of the 80s or 90s, the city of Steel Haven has been overrun by crime—taken over by it, you might say. When police officer Ethan's daughter is kidnapped amidst the crime spree, he, his girlfriend Megan, and his friend Connor take to the streets to find her. It's a super generic story told through pretty bland cutscenes. Granted, story-telling isn't usually a priority for beat 'em up games, but the developers might as well not have bothered with any kind of plot in that case. Just have a bunch of cops/protagonists beating up gang members, simple. No need to try to give the final boss some thin motivation literally in the final cutscene of the game. The TakeOver has all the fundamentals of a side-scrolling beat 'em up with one or two notable additions. Instead of a single attack button you've got two: punch or kick. By chaining the two together you can use long combos that oftentimes stunlock enemies into place, which is a nice way of speeding up fights sometimes (though it won't work on every enemy and obviously not on bosses). You've also got special moves that drain health and a super meter that gradually fills as you land hits (and decreases when you take damage) that can be used for a powerful burst attack. Finally there's a rage meter that also gradually fills as you attack and allows you to enter an invincible, super-powered state for a short while. You can also sometimes find melee weapons and every character comes equipped with a gun for ranged attacks, though ammo is limited so you'll need to find it as you progress through each stage. The end result is that The TakeOver's combat has one or two fun wrinkles but ultimately plays like every other side-scrolling beat 'em up. If you're playing a beat 'em up in this millenium that's probably all you want anyway, something that evokes that classic sense of arcade combat and progression, even with all its little flaws like missing an enemy because you're not quite on the right y-axis even though they can hit you just fine. Still though, it would've been nice to have even more new, unique features in The TakeOver, especially since they clearly touched upon a couple of ideas. The game does have a couple of bonus action stages to break up the action, though these are also pretty simple and don't really change the fact that The TakeOver is repetitive, even though it only takes a few hours to play through it all. Even with combos and various special attacks the combat system always feels like the same thing over and over, and it's rarely rewarding, i.e. it doesn't often feel like you win because of skill or planning, you just win by mashing the attack buttons over and over. It's mindless action, which can be fun for a bit but gets stale pretty quickly. Aside from the main arcade mode, there are a couple of other game modes to try, though they don't switch up the gameplay much at all. Challenge mode literally just has you replay individual sections of the game with some side-goal in mind, like not letting your health drop below 50% or never using special attacks. As far as bonus modes go, it's pretty lackluster. There's also Survival mode where you just fight waves and waves of enemies—not a terribly inspired game mode either but at least you know what you're getting right off the bat. You can also play any game mode with two-player local co-op, and although this doesn't spice up the gameplay much either, it is nice to have another couch co-op game out there. The presentation in The TakeOver is a little hard to pin down because, while individual elements do look pretty good—the character design, level design, etc.—the overall style is so busy and has something of a plasticky, stiff feel to it when animated. The cutscenes are played in a stylish 2D comic book, but the artwork is a bit bland and unpolished. And last but not least, the soundtrack is energetic and gives off that 90s arcade vibe, though the individual songs don't stand out much. The TakeOver is, like many throwbacks or revivals of classic video game genres, a good imitation of an older form of gameplay, but doesn't seem to want to push the genre forward at all. Separate punches and kicks with combo chains is a fun addition but doesn't quite break up the monotony of the side-scrolling action formula, and the uninspired writing and visuals aren't switching things up much either. Fans of beat 'em ups might enjoy having another side-scroller to punch their way through, but anyone not already charmed by the genre may feel that The TakeOver is too generic. Rating: 6 out of 10 Takeovers
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