When it comes to developers, not many are as brash and over-the-top as Platinum Games. Whether it is MadWorld, Bayonetta, or Vanquish the developers have made a name for themselves as the go to company for games that focus more on gameplay and out of this world character design. Anarchy Reigns is their latest work, and while it serves as a pseudo-sequel to MadWorld, the game is a throwback to the beat ‘em ups of the 16 and 32-bit eras. While a far from perfect game, Anarchy Reigns shows that Platinum Games is still the best at creating distilled action titles.
The main appeal of Anarchy Reigns is the multiplayer and the prospect of 16 players thrown into an arena to duke it out. You will find the standard gameplay modes here; team death match, free-for-all, tag-team, and capture the flag. However, modes like Death Ball and Cage Match are added in to mix things up a bit. Death Ball is a soccer-style game mode, similar to the mod done for Unreal Tournament 2003; Cage Match switches things to 1v1 match, similar to what you would see in a traditional fighting game.
While there is a nice variety of modes to pick from, the fun would not last very long if there were no unlockables. Thankfully there are various unlockables that will keep you coming back for more action, if you need the extra incentive. Characters are unlocked as you level up (or through the campaign), emblems, and perks- like combos causing more damage for example.
Anarchy Reigns has plenty of game modes and unlockables, it is a shame that hardly anyone is online to play the game. You have the ability to change the region you want to play in, and other various options, but finding a match is a chore. This issue is made worse by the fact that the game will not start unless there is a full lobby. What a shame, because the few matches I did find in Anarchy Reigns were very enjoyable. The battles were frantic, and lag was very minimal, showing that Platinum Games knows how to proved a relatively smooth netcode.
Providing even more hurt to the lack of online participates is that there is no offline mulitplayer. Anarchy Reigns would have been a perfect game to play offline with just four friends, but sadly that option was never implemented.
Due to the lack of online participants, most of your time will be spent in the campaign mode. The story is told from two sides, Jack (team black) and Leo (team white) as both men are tasked with hunting down Maximillian. Overall, while the characters may look cool and have awesome abilities, the story is largely forgettable. There are a few moments that will get a chuckle due to the hamminess, and some moments are genuinely dramatic, most of the writing is weak though. Both campaigns can be complete in three to five hours each, depending on skill and difficulty.
While the campaign tends to be fast paced, there is a heavy sense of repetition and unnecessary amounts of filler. Taking its arcade influence seriously, you have to unlock story segments by reaching a certain score benchmark. In order to do this you are tasked with beating up wave after wave of enemies, or by completing side missions. Most side missions consist of killing 50 enemies in 5 minutes, or scoring a set amount of goals in Death Ball. The side missions are fun at first, but after doing them consistently they can cause your eyes to glaze over. It is worth noting that the A.I. is very simple, for the most part. I found it almost humorous that a group of eight enemies would just circle you and watch while you would bash their friend’s head in. However, some of the boss battles will require a little more strategy, but only just a touch. Overall, the campaign is pure and simple entertainment.
As mentioned earlier, you do have the option of free roaming the map and defeating endless waves of goons. This route will take a lot longer to unlock the next story segment, so doing the occasional side mission will speed things up significantly. On to the point of the maps, they are large and do look impressive. Each map has its own motif and personality, which is based on the controlling faction.
In terms of gameplay though, Anarachy Reigns is a bit of a mixed bag, which is a bit disappointing given the developer’s pedigree. Simply put, Anarchy Reigns is a cross of a 3D brawler and a fighter. Combat is very simple to get into; you have a light and strong attack as well as modified versions of them, and a grab. Your attacks chain easily into one another, and you will be pulling of basic combos with ease. There is some depth for the more advance player, such as rapid cancels and utilizing invincibility frames. While combos are very easy to pull off, so is whiffing them. Often times I would land one or two hits before my character would start punching the air, leaving me exposed for a few brief seconds. This is not so much an issue while playing the campaign, do to the laughable A.I., but this is a serious issue when in multiplayer.
Each of the 17 characters (18 if you pre-ordered the game) has a deadly weapon that can be used given the proper amount of meter is available. Jack has his chainsaw, Leo has blades extending from his limb, etc. These weapons make you an even more deadly force on the battlefield, and mixing them up freely into combos is very satisfying. Unlike most meter based fighters, like Soul Calibur 5 for instance, you build up meter for your weapon very quickly. Every hit you land, or receive will net you meter to spend.
Besides your weapons, there is a hyper mode that you can use, provided you built that meter up during your fights. The build up is a lot slower, but the payoff is more than worth the effort. While in hyper mode you are invincible from every type of damage, even from the random environmental hazards. On top of this invincibility is an increase in speed, unlimited weapon use, and the ability to fire off rapid punches a la Fist of the North Star. Before you cry out that this is broken, understand that use lasts for around 25 seconds and there is a distinct aura that is around the character when hyper is activated. Don’t underestimate it though, because it can turn the tide of battle at any time.
Anarchy Reigns is an offense heavy game, but don’t think that the defensive side has been forsaken. While guard crushes are common, and leave you stunned momentarily, you have access to a 360 attack that breaks you out of every combo at the expense of a little bit of health. You can lock-on to individual characters, but the system is far too erratic to be reliable for use when fighting more than one person. However, you will find that you will be swinging at the air if you go and free camera a whole fight. The camera is definitely your worst enemy here, no matter what the situation is. Trying to switch between lock-on and free camera can be tricky, especially when in tight areas or when surrounded.
Graphically, Anarchy Reigns looks good. The character designs are outrageous, in a very good way, and the character models are well detailed and move rather fluently. Enemies, on the other hand, are very repetitive. Most of the enemies are pallet swaps, and the new color is used to show a change in faction and a slight increase in strength. Level design ranges from an open map and closed off arenas, but they have enough variety in terms of looks to prevent the feel of repetition. Anarchy Reigns is not free from technical issues, there is some pop-in and some collision issues. These are not a deal breaker, but may be enough to distract some. While the in-game graphics look good, the cinematics look great. Cutscenes are packed with fantastically choreographed action, slapstick humor, and some drama that you will be entertained while sitting through them even though the writing is convoluted.
The sound department, especially when talking about the soundtrack, is the game’s strong point. Many of the hip-hop tunes will get stuck in your head. The beats are energetic and the lyrics are as boisterous as the characters in the game. Anarchy Reigns features some nice sound effects, with punches sounding comically over powering. Most of the English voice work sounds good, but sticklers have the option to switch to the Japanese dub. No matter what dub you pick, the voice actors sounded like they had a lot of fun giving their performances.
Overall, Anarchy Reigns is a nice throwback to a lost genre. The action may not be the most refined, but it is fun for what it is. The biggest disappointment is that multiplayer, the feature that Platinum Games showcased the most, is vacant. However, for the budget price Anarchy Reigns is a game worth checking out.