In many ways, Anarchy Reigns doesn’t feel like a triple-A title. The English dub isn’t synced to the voices during dialogue scenes, graphics aren’t quite up to scratch and there are a pretty limited set of stages. After turning the game on, you will be greeted with scrolling text, rather than an epic and flashy intro.
For a publisher that makes amazing games that simply don’t sell as well as they deserve, though, Platinum Games made a smart move with this one. Creating a budget title at a reduced price for customers is a realistic decision, which will hopefully allow a larger audience than before. Most importantly of all though, not all of Anarchy Reigns‘ quality has been sacrificed. It may be rough around the edges, but all the assets have clearly gone into the most important aspect: fun.
In a dystopian future where resources are running scarce, wars between nations and the use of nuclear and chemical weapons are causing humanity to become hindered by countless mutations and viruses. Peace and security are fading, and terrorism and anarchy are running rampant.
People are now dependant on nanomachines and cybernetics to modify and repair their bodies. The campaign is split into two characters: Jack Cayman, the protagonist of Wii hack-and-slash MadWorld and all-round tough guy with an over-sized chainsaw arm attachment; and Leo, an agile warrior with dual blades of charged energy. Both characters act as rivals, and cross paths multiple times throughout the story.
Initially, Anarchy Reigns isn’t quite overwhelmingly inviting, with the first environment being decidedly lacklustre in terms of imagination and visual appeal. But after a while, once you get to grips with the combat, you’ll be too happy pounding multiple foes to care. Later stages are a little more exciting, although the small scale doesn’t offer much exploration. It’s mainly a mere means of running to the next mission marker, and occasionally finding unlockable art for the gallery.
The character designs are very cool, and the action-packed cutscenes are a joy to watch. While the animations are fluid and interesting, the game does lack polish and a distinct art style as seen in Platinum’s previous efforts, such as MadWorld and Bayonetta. The soundtrack consists almost entirely of rap music, which is a surprisingly good fit for the fast-paced gameplay.
Combat feels satisfying, which is obviously crucial in a game like this. Almost all missions consist of fighting groups of henchmen and mutants and huge bosses. Repetition becomes clearly evidenced rather quickly, and while it’s difficult to tire of pummelling countless enemies, the lack of variety extends to repeated boss fights and revisiting the same four stages.
Although both characters have their own story, crossing paths and encountering the same villains makes it hard to distinguish one story from the other. Since playing through as both Jack and Leo only totals around 6-8 hours of play, you would think there would be a little more variety packed in to the experience.
If you’re wondering why the description of my experience of the campaign doesn’t quite appear to match with the score given, that’s because the bulk of Anarchy Reigns‘ enjoyment is in the multiplayer. The story mode is worth playing, but it’s likely that you won’t feel compelled to return to it after finishing it. Nope, it’s the online brawling that you’ll keep coming back for.
There are a huge variety of modes on offer, from your standard deathmatch and capture the flag to some more obscure additions. Death Ball has two teams scoring goals, using violence to prevent shots and claiming the ball; Dogfight has is an explosive array of fighter helicopters and missiles; and Battle Royale is an all-out 16-player kill-fest.
Oddly, the number of stages and the variety in general far outshines that of the solo campaign. Facing other players also feels much more challenging and intense than butting heads with the AI foes. Pulling off team combos, smashing a player into an incoming speed train, or having a huge boss disrupt our brawl are just a few of the satisfactory highlights I’ve encountered in matches.
Each match is incredibly hectic. If you concentrate all your brawn on one player, another could easily sneak up behind and grab you. A player may have activated their Rampage (a temporary but significant boost in speed and power that allows an almost unavoidable fast flurry of attacks) and come running towards you to make you their next helpless victim. When your health runs low, you could risk joining in on the action or run away to hunt for items, leaving your back unattended.
Sadly, however, there is no split-screen option. This is a huge missed opportunity by Platinum, and surely could not have been too difficult to implement. Even if it allowed only two players maximum and still forced you to play online, the game would be a perfect couch brawler.
Anarchy Reigns has its flaws, it’s lazy in some departments and even pretty dull at times, but damn is the multiplayer fun. This, too, is coming from someone who doesn’t often feel compelled to invest time in online multiplayer, and even avoids them completely at times. Platinum fans may be disappointed by the lack of quality they’re accustomed to in the single player experience, but if your console is connected, get online and have a blast.