Anarchy Reigns Review: A Colorful Battle
One of the best things about video games is how crazy and over-the-top they can get. Who doesn’t want to do something awesome and look cool while doing it? Unfortunately, many titles these days settle for worlds of chest-high walls and super serious gameplay. PlatinumGames, a company known for the extraordinary, is teaming up with Sega to add some color to a post-apocalyptic world with Anarchy Reigns, a free-for-all brawler consisting of cybernetic ninjas, fabulous pimps, and a muscle-bound man with a chainsaw. There’s no denying that this battle royal is one-of-a-kind, but is it one for the ages as well?
Loosely tied to the events of MadWorld (another PlatinumGames title), the campaign mode of Anarchy Reigns follows the stories of Jack and Leo as they set out for revenge…or is it justice? The two intertwining story branches can be hard to follow at times, with the story told through talking heads, random flashbacks, and a heaping helping of hammy dialog. While some may cringe at its B-movie script, Anarchy Reigns embraces it and ramps up the camp to the point of endearment. It’s almost like the developers wanted to see how much they could get away with, a welcome addition in this age of overwrought monologues and political correctness.
If anything, one could consider the campaign in Anarchy Reigns to be a glorified training mode. Not only are there one-on-one battles akin to the fights you’ll see online, each stage also has a number of unique objectives to acclimate players to every last enemy, stage hazard, combo string, and weapon. Clocking in at around three hours per side, it manages to teach the basics without overstaying its welcome. As an added bonus, completing it unlocks the entire 16 character cast (17 counting the DLC-exclusive Bayonetta) for use in multiplayer, rewarding players for their mastery.
While it is true that the fighting system in Anarchy Reigns boils down to timing over rote memorization of combos, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather than offer a slew of things to memorize, victory is often determined by whoever can react best to any given situation. Those who can perfectly time a 360 attack or an anti-air maneuver will always come out on top over those that try to mash their way to victory. This change of focus allows for an easier barrier of entry while still encouraging veteran players is a great balance, and the fact that nearly every move is a sight to behold does not hurt things either.
Of course, the dozen-plus modes in Anarchy Reigns will no doubt clock in the most hours. Standard fare like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are to be expected, but other modes like Death Ball manage to use the fighting engine in ways you would not expect. Its experience and achievement-like emblem system are both nice touches as well, promoting repeated play and has already fostered a strong online community (in the PlayStation 3 version).
Unfortunately, the multiplayer modes in Anarchy Reigns are delegated to online play, and online play only. This would be the perfect title for couch play, but the fact that there are no offline modes to speak of (not even a LAN mode) is practically inexcusable. The netcode in place is sound, but those hoping to chainsaw their buds to meaty bits will have to do so over the Internet.
Anarchy Reigns definitely lives up to its title: it’s over-the-top, it’s full of action, and it really shines when more people join the fray. While this brawl might not be the finest of fighters, it still offers enough variety for beginners and vets alike. After all, who doesn’t want to let loose every once in a while?
A robust online system with a dedicated in-achievement system will keep the dedicated motivated.