If I was trying to sum up all the brilliance Anarchy Reigns would have to offer it comes down to one simple statement: you punch people and they explode. This level of over the type action has become synonymous with Platinum Games. Anarchy Reigns certainly delivers for the most part in that regard, but this is the first time they’ve taken their act into the multi-player space. To say their first experiment in this space is completely successful would be misleading but what they do have here is a great foundation.
The core combat of Anarchy Reigns does your standard beat-em-up normal attack and strong attack routine. Your character will also have a “killer weapon” which is tied to an energy gauge that fills up based on how much of a beating you dish out. These attacks can all be used in conjunction with each other with the right opening and the game rewards players enough for playing with some finesse. A brief pause between strikes can change the entire animation routine of your strikes setting up a different combo entirely. There is also a rage meter which acts as a safety net for the player for a quick turnaround. When activated your character can go berserk and then hit your enemy with a myriad of strikes.
All of these attack combinations are fluid, responsive, and most importantly, brutally satisfying. Each strike has a high level of impact that will make you feel power. The fact that there is more depth there for a player willing to learn its nuances is also a rewarding feel. Sadly, this level of depth is also poorly presented to the player. There really isn’t a move/command list for the many characters in this game, and the in game training options only teach you the basics. With recent fighting games having more advanced training techniques, this feels half-baked by comparison.
This learn-as-you-go approach also shows up in the multiplayer. The initial learning curve is going to take some time to get used to, but once you get a handle of your character, you’ll be able to play at a more competitive level. As it stands Anarchy Reigns’ modes are varied from the likes of team deathmatch, free for all for up to 16 players, a wicked version of soccer, and even shooter main stays like capture the flag. The multiplayer has a level of randomness to it that can make any match thrilling on what can happen in the environment alone. In one second you can have the entire arena lit up by an airstrike to another moment where a key part of the map has a black hole. It all creates an exciting brand of chaos that just isn’t the norm with what’s currently out on the market.
Unfortunately, this chaos also presents some of the multiplayer’s biggest issues. While 2v2 and 4v4 modes are well thought out and fun to play due to easier communication; the free for all modes all are far too messy. Platinum Games has always had a penchant for chaos, but this is the first time navigating it has become an issue (albeit not an issue with the solo play). There is just far too much going on in these matches, and the poor lock on makes it difficult sometimes to be able to juggle multiple adversaries. A lot of your kills, and the general scoring in these games will be a product of “kill stealing”. As a whole it lacks the competitive consistency to play with the big boys, but it’s certainly fun in its own right as a celebration of chaos.
There are 17 characters in the game (18 if you have the Bayonetta DLC) and the vast majority of them have to be unlocked either through single player or multiplayer. It’s worth mentioning that you can unlock every character without ever touching the story mode, however, this can take an extremely long time, making playing the story mode almost mandatory. This is unfortunate as the story mode is by far the weakest aspect of Anarchy Reigns.
The game is split into two story campaigns: one starring Madworld protagonist Jack Cayman and the other starring newcomer Leo. Both sides will also give you options to play as other characters in the story mode, but you don’t necessarily have to play as anyone but our two main characters. While the two sides do present different angles of the plot they ultimately feel like carbon copy of each other. It makes the mode feel incredibly repetitive as every mission comes down to you needing to do some mass killings. A lot of your missions just come down to straight up killing a set amount of enemies. The game has makes a decent attempt at being varied with boss fights, shooting segments, and even vehicle segments. Sadly this format is rinsed and repeated through both campaigns so in a sense you go through the campaign twice.
The hub world doesn’t help matters either. You’re dropped into very bland environments with little to do but kill enemies and go to mission points. If you don’t earn enough points in the missions you end up having to replay some of them, adding to the repetitive nature of the campaign. Boss fights and combat are executed well enough to be satisfying but the routine nature of the campaign leaves quite a bit to be desired.
The story itself isn’t much to write home about either. Both Leo and Jack are looking for a Maximillion Caxton who has recently gone insane. In Leo’s case, Max is a mentor figure who he is trying to save, and because Max killed his daughter, Jack is out for blood. The story itself is told through some cheesy flashbacks, a litany of poorly done character introductions and a number of clichéd elements found in most power fantasy stories. And it doesn’t help that most of the dialogue is just far too nonsensical to be taken seriously. This brand of cheese has usually been entertaining in previous Platinum Games, but only because they seem intentionally cheesy. Because Anarchy Reigns sets itself up as a game that takes itself more seriously, it ends up falling flat.
Anarchy Reigns’ inconsistent design flows into the presentation as well. Anarchy Reigns has an excellent soundtrack, especially if you were a fan of Madworld. Once again, Platinum uses hip-hop music to give Anarchy Reigns its own characteristic. A good portion of the music is about fighting and earning money so it gels well with the cast of characters. Unfortunately, the visual design is underwhelming, especially this late into a console generation. The environment designs are far too bland considering how often they appear and the color palette is far too washed out. Given this title’s Madworld roots, it’s rather disappointing that they didn’t choose to use that sort of stylized visual aesthetic.
Taken as a whole, Anarchy Reigns isn’t completely successful. The repetitive nature of the story mode is certainly disappointing yet the multiplayer modes can make up for a lot of its shortcomings. It’s chaotic, messy, and seemingly half-baked at times but also unlike anything else on the market. At its budget price this is far from an awful game but Anarchy Reigns isn’t quite ready for a primetime prize fight.
- Fluid combat mechanics with good impact
- A multiplayer experience that’s different from what’s out there
- Great soundtrack
- Budget Price
- Repetitive and underwhelming story mode
- Chaotic nature of MP comes with its own set of issues
- Poor visual presentation
- Lack of command list or teaching tools for the multiplayer