Review: Anarchy Reigns is Platinum's love letter to the brawler genre
Platinum Games are somewhat revered by gamers. Bringing us stellar titles like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and even future titles like Metal Gear Solid Revengeance, it's hard not to love these guys. The question here however is whether Platinum's pedigree has somewhat overshadowed any possibility of a game being only sub-par. Does the love for Platinum blind gamers to the fact that maybe not every game they make isn't an instant hit? Anarchy Reigns is the latest title to come from the studio, and one that will certainly leave an impression on some, but might also disappoint others.
Anarchy Reigns basically amounts to being a showcase of a cast of over-the-top characters with varied movesets that all want to bash each others face in with ridiculous weapons. While the game certainly consists of more than that, that's as good a summary as any. The game certainly does give you the most bang for your buck in the multiplayer mode, but I'll get to that later.
The story mode revolves around choosing one of two main characters, Jack Cayman or Leonhardt Victorion (from MadWorld fame). Each character has a separate storyline, yet still revolve around kicking a whole lot of ass. The concept is simple; explore a stage while killing any goons you come across, find Free (side) and Main (story) missions, and amass enough points to unlock more missions. The story mode is certainly filled with a lot of campy dialogue that will, depending on your tolerance level, make you chuckle or cringe.
The missions themselves aren't revolutionary by beat 'em up standards, as they usually require you to kill X amounts of enemies in Y amount of time. There are a few diversions that attempt to change the pace like racing around a track while running over enemies, or taking on waves of enemies with an equipped rifle, instead of relying on your fists. While these diversions do help break up the monotony of punching faces in, they are undoubtedly the worst of the bunch. Running around with a gun and shooting down enemies is clunky, and doesn't fit into a game that's all about up-close combat.
Speaking of combat, it's not the most fluid, but it's certainly fast and satisfying. Each character has a list of combo moves that can all be pulled off rather easy thanks to combinations of light and heavy attacks. However every character also has their own specific, and quite powerful weapon. To balance each character and ensure no one abuses the use of weapons, each light attack consumes a single bar of energy out of four, and heavy attack consumes two. Once depleted, this bar can be recharged with regular attacks.
The spotlight is on the diverse cast of characters. Sadly, it's not their actual fighting prowess that makes them so great, but rather their overly insane personalities. Characters like Blacker Baron usually steal whatever scene he's in. There certainly are no clone characters in this game, but the movesets don't seem to be that different from one another. It's the weapons that set these characters apart, and since you can't use them whenever you want, they all start to seem too similar to one another.
The game certainly has that Fist of the North Star flair to it, thanks to it's post apocalyptic cities filled with destroyed buildings and droves of angry goons that want nothing more than to stomp all over your lifeless body. It even slightly resembles Ken's Rage, though admittedly the gameplay is far more satisfying here.
However the crux of the experience lies in the myriad of multiplayer options. To call multiplayer frantic, chaotic, hectic or any other synonym for those would be an understatement. Your first few rounds, or even first 10 rounds, will most likely be filled with you getting knocked around senseless, not really understanding who killed you and how. It takes time to get into the swing of things, but once it clicks, Anarchy Reigns delivers fast paced, beat 'em up, multiplayer combat that you never really knew you were craving to play.
Setting up matches is a different story entirely. From our experience, lobby's would frequently drop, players would take forever to connect, and even once the match actually started, a host migration kicked everyone off and returned us to the main menu. Suffice it to say, getting online is an absolute headache, and something I hope that gets fixed in the future, because once you're on, it's a blast.
The best thing about Anarchy Reigns, besides its crazy cast of characters and fun multiplayer, is without a doubt the soundtrack. Filled with mostly hip hop and rap tracks that not only fit in stylistically, but lyrically as well. You know the soundtrack's good when the chorus of a song consists of "knock his f***ing lights out!" while delivering a massive beatdown to enemies around you. Honestly, this is one of those rare cases where I largely urge you to head on over to iTunes and get the soundtrack, even if you don't own the game. It's that good!
Anarchy Reigns is fun, frantic and filled with ridiculous characters and some awesomely bad dialogue, but this 'spiritual successor' to MadWorld comes up short when compared to other Platinum Games' hits like Bayonetta. Though for the asking price of $29.99, it might just hold you over until the next big rush of triple A games.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]