Bare-knuckle hairy fists, anime-style katanas, massive chainsaws, and a ninja named Zero. At first glance, Anarchy Reigns contains the wildest cast of characters across any game, yet all of them focus on slicing, slashing and punching anything in sight. The largely repetitive bore that is the single-player campaign is forced upon players with gated unlockables for the superior multiplayer portion of the game. Make sure to stretch and crack your knuckles beforehand, its time to punch people in the face, over and over again.
The combat will instantly feel familiar and simplistic to anyone that has played any recent action or fighting games. Button mashers will have no problem getting through the campaign, and while you probably won’t finish in first place online, it does give you the sensation that you are still accomplishing things within the match. Dodging special attacks and breaking combos becomes a necessity, if you plan on competing competitively online. Varying light and heavy attacks with powerful (a little too powerful, if you ask me) grapples keeps yourself from looking predictable and your opponents guessing on how to properly defend against you. Tossing explosive barrels, bashing heads in with street signs or dropping elbows from the top of buildings, are some of the best methods when dealing with larger groups of enemies.
Broken up into two different campaigns, the single-player campaign sees you playing either as Jack or Leo from the gruesome black and white Wii game; MadWorld. Neither campaign is overly impressive and boils down to the same story, but from a different perspective, since both characters are after the same guy. Regardless of your character choice, the story is rather incoherent. Missions are sporadically placed around the central hub world filled with cannon-fodder enemies veiling the monotony of walking from Point A to Point B to begin the next senseless grind. The bulk of the missions pit you against wave after wave of mutants and robots to slaughter with the goal to rack up enough points to unlock the next mission. You read that right, unless your score is high enough, you won’t be able to access the next mission, at which point you are forced to wander around the hub world finding ways to boost your score.
The frantic 16-player competitive battle royales are quite impressive, if you are able to wait it out in the lobby for enough people to join and don’t find frequent kill-stealing. The majority of characters are locked from the start, prompting users to play through the campaigns to unlock them. If fighting against 15 other players isn’t enough chaos for you, random environmental hazard will keep you on your toes. Out of control trucks may come crashing through the environment, large chunks of the map will be marked for aerial bombardment, planes will crash and you may even get a glimpse of a black hole before exploding into nothingness. The random nature of the events keeps matches feeling exciting, and quite the opposite when they occur in single-player as you make your way to the next mission. Everything would be that much more impressive if it wasn’t for muddy washed out textures, lacking effects and rather blocky looking characters that hamper the experience. While visuals aren’t a factor on whether a game is fun or not fun, when combined with a camera that essentially does whatever it wants, the experience is disappointing.
The various game modes are a welcome addition, each having unique takes on some old favorites. Playing Capture the Flag, which is always a favorite of mine in first-person shooters, requires a different way of thinking considering the melee focus of the game and the fact you can have a three team match. Deathball is an interesting take on a rugby/football hybrid, focusing on engaging opponents until the opening of the goals, allowing the team in possession of the ball to either run for a touchdown or perform a special superstar shot to score. Purist may appreciate the inclusion of the one-on-one cage matches that removes the superfluous noise found across the rest of the game modes.
I’m torn about Anarchy Reigns. On one hand the chaotic multiplayer can be quite addicting, with random events completely changing how online matches are played, but having to drag myself through the mundane single-player to unlock additional items and characters sours the experience. Online is the sure-fire way to play Anarchy Reigns, but lets get one thing straight, until you learn the ins and out of characters, expect to be an easy target for those that have already mastered the art of juggling. If it was released at a premium price, I would find it hard to recommend Anarchy Reigns to anyone, even the most die-hard PlatinumGames fans, but taking the reduced price tag into account, those that are looking for a chaotic multiplayer experience and that can deal with the aforementioned technical shortcomings, Anarchy Reigns is a welcome change to the overwhelmingly shooter dominated online space.
Note: The Anarchy Reigns review was written based on the PS3 version of the game.