As a fan of Platinum Games work, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Anarchy Reigns for quite some time now. Bayonetta is one of my favorite action games, and I really enjoyed the unique feel of Vanquish even though it’s yet another 3rd person cover based shooter. Because Anarchy Reigns is essentially a sequel to Madworld, Platinum’s 2009 Wii brawler, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but knew I’d likely have some fun checking it out. Was I right? Is Anarchy Reigns fun, even if you didn’t play Madworld?
Anarchy Reigns has a split story, each one focusing on different characters who essentially reside on opposing factions. The white side reminds me a lot of the templars from the movie Equilibrium, as they’re decked out in white and blue garb and they use heavy cybernetic body modification to improve their abilities. The black side features a guy who’s an outlaw and he’s pretty much against everything they stand for. At the center of this is a guy named Max, and both sides are searching for him. I could write the story in a more focused manner, but honestly it’s just as good with an extremely vague description than it is giving you quality details. It’s a thing, that happens, in the middle of a bunch of beat-em-up chaos. I’m actually okay with this, I just wish some of the cutscenes were skippable during the campaign. There’s also a bunch of random stage hazards that sporadically pop up, such as a strike force dropping bombs on you or an out of control semi-truck that comes barreling through the middle of the street. While it helps to create more chaos amongst the controlled anarchy, it’s more often than not obnoxious. Getting to fight the Kraken is a nice touch though.
Once you’ve dredged through the fairly mediocre campaign, and believe me, at times it’s a matter of having to force yourself to power through it – you’ll have unlocked a lot of the goodies for the online multiplayer and that’s where this game really shines. You see, while the story is like a bunch of pieces of things glued together, the online play is pure unadulterated mayhem. Online is pretty crazy, and it’s got several different modes of madness to delve into. There’s a 1v1 cage match, as well as team deathmatches, capture the flag, and free-for-all battles pitting you against everyone else who’s joined your lobby. Online play is mostly smooth, but you’ll find that there’s no level discretion, so more often than not you’ll be thrust into combat with other players who are considerably higher level than you are. It’s so much fun playing against level 50 players when you’re level 1 – okay, maybe not. In fact, it’s quite frustrating. Truthfully, you won’t do much against them but you can pick off some of the lower level characters and you’ll gain experience as you duke it out.
As you gain levels, you’ll gain access to new abilities – kind of like perks in Call of Duty. Once you finish a match, you’re subjected to a pretty cool little awards type presentation that gives players bonus experience based on things they did during the match. Typical things like most kills, least deaths, and those types of things make the matchups more rewarding as it takes quite a bit of experience to level up. While the online is pretty fun, I feel like Anarchy Reigns is mainly hampered by its crappy controls. The controls are easy enough, but the lock-on system sucks and the camera is often more of a burden than it is a help – especially while fighting online. You’ll want to try to stay back unless you can find an area where you can tend to your target without interference.
The soundtrack is full of weird ass rap music that often feels completely out-of-place, but for whatever reason actually grows on you the longer you play the game. While it was distracting at first, I couldn’t help but find myself bobbing my head to it as I unleashed killer combos online. In typical Platinum fashion, Anarchy Reigns is full of misogyny and western stereotyping, including quite a bit of over-acted racism (though maybe it wasn’t meant to be as racist as it was, you’d think the English dubbers would have toned it down a bit). One black character in particular exclaims “I’m too black for this shit!” which is obviously a more offensive version of Danny Glover’s famous line from Lethal Weapon. Other characters also often spout lines that come fairly obnoxious rather quickly – looking at you Leo.
Ultimately, I think Anarchy Reigns is okay, given what it is. It’s a brawler with a somewhat populated story and a pretty good online multiplayer mode wrapped up into one package with a modest price tag. My biggest problem with it is expecting more from Platinum Games. I guess maybe all their efforts are going into working on Bayonetta 2, because Anarchy Reigns feels mostly phoned in. It feels like a game that was in numerous stages of development that was eventually glued together and kicked out the door because they took too long with it. For $29.99, it’s pretty fun but it’s hard to recommend for much more than some mindless button smashing.
Anarchy Reigns was reviewed using the Xbox 360 version, and was provided for review by SEGA.
Online multiplayer shines. Mindless fun.
While the online is good, it's held back by clunky controls and a weak combat system.