Here’s the set up for Anarchy Reigns: Years after a world war has turned the planet into a mutant-infested dystopian wasteland filled with monsters, killer robots, and cybernetic ninjas, Anarchy’s two heroes – Leo, a member of the elite Bureau of Public Safety task force, and Jack Cayman, a hulking bounty hunter whom we last saw carving up foes with a fancy chainsaw arm in the Wii title MadWorld – are hunting for a man named Maximillian, a rogue cyborg charged with murdering several people and the one responsible for the death of Jack’s daughter.
If that all sounds outlandish to you, well, you’re absolutely right – Anarchy Reigns is a ridiculous and over the top game, with a wide cast of distinct characters that range from the melodramatic to the just plain weird. Asides from some flaws that hamper its gameplay, it’s a fun brawler that probably wouldn’t be as appealing if it wasn’t so charmingly odd.
The single player campaign is broken up into two halves, both of which have several stages that occasionally cross over at various plot points. Each stage is a mini-open world arena, where you can run around and take on various missions while occasionally smashing your way through some low-level enemies. You’re rewarded points based on criteria like how many enemies you killed within a mission’s time limit or how much damage you did to an opponent, which will then unlock the next mission in the stage once you’ve accumulated a certain amount. This means if you do a good job of fighting your way through say, a one-on-one duel with one of Anarchy‘s unique cast, you can easily unlock all the missions in a stage one after the other, but if you do poorly you’ll have to grind through some of the “optional missions” in order to rack up enough points to move the plot along. It’s not too much of a hassle, but it feels a little weird that Anarchy didn’t go for something more structured.
In combat, you’ll have access to a mix of basic attacks and throws along with heavier attacks, a special rampage mode that’ll charge up as you battle and the occasional bonus item like a shield or four barreled rocket launcher. Getting the hang of combat is surprisingly easy, and Anarchy does a good job of teaching you some of the fancier attack moves, but it can take a while to learn how to defend against certain types of attacks and pull off some of the more challenging combos, which can be very impressive to see. If you’re a button masher like me, you’ll be able to get by in single player, but for multiplayer you’ll definitely want to spend some time brushing up on your fighting skills.
Multiplayer gives you access to a several arenas and 11 modes to pick from, ranging from huge free-for-all battle royales and team deathmatches to a cooperative survival mode pitting you and two other players against waves and waves of increasingly tougher enemies. The fights themselves can be fast paced and brutally fun, although at times you might feel there’s a balance issue with some of the characters when you find yourself on the end of a never-ending combo you just can’t seem to break, or how it’s far too easy for several opposing players to gang up on you all at once.
What can really make multiplayer matches entertaining are the various events that’ll randomly pop in and change up the playing field. You’ll be duking it out in a match only for a squad of cyborg ninjas to drop in and start attacking everyone while a gunrunner throws weapon boxes all over the place. The game is quite fond of calling in squadrons of fighter jets to carpet bomb the entire stage, or summoning a giant, two-story doombot called Cthlulhu – no, seriously – to start lasering everyone indiscriminately. After a while the spectacle can start to drop off once you see the same few events crop up again and again, but it does keep things interesting in what would otherwise be a straightforward fight between players.
Unfortunately, your biggest enemy throughout the whole game won’t be a giant mutant or a player with a solid grasp on the combo system, but rather Anarchy‘s camera. Out of combat the third person perspective isn’t much of a hassle, but once the fists start flying, things can get very confusing as the camera tries to stay behind you or locked on to your specific target. It’s not too big of a deal when you’re up against one or two opponents, but when you’re taking on a large horde of enemy killseekers or find yourself caught in the middle of a multiplayer free for all, things can get particularly dizzying.
Plus, the system in place for connecting and setting up multiplayer games can be very hit or miss. I’d often have to give the “quick match” option a half dozen tries before it stopped booting me back to the menu and let me connect to an active lobby that wasn’t already full. Connecting to matches using the “custom match” option fared much better, but you’ll still have the same problem now and then of either timing out while trying to find a game or connecting to a lobby that already has the max number of players. The whole thing isn’t horrifically broken and with patience you’ll be able to find a game to play, but for a title that has multiplayer as a major feature, it’s a little disheartening.
Bottom Line: Anarchy Reigns may not have an incredibly in-depth story and also has some nagging flaws that detract from its otherwise entertaining gameplay, but it’s enjoyable enough to warrant a playthrough.
Recommendation: Fans of fast-paced brawlers will enjoy Anarchy Reigns, but if your skills with the genre don’t go past mashing the attack buttons and hoping for the best, you may not enjoy the multiplayer very much.[rating=3.5]
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Game: Anarchy Reigns
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360