Anarchy Reigns, the latest action title from the combat kings at Platinum Games, is a hardcore brawler that genre fans have awaited for some time — in America, Australia, and Europe, at least. Japanese gamers — and importers thirsty for Platinum’s trademark stylish action — have traded online punches, kicks, and specials since the game’s July 5th, 2012 debut as Max Anarchy. SEGA, who handled the publishing duties, delayed the game an entire half-year due to internal restructuring, but it’s now available on PS3 and Xbox 360. If you fancy Platinum Games’ special brand of insanity, you will find that the affordably-priced $29.99 game is well worth the agonizing wait.
Anarchy Reigns is a modern brawler that could be considered the spiritual successor to Capcom’s Power Stone. Platinum’s title drops 16 default characters (17 if you pre-ordered at Gamestop in order to get the Bayonetta DLC) in a post-apocalyptic warzone where they duke it out on multi-tiered levels; levels that contain poles, cars, barrels, guns, and other weapons that you can use to obliterate enemy combatants.
Although Anarchy Reigns‘ basic concept may sound Power Stone-like, its combat is more akin to God Hand and Mad World — admittedly, without the former game’s insane level of character customization. In fact the game’s many fighters –a mix of cybernetic lawmen, freaks, and badass normals — are non-customizable. That said, Platinum Game’s brawling engine’s surprising depth — and sheer fun factor — is a fine substitute for any perceived personalization shortcomings.
Anarchy Reign‘s has a background story, but its utterly inconsequential to the gameplay. A bounty hunter (the chainsaw-wielding Jack from Madworld who’s voiced by nerd-king Steve Blum) and several cybernetic cops (including Leo, a Muay Thai practitioner) are in pursuit of Max…a hulking, overpowered asskicker. That’s all you need to know. This wax paper-thin narrative drives the single-player campaign as you play as Jack (Black Side) or Leo (White Side).
Selecting a character, thankfully, doesn’t handcuff you to that fighter for the game’s duration. At various points you’ll play as new characters as they’re introduced, which breaks the potential monotony. Advancing through the single-player campaign also unlocks characters for multiplayer fun (the characters are also unlocked by leveling up in multiplayer).
The singe-player campaign serves up main missions and RPG-like side-missions. Accumulating points and meeting mission objectives open up more areas of the dense, urban game world to explore. You may need to do grind to unlock sections depending on your fighting prowess. I’ve discovered that truly efficient fighting — attacking, evading, finishing — will give you the points you need without resorting to grinding low-level thugs. Platinum attempts to hide the single-player campaign’s repetitiveness by letting players jack the odd vehicle, rattle off gunfire from aircraft, and engage in timed missions, but the game’s meat is multiplayer.
The multiplayer modes and fighting bonuses gives Anarchy Reigns a FPS feel without the shooting.
For example, two swift consecutive light attacks will produce the equivalent of two quick jabs, but if you insert a pause between the two inputs you’ll modify the second blow. Experimentation opens your arsenal. Basic attacks dispatch mooks with ease (often with explosive, gooey results), but for more hefty competition, advanced techniques are essential for success. If two characters simultaneously attack with the same strength attack, and connect, the engine cancels out both moves in spectacular flash. Grabs, likewise, can be neutralized by countering with a well-timed tap of the Grab button. More advanced attacks include life-bar draining 360 blowback attacks that scatter enemies (A and X), meter-draining Killer Weapon attacks (Left Trigger and either X or Y), and devastating Rampage attacks (Left Stick and Right Stick simultaneously when the Rampage Gauge is full). Anarchy Reigns‘ combat is very accessible.
Working Killer Weapons into the flow is essential for putting big hurt on bosses and mini-bosses alike. They drain a dedicated meter when used, but the bar replenishes as you attack or suffer damage. Killer Weapons attacks deliver finishing blows that can slice enemies clean in two.
Rampage attacks sees your character unleash lightning fast attacks that rival both Goku and Kenshiro. These are activated by pushing in both sticks when a golden aura surrounds your fighter. It’s incredibly effective for breaking guard and devastating life bars. That said, if you initiate an Rampage attack against someone else who’s in Rampage mode, the game enters a Dragon Ball Z-style flurry of punches and kicks that results in a button mashing tug-o-war to determine the victor.
Unfortunately, many of these strats go out the window when you toss your hat into multiplayer play. Four to six person battles have the perfect balance of action and numbers that lets you plan your attack; go any higher and bouts become a chaotic mess. It’s quite frustrating when someone interrupts your flow or, worse, kill steals (admittedly, steal-killing is the best thing ever if you’re the thief). If you stay within the sweet spot, however, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Battle Royale, Deathball (one of the best sports games this generation), and the many other multiplayer modes are an absolute treat. Matchmaking, however, proves a hit or miss experience. This has nothing to do with Anarchy Reign‘s netcode — which is quite good — but with the process. Battle Royale, for example, requires 16 players and zero bots. I’ve waited upwards of 20 minutes for a game to begin as fellow gamers came and went, which is ridiculous. Four-person Deatmatches, however, filled quickly for the most part.
Anarchy Reigns‘ great misstep is that multiplayer is online only; the lack of split-screen is a crime as the game has the chops to be an exquisite party game. In fact, I was angry that a game so fun didn’t allow me to play with my best buds in the same room. LAN link up would’ve been much appreciated.
Like Bayonetta, God Hand, and Mad World, Anarchy Reigns mixes combat and crazy with a flair that few titles can match.
The multiplayer modes and fighting bonuses gives Anarchy Reigns a FPS feel without the shooting. That said, those who aren’t huge fans of first-person shooter will a lot to like here despite some similarities.
The true wild cards are the Trigger Events that pop up in both singleplayer and multiplayer contests. These are insane random events that add an extra danger element. Military aircraft carpet bomb. A giant buzzsaw aims to slice and dice. Sea monsters…do sea monster-like things. This ensures that no two matches ever as they can shift the tide of battle or force you to team with enemies to fend off a more potent threat (such as rampaging Super Mutants).
Anarchy Reigns has all the trappings of a title that will be spoken about for years to come in hardcore gamer circles–especially among Platinum Games devotees. Like God Hand, Bayonetta, and Mad World, Anarchy Reigns mixes combat and crazy with a flair that few titles can match. It’s a shame that multiplayer is regulated to the online world–two player co-op or vs. would’ve truly made Anarchy Reigns the Power Stone of this console generation. Still, Anarchy Reigns is a thrilling ride full of insane moments that brawler fans will love.