Platform | Release Date
360, PS3 | January 8, 2013
Developed by Platinum Games
Published by SEGA
Take on the roles of imaginative human and cyborg characters in over-the-top close combat in Anarchy Reigns. Master each of the eight character’s unique style, weapon and signature kill move to become the ultimate survivor. Take cover as Action Trigger Events provide a constantly changing gameplay environment with real-time events such as The Black Hole, a plane crash and blitz bombing. Challenge your friends in multiplayer modes, including Battle Royale, Deathmatch and Survival mode. Play as Jack or Leo in the single-player Campaign mode in the ultimate survival of the fittest. Immerse yourself in the violence and combat of the post-apocalyptic future where Anarchy Reigns.
We’re in the comfortable period of the console cycle where development costs are low and a few extra risks can be taken. Because of this, the twilight years of a console generation can produce unique games that would have seemed like too big a gamble back when that Unreal license was fresh out the box. So, it’s around about now that we get to play titles like Anarchy Reigns – a sequel to the moderately successful Wii exclusive MadWorld. After this particular experience, I can’t decide if that’s a good thing.
On paper it all seems pretty encouraging. In most regions, the game was released at a discounted price and the feature list promises a full single-player campaign as well as multiplayer. The heritage is good too. MadWorld was a great title, and even better its spiritual predecessor God Hand is considered something of a classic. Ultra-violent brawling with wild characters from a distinctive Japanese developer. Please, take my money.
I was happy with the purchase at first. I had zero comprehension of what the plot was supposed to be about, other than I was a guy called Jack and it was my job to punch dudes, but that didn’t matter. Armed with a chainsaw for special attacks, I quickly set myself to work. Leaping into the first sandbox level, swarms of enemies rushed towards me, all more than willing to take a beating. It was great. Shortly after that, I started to worry.
The combat system was fun and easy enough to get the most out of. I was piledriving guys and slicing their mates. I liked it, but a whole game a combat system doesn’t make. Defeating enemies added to a points total that soon unlocked my first mission. However, Anarchy Reigns doesn’t follow modern convention when it comes to progression. Rather than a linear set of plot-centric objectives, each of its levels offers three trial type tasks and three story missions. You need to accumulate points to unlock each, with the unlocks alternating between trial and story. More points are awarded to more successful runs at the missions.
The points structure immediately opens the window for repetition to become a problem. You can only retry the trial missions, so if you perform poorly in these – or, even worse, in a story mission – you’ll need to play them again until you get enough points for the next unlock. In most chapters there’s a trial that’s significantly easier than the others, or at least more entertaining (and believe me, there’s the opposite too). I ended up playing these over and over, sometimes before moving onto new unlocks in anticipation that I’d need to come back again anyway. That a game with such a good combat system and humorous, off-the-wall characters could become so bogged down in repetition is an absolute travesty.
Yes, MadWorld’s structure is similar but its world was more interesting, and its content more flexible. There’s an air of cynicism to how Anarchy Reigns is put together. Or, in how it’s not, such is the feeling that something is missing.
It gets worse too. There are two playable characters in the solo game, with the burly Jack being complemented by the faster, more nimble Leo. You can choose who you start with, but the second campaign will run straight after the first set of credits roll. Bad news though – the levels are the same, and the missions won’t feel altogether too different either.
I lost interest in the single-player at this point, and struggled to keep pushing forward with it. The stronger, funnier characters are definitely on Jack’s side of the story too, and having led with that content the inferior Leo stuff really started to bore me. If I kept going it was for one reason. Completing more of it meant more characters being unlocked for the multiplayer, all with their own crazy special moves to play around with.
The multiplayer strips away the structure of the single-player, as you might expect. With a range of competitive modes and the horde-like Survival, it offers the best of the game without the horrendous repetition. It’s insane. All of the time. With the title being having niche appeal it’s unlikely that the matchmaking will stay busy for long. This is definitely unfortunate, but you and some buddies could still pick the game up pretty cheap and I reckon it would frequently cycle into game night rotations. After all, when is it not fun to stick your friend with a chainsaw?
I don’t want to take away from the fact that, at its core, Anarchy Reigns is chaotic fun with great character. But, and this is a big but, that key strength is squandered by limited content. I said that it is only within the twilight years of a console generation do we get titles like this, when it’s a bit cheaper to make them. The harsh truth is that Anarchy Reigns is, overall, underdeveloped, and maybe it was just a bit too easy to put it out like this. There’s reason enough to justify its discount price point, but this is likely a footnote rather than a landmark in Platinum Games’ catalogue.