Filled with blood, flying body parts, foul language, and a buttery beat infused hip-hop soundtrack, Anarchy Reigns is an enjoyable brawler even if it has a few minor issues. As a spiritual successor to Mad World the combat within Anarchy Reigns is enjoyable even though the immediate style isn’t entirely there due to the appearance of visuals that sometimes fall flat, both artistically and graphically. A simply addicting game to play online, Anarchy Reigns definitely has the makings to be a cult hit that gamers likely will be talking about years from now due to its inventive take on the classic brawling genre.
+ Combat is brutal, fast, and easy to get a grip of.
+ Single-player campaign is nice and feels thought out.
+ The main characters are all a blast to play as or fight against.
+ OST is amazing. Seriously, this is pretty much a follow-up to the Mad World OST.
+ Multiplayer modes are fun and perform well technically (no lag/matchmaking issues).
- Art style falls flat due to poor designs and low graphical fidelity.
- More focus on story missions, without having to do the side missions, would’ve been nice.
- Dodging feels a bit off and can lead to combat annoyances.
Sometimes it’s interesting to look at a game beyond what may be present on the surface. Most of the times we’ll look at a game simply as a brawler, a plat former, or as an action-adventure sort of thing and merely call it a day. Of course the scope of some games may be limited, but it’s interesting to look at the different elements that make up for the overall experience and how they either succeed or fail in the process.
To me it’s beyond interesting to see how a game with brawling roots can feature a near post-apocalyptic world that just so happens to feature androids, cyborgs, giant green mutants, and ultra-high tech law enforcement agencies that may or may not be as evil as the bad guys. But such a thing is the case for Anarchy Reigns, the new brawler from Platinum Games which once again features the Western-Japanese fusion style the studio is known for.
Set in the distant future, the action of Anarchy Reigns takes place in a city called Altambra. However far away the game may be set from our own time, Altambra has a grounded quality to it; with the exception being that the place is overrun with gangs and is in shambles due to the wars and ever going violence that graces its streets. The setting of Anarchy Reigns is merely one element of the ever constant amount of character the game dispenses since the mood of the game is one of a classic brawler amplified with a Western feeling that isn’t out of place or poorly executed due to the ever abundant style, and slight amounts of craziness, one expects from a Japanese studio such as Platinum Games.
Such a unique and crazy feel within Anarchy Reigns is provided through the story mode and characters, which again feature a nice balance between things that would appeal a rather broad market range. Fans of the underrated Wii game Mad World ought to get a kick out of the single-player campaign for Anarchy Reigns as it features Jack, the chainsaw arm wielding Chaser (think badass Lobo style bounty hunter) as he embarks on a journey that’s both personal and straight up business.
With a game that revolves around general brawling, which I’ll discuss briefly if you bare with me, Platinum didn’t call it a day by providing a SP campaign that feels like a tacked on training mode and which serves no real purpose other than to kill time and collect Trophies/Achievements. Such a surprise revelation is in part because the SP campaign has an actual story which makes sense, and it has the advantage of having two different campaigns, the other which focuses on Leonhardt Victorion, a member of the elite Strike One unit (a tech infused uber SWAT team).
Having two core character campaigns isn’t perfunctory or done for padding since it makes for a complete experience, both by providing an additional perspective to play the game and experience the narrative. Other than the dual campaigns, the single-player mode has a rather traditional outline of completing missions, which by the standards of Platinum Games are rather normal. Things like fighting robo bulls, hijacking hover vehicles to partake in quick races, and protecting robotic bartenders are normal things which occur during the rather variety filled single-player campaign of the game. In a lot of cases I was surprised that each mission didn’t simply revolve around beating X amount of enemies in a set time since such a design trope still exists in many games today.
The only true downside to how Platinum went forth with the SP campaign is that it’s reliant on doing side missions to unlock the core story missions, which of course are the main attraction. Conceptually the side missions are good enough to carry their own weight, but the game does fall into a slightly repetitive routine in which I had to re-do a certain mission merely because I was a few thousand points short of unlocking the next mission. Thankfully, the rather brisk pace of the single-player campaign results in there only being four to five side missions per stage so there isn’t a seemingly unlimited amount of fluff within the game.
Anarchy Reigns may not be the strongest offering Platinum Games has given us in the narrative department, but I must say that it’s combination of “edgy” material with an almost fast talk feeling and constant stream of foul mouthed language fits for a world filled with artificially enhanced warriors and women dressed in tight fitting dominatrix gear. In the overall rankings of narratives developed by the Platinum team Anarchy Reigns may be a notch below the action genre homage that is Vanquish or the sheer action lunacy delight extraordinaire that is Bayonetta, but the material itself is appealing despite stepping into shades of a “juvenile” feel given it’s desire to forgo narrative depth in favor of direct and ever entertaining style of the spoken word.
Jack meets a figure from his past in this cutscene
The journey that Anarchy Reigns provides isn’t one that entirely favors style over substance since the gameplay provided within it is exceptional to say the least. However new Anarchy Reigns is, it feels as if Platinum took what they loved about old brawling games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon and updated that in a full 3D setting with an additional dose of stylized violence.
Once again following a simple outline of light and heavy attacks along with enhanced and grab moves, Anarchy Reigns has a perfect foundation that fits whether it’s in a single-player mission or an eight person multiplayer match. The wonderful thing about the combat in Anarchy Reigns is that it’s simple enough to learn and get the basics enough to do cool stuff like sawing a creature in half or doing a suplex to an enemy since the controls and combos are deep enough to allow a ballet of violence to occur which never feels too out of reach to perform.
Absent of any input lag, Anarchy Reigns feels rather perfect for a combat title even if it may not be as fast or immediately combo driven compared to things like Bayonetta or even the old Ninja Gaiden games. With a pace that’s generally hectic, Anarchy Reigns does an excellent job at providing a nice level of challenge all while being what a game should always be: fun. Now that’s not to say that Anarchy Reigns presents a level of brawling game combat excellence since the game does suffer from a flimsy enemy lock-on which occasionally would target the enemy farthest from me.
The almost expected lock-on issue isn’t the sole problem as I did find the evade/dodge maneuver to be a bit lacking, both in execution and speed. Dodging in a game should never be too easy as far as becoming invulnerable against the enemy, but in Anarchy Reigns it felt a bit clunky and it did lead to some annoying scenarios such as being attacked by an enemy and subsequently being stuck in a stun animation until I was finally able to roll away from danger. Such things however don’t hurt the game too much since fighting alongside a futuristic pimp and beating down a ninja are things that are an utter joy to experience.
A gameplay montage of the madness featured in Anarchy Reigns
In typical Platinum style, the combat in Anarchy Reigns looks perfectly outlandish in every possible way. While the non-mission combat sometimes comes across as a post-apocalyptic version of Dynasty Warriors, minus long named generals but still present with bursts of boredom, the action in the main & side missions is exaggerated in all the ways we would want a title from Platinum Games to be. Things like enemies being punched so hard that they immediately turn into thick giblets or doing an execution skill to a giant green mutant is where Anarchy Reigns derives most of its fun from, but thankfully it never feels like the game is using the same old tricks constantly.
With each character in the game acting totally different during combat, Anarchy Reigns never falls within a predictable pattern since things are always fresh and dare I say it have a level of spontaneity during the main missions which either feature 1 vs. 1 battles or encounters with deadly PMC like forces who just so happen to have jetpacks and laser weapons. Things within Anarchy Reigns never reach a Bayonetta level of “holy crap, I’m fighting on the side/ceiling of a room”, but fans of God Hand ought to enjoy the rather fast combat and the accompanying madness that’s featured.
Initially there may be a bit of a learning curve within the game since the single-player campaign only offers two characters to play as consistently (Jack and Leo). A few additions are made in special missions which see the main character fight alongside an ally that allowed me to either assume the role of Big Bull or stick with good old Jack. So in a lot of ways I grew accustomed to the finer points of Jack and Leo as characters which in turn made me start from scratch when playing as Sasha or Zero whilst playing online. Even then, the fundamentals of the game are simple enough to grasp so it’s not a complete slaughter when jumping into an online match; that’s of course unless a kraken suddenly arises when I was locked in a heated one on one battle.
Anarchy Reigns is like most games in how the multiplayer modes are for the most part a translation of what the core experience is with a few added bells & whistles. Such a thing may make the game sound like it’s simply a mindless brawler when battling actual human controlled players, but the actual experience is far from that.
As skillful as a proper fighting game such as Street Fighter or Tekken, Anarchy Reigns’ multiplayer offerings do often boil down to a level of madness more or less thanks to things such as the standard Team Deathmatch or specialty modes such as Battle Royale, a free-for-all event that has additional events occur such as a kraken sprouting from the murky waters or a series of missiles set to crash down upon the arena.
To sum it up in a simple way, Anarchy Reigns comes across as organized chaos at times since the multiplayer battles are usually filled with various visual effects and of course the ever constant presence of blood. Things can at times come across as hard to follow when it came to me tracking my character in the middle of a large group, but all together I was impressed with how the multiplayer modes were handled, even being familiar, as the Anarchy Reigns formula (large arenas, random events such as weapon drops) made for a spontaneous feeling that even when being slaughtered was nonetheless a blast to play.
Oddly enough while Anarchy Reigns may feel like a spiritual successor to Mad World, the game sadly doesn’t have the same immediate style and visual charm as the underrated Wii title. Not as graphically pleasing as Platinum’s past games, Anarchy Reigns is in a weird place as far as how it looks when it comes to the art design and how that is brought to life in a polygonal environment. With elements reminiscent of Fist of the North Star, comic books from the 1990s such as those published by Image, and a tiny dash of God Hand the ingredients Platinum put together should’ve worked wonderfully.
The reality of the situation however is that the art design only works in a few areas since the game has a somewhat drab and washed-out look, both because of the artistic choices made and the less than stellar graphical fidelity. The main characters, such as Jack and Leo, have a huge pop to them thanks to their silhouettes and color palettes but some sections of the stages look utterly dire, not in a good way, and seeing the same cyborg enemy fodder in all it’s mediocre glory does bog the game down a bit.
It’s a bit surprising that Anarchy Reigns doesn’t have more of a visual boost to it, especially when it comes to the presentation since there’s almost a low-budget feel to everything. Besides the low number of standard enemy combatants, there are poor technical issues like seeing the tail of a helicopter clip into a building during a cutscene or an enemy look like they were merely dropped into the environment. Ultimately the less than stellar presentation of Anarchy Reigns doesn’t take away from the amazing combat and adoringly cheesy narrative, but it does make certain aspects a bit tough to swallow simply due to what could’ve been.
Imbued with a vast array of styles and influences, Anarchy Reigns may be rough around the edges in a few areas but the amount of fun it is as a brawling game, especially a multiplayer one, is undeniable. At times it may seem like Platinum Games is trying to be edgy for the sake of it due to the ever spewing swearing featured in the script, yet there’s a definite level of maturity within the combat as it forgoes mindless action in favor on battles that require a bit of thought yet aren’t too complex due to the controls and combat methodology.
All together it’s nice to see Platinum Games return to a dark world filled with mega-violence and hip-hop since Anarchy Reigns is a game that shouldn’t be missed by those who enjoy intense combat.