With a delayed Western release, it was originally tentative as to whether Anarchy Reigns would even reach our shores. However here it is! Platinum game’s somewhat experimental 3D brawler sets to provide you with that Bayonetta hack and slash gameplay, fit for a multiplayer environment, and all at a budget price.
Anarchy Reigns’ singleplayer offering kicks off with a character selection. You either pick Jack Cayman, the double chainsaw wielding bounty hunter. Your alternative is Leo, Jack’s rival, a mechanically augmented cyborg and investigator for the bureau. Both of which find themselves in pursuit of the same man, Maximillion Caxton. It doesn’t really matter which you select though since both stories are required to be completed to access the games, end-game.
For the most part the story is pretty clichéd, two opposing forces, one a bounty hunter one a cop, searching for the same man. The game takes you through 6 stages in Max’s pursuit with each of the two characters and depending on which you selected first, an additional bonus stage for the end-game. As you pass through each stage new characters from the roster are introduced, for the most part these serve as very trivial extensions of the games plot. In general the games campaign mode feels more as if its intent is to introduce you to the games cast and mechanics, than it is to grip you with a good story.
Each of the games stages serve as a mini hub-world where you’re required to complete side missions in order to unlock the games main missions. Generally these feature enemies you need to defeat, with specific, sometimes obscure requirements. These provide an enjoyable introduction to the games combat, and the game constantly throws grunt-like enemies at you through the hub world in order to practice your combos on.
This structure however feels a little redundant, you spend so little time in each hub world and the games mechanics don’t exactly lend themselves particularly well to open-world exploration. Each hub is littered with collectibles too, but this isn’t Assassins Creed, traversal through the environment isn’t exactly an enjoyable or noteworthy affair. The manner in which you switch between hubs doesn’t help either; effectively teleporting through a cutscene leaves the experience and world that Platinum games have created feeling a little disjointed which breaks any potential immersive qualities the world they crafted could hold on you.
Fortunately the games campaign does serve to give good insight into the character, of each roster member. For the most part they’re all characterised in Platinum’s familiar, over the top style. Blacker Baron for instance is a somewhat familiar black-pimp stereotype, wielding a weapon that’s literally called the ‘Super Sexy Fists of Fire’ if he wasn’t so over the top and ridiculous it’d be racist. The rest of the cast is a little more acceptable and generally each have a very unique, if a little unbelievable personality.
As far as gameplay is concerned each member has their own, unique moves and special moves. You have basic combos which are performed using the square button and triangle buttons, alongside special moves and grabs performed with the bumpers. The game shares mechanics with a lot of 2D fighting games, grapples are teched by counter-grappling and the game features juggle based combos. That’s really where most of the similarities end though, games like Street Fighter are built upon their metagames, the chaotic nature of Anarchy Reigns makes it all a bit less tactical.
You can practice to do a 100% damage combo with your character of choice, but in reality due to the number of players involved in each fight, you’ll probably just be hit out of it by someone else anyway. It’s fun however, picking your moments and trying to isolate weaker members from a crowd so you can get a kill or launching yourself into the fray by pile driving a helicopter down onto unsuspecting foes. Win or lose its spectacularly energetic gameplay. It’s vastly less intelligent in its design than traditional fighters, but enjoyable none-the-less. It’s also a lot more accessible than traditional fighting games, combos themselves are relatively easy to perform and don’t feature the timing intensity of say, Street Fighters 1 frame links.
The multiplayer also features a large variety of modes, from cage match (1 vs 1) to Death Ball where two teams of 4 angry freaks battle it out to slam a glowing green ball into the back of the net at either end. The sheer variety Anarchy Reigns offers in this regard is refreshing, and it’s great that it doesn’t quite take itself seriously either.
Unfortunately however I’ve yet to touch upon Anarchy Reign’s greatest flaw, and frankly, sin. Despite a refreshingly, arguably innovative multiplayer component which graciously compensates for a relatively lack-lustre singleplayer campaign; Anarchy Reign’s shoots itself in the foot by omitting local play. Yes, you heard me this game does not feature split-screen gameplay of any kind and as much as I enjoyed what I played of Anarchy Reign’s multiplayer, this is really difficult to forgive. There’s no party system either, so even if you and your friend have a copy of the game, the only means of playing together is to make your own lobby and hope others join. It’s a convoluted and archaic process relative to what other modern multiplayer games have effectively standardised.
Of course it would perhaps be forgivable if the game exerted the technical prowess to argue splitscreen wasn’t a feasible option as the game was already pushing its hardware to the maximum, but in Anarchy Reign’s case that would be a laughable argument. It can be a pretty ugly game, although the character associated special effects do give it some visual charm at times. The games character models are just passable, but the games environments are textured and modeled very poorly. Mechanically the game isn’t particularly polished either, characters like the Rin sisters have pretty simple infinite loops they can perform to get a KO. This is largely irrelevant outside of cage match but still serves as evidence that the game didn’t quite have as much care and attention as it perhaps should have.
Anarchy Reigns, relative to its budget price point is an enjoyable albeit short lived ride. Whilst the games multiplayer component is refreshingly enjoyable in today’s sea of generic shooters there’s only so much you can get from it. You have to either enjoy playing alone, or happen to have a group of friends who also picked up the game. The games campaign whilst bearable isn’t something you’re liable to return to, and would perhaps ignore if it wasn’t tied into character unlocks. All in all It becomes hard to recommend unless you’re a fan of Platinum games’s previous work, in which case for what it is, considering the price, you might just love it; but whoever you are the absence of split-screen is only going to serve to disappoint and baffle as the game feels like it was built with local play in mind.