‘Anarchy Reigns’ Review

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There’s something supremely satisfying about slamming a helicopter into someone as they flee for their life. Anarchy Reigns is a brawler that refuses to hide the fact that it’s a video game. Enemies get hewn in half by double-chainsaws, perforated by  bionic revolver-knees and pile driven by transforming robots and it all feels so good. Anarchy Reigns offers a wealth of varied content, an irreverent story and solid fundamental gameplay for half the price of the average retail release.

Anarchy Reigns tells a tale of one of the core battles in modern society: order versus anarchy. What is justice? Who decides? What’s the point? While it’s certainly no epic poem or any poignant novel commentary, it is coherent, and for a game with as much violence, profanity and gratuity as Anarchy Reigns, coherent is rather impressive.

Two campaigns, the black and the white side, tell the story of playable characters Jack Cayman and Leohardt (something) respectively. Both sides clash ideologically and literally throughout the plot and each story features different characters, so playing both sides is recommended. Defeating characters in the story unlocks them for use in the game’s extensive multiplayer and an incredible amount of concept art is hidden throughout the levels to give you extra incentive to complete the campaign.

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While the full campaign is about six hours long, the story Platinum Games is trying to tell is larger than that. Gangs, organizations and events within Anarchy Reigns’s canon are touched on and referenced, but some issues aren’t given enough attention. While at times this narrative shows that it wants to be taken seriously, mostly it’s an irreverent silly romp mixed with blood and machinery. That said, it’s still a decent story with enough intrigue to keep you playing through to the end.

Anarchy Reigns is a simple game with lots of extra nifty bits thrown in to keep things fresh and unpredictable. Basic combat includes the mixing of light and heavy attacks for different combos and powerful “killer-weapon” attacks to devastate your foes. Block, employ grabs and dodge attacks to mess with your opponents and stay in the fight. The simple combat is well done and there’s a lot to love for both the casual fans and the enthusiasts of both brawlers and  fighting games. However, hack-and-slash lovers of games like Devil May Cry may find the combat wanting. It’s fun, it’s satisfying, but it’s not complex in the slightest.

Across all available modes, fights include more than just the punching, kicking and dismembering. A dozen or so different items and enemies make themselves available throughout the game at random intervals. Some items protect, some do damage; they cover a pretty broad spectrum but they all make your life easier. The enemies endeavor towards the opposite, interrupting combos and picking shouldering their way into fights. Some fly, some have shields, some are gigantic, and some are just strange, but they all contribute to the full-bodied chaotic experience that is Anarchy Reigns. Slap on the random events, which range from carpet bombings to global insta-kill microwave cannons, and the offering here is definitely one of unabated insanity.

The single-player campaign consists of free roam, replayable missions and story missions. Each area has three of each type, unlocked one after another by accumulating scores throughout the level. Free roam, free and story missions each contribute to your score so you’re always doing something to progress.

The free roam throws all manner of enemies for you to fight while traversing the area and searching for unlockables. It’s not the fastest way to build up your score, but if you beat mini-bosses, you’re rewarded with items that make the missions easier.

The main story and free missions make up the meat of the single-player experience. Free missions can be replayed repeatedly to accrue score if you haven’t hit the par to unlock the next story mission, or to get a better score and increase your medal ranking. The story and free missions boast a strong variety of objectives; very few are recycled beyond the classic “kill stuff” missions. Throughout these missions you will fight bosses, minions and other characters in a variety of different scenarios. Missions are smartly paced with plenty of different objectives including escorts, shooting galleries and even a racing occurring between the kill-a-thons. They’re all enjoyable at the core, but some of the longer brawl missions can get a bit repetitive–especially since, if you fail, you get nothing for your efforts.

The variety of missions and the sheer fun of taking on bosses and the rather intelligent enemy character AI make Anarchy Reigns’s single player worth the price of admission. If you’re only here for the single player, you won’t be disappointed, though it’s no 12-hour game. However, after beating the game, you can replay the entire campaign with any character you’d like, giving plenty of value to an already well-varied experience.

The single player in Anarchy Reigns is satisfying, but it’s rivaled by its multiplayer both in size and scope. With 11 game types (13 if you preordered) it’s very easy to find at least a few that you love and avoid the ones you dislike. There are free-for-all and team death matches, large and small variants of basic brawler modesl, capture the flag, a gladiator sport called “Death Ball,” and a three-player co-op mode. These modes feature small-to-full versions of maps from the story and can be played with any of the 18 playable characters.

At the core of the multiplayer you’ll find that “anarychy” isn’t just part of the game’s name; it’s the theme for the game as a whole–not just in story, but in gameplay. There is a multiplayer mode called Battle Royale where up to 16 players can duke it out all at once. 16 players unloading combos, picking up items and trying to escape giant robot attacks provides a level of chaos on and off-screen that is as astounding as it is enjoyable. Modes like Tag Deathmatch and the aforementioned Cage Match offer more grounded, fighting-game like modes for a deeper experience, but Anarchy Reigns has a marvelous flair for the gratuitous.

While undoubtedly fun and varied (even more so than the single player), the multiplayer does highlight some small design hiccups. The larger game types take a bit of extra time to get going since lobbies feature no global countdown, and team-based game types suffer in the wake of quitters. The bots are potent, but they’re no match for skilled players. Nitpicks like spawning issues on the larger maps are also mild head-shakers, but these are small problems in the grand scheme of things, and they rarely impact the overall experience.

While it tries its mightiest, Anarchy Reigns’s zany character design, massive levels and strong gameplay design can’t hide its budget. This is a game that takes advantage of what it can do to an obscene degree, but it rarely transcends its synopsis. It’s a brawler. You beat stuff up. A lot. The characters are awesome and surprisingly unique at their finer points, and exploring the strategy and pace of the multiplayer is a thrilling–though sometimes maddening–experience.
The story isn’t perfect, but it’s enjoyable and never offends beyond some out of place T&A. An exciting soundtrack and mostly fluid visuals hold the game together, though neither are particularly amazing, cementing Anarchy Reigns as a great game–a great game with a massive amount of value with equal focus on multiplayer and single player. There’s something here for everyone and perhaps its price point will make it easier for you to convince a couple friends to join in the fun, no matter what sort of craziness they’re into.