Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: 01/08/2013
Platinum Games have quickly made a name for themselves by eschewing the typical video game approach. They’re not out to make games with mass appeal that will sell untold millions of copies. I’m sure they wouldn’t if their games did sell millions and millions, but they’re definitely targeting specific groups with their games.
Anarchy Reigns, their newest title, is in many ways a typical Platinum game. That’s to say that there’s really isn’t too much stuff out there like it. What we have here is a 3D beat-em-up with a full suite of online modes as well as the expected single player campaign. On top of that, the game has been released at literally half the price of a usual retail game. AR also heavily features some characters from Madworld, a game only available on the Wii, and thus unlikely to be played by a large number of people who will purchase the game for either the 360 or PS3. In that sense, it becomes clear that the gameplay and online features are the clear selling point meant to draw in potential players.
The story tells the tale of two men as they search for a third. Jack Cayman, the main character from Madworld, returns as a mercenary in search of a government agent driven mad by an overdose of PTSD drugs. He’s out to bring him in alive, which is especially interesting because the agent in question is responsible for the death of Jack’s young daughter. Also in the hunt is Leo, another government agent who also wants to bring his target in alive, but is at odds with his commander who is out only to put a quick end to this potential public relations nightmare by putting a bullet through Max’s (the crazed agent) head. The stories of Jack and Leo are linked through their search, and though you play both separately, they eventually connect later on for the final battle.
It’s an interesting story, but one that simply doesn’t hold the emotional impact it seems to be aiming for. It juxtaposes flashbacks of Jack’s daughter with a foul mouthed pimp who’s more inclined to make sexual jokes than take anything seriously. Leo’s story is a bit more solid in that he doesn’t have the over the top sidekick, but he’s also a thoroughly bland character with a far less interesting background. It’s hard to build a father/son relationship that they’re going for with just one scene. What really bogs the story down is that it is constantly interrupted by a string of random characters that take over for a chapter or two. These sections serve both as battles and introductions for those characters, who become unlocked for use in multiplayer.
It’s not that I cant appreciate the low brow humor the game resorts to on most occasions. On the contrary, the story can often be amusing. It’s just that you can’t expect players to become emotionally engaged about a story that deals with revenge, justice, and corruption in a heavy handed way and then try to break the tension with a joke about fisting.
Visually, the game has an undeniable sense of style. Characters are hyper detailed and exaggerated at every turn. Characters like Jack and Blacker Baron make even the beefiest professional wrestler look like wimps, and there isn’t a single female character that doesn’t support a pair of back breaking breasts. It’s an odd collection of vastly different looking characters. You’ve got pimps, robots, cyborgs, ninjas, bikers, and even a pig man who turns into a giant lizard. It’s a bit silly, but honestly it’s the good kind of silly. It ends up working quite well thanks to a strong use of color that gives each character a unique look.
On a technical level the game is far from impressive. There are odd clipping issues, phantom grabs, and even the occasional glitch. It also isn’t up to par with recent examples of what the system is capable of. However, this is a budget game, so such things can be easily forgiven.
The audio is certainly unique. The voice acting is as all over the place as the character design. Steve Blum does his typical bang up job, but that pig character I mentioned earlier has the most annoying voice I’ve heard since I played Sonic Adventure a couple years back. The music is a collection of hip hop, rap with rock tracks, and some electronic tunes as well. It actually fits quite well, as the lyrics are usually about beating the snot out of someone. The effects are nothing special, but they do the job. There are plenty of explosions, punching sounds, and the like to go around as you beat everyone into a bloody mess.
Time to get to the main event. That’s the gameplay. Anarchy Reigns uses a mostly simple control scheme that involves chaining light and heavy attacks into combos. You also have a grab attack and jump. The shoulder buttons cover lock on capabilities, and use of special items/weapons. You have a meter on the bottom of the screen that fills up as you deal/take damage. This meter is used to activate your â€œkiller weaponâ€. For example, using this meter with Jack involves unleashing his trademark double chainsaw. These moves dole out extra damage, are usually best reserved for tougher enemies. Items can be found and used via the d-pad. In the case of weapons, the shoulder buttons can be used to throw/fire/activate whatever you’ve got. This can cause some issues not being able to use a killer weapon when you have an item equipped, though this makes you act more wisely when it comes to using said item. There’s also a rage meter that fills and can be activated with a click of the analog sticks. When enraged, you deal extra damage, have unlimited killer weapon meter, and can unleash ridiculously long and unblockable combos.
When you play the campaign, you’re initially dropped off in an area and are tasked with taking out random thugs. Doing so earns you points, which are used to start unlocking missions. Each area has three story missions and three free missions for you to complete. Story missions move the plot forward, can only be beaten once, and will move you to the next area when you’ve finished the last one. Free missions can be played repeatedly to farm points/improve your score, but have no bearing on the story. The free missions also mix things up a bit by giving you special missions where you race around on a stolen hovercraft, take enemies out with a hijacked helicopter, and even attempt to launch large sphere into goal-like structures. The general style of the campaign can cause some problems though. There’s little to explore in each location, so the open level design seems pointless, though it’s interesting to have interconnected levels. Also, you’re going to have to repeat some free missions in order to get enough points to unlock missions at some point. As such, it can get a bit repetitive.
The lock on mechanic doesn’t really work the way you’d want. It often locks on to a far away enemy instead of the one right in front of you. It’s also pretty much impossible to target a specific enemy when there are several on the screen. It works great for boss fights though. When not locking on, don’t be surprised to see attacks whiff or grabs hit nothing but air. A lot of attacks are pretty wild, and it can be hard to hit a specific problem. If there’s one big downside to the gameplay, this is it.
An important thing to note is that there is not character progression in the game. It’s an old school beat-em-up in that regard. You start with the same move set and powers that you end the game with. You’ll use those same characters for multiplayer with the only change being some sort of stat boost that you can equip. This isn’t a problem per se, but it is something that one should be aware of before they go into the game.
Speaking of the multiplayer, it’s about as diverse as it gets. There are one on one cage matches, tag team matches, sixteen player free-for-alls, capture the flag, and even a mode where you try to throw a ball into a goal while people beat the crap out of each other. Saying that it can get chaotic online is like saying that someone might get shot in Call of Duty. It can be equal parts exhilarating and annoying. Just when you start to land that perfect combo, someone sneaks up behind and throws you. If there’s a connection issue, you might be attacked by someone who didn’t appear to be there moments before. A nice addition to the game is the ability to play any of the multiplayer modes against bots in practice mode. It’s good for practicing with new characters, figuring out the rules, and getting the hang of the maps.
A single playthrough of the campaign will last you about four hours, with room for another hour depending on how dedicated you are to finding hidden safes that unlock concept art. The game encourages at least one more playthrough, especially if you want to bump it up to hard. The real replay value is going to come through the multiplayer. If you get into that, you’ll more than get your monies worth. It’s worth mentioning here that multiplayer is online only. There’s no split-screen or co-op. That almost seems like a crime for a brawler.
Playing on hard mode is definitely an option for more experienced players. It’s the only way you’ll get any sort of challenge. Normal mode is a breeze. I died a few times, but usually due to some unexpected truck rampaging through the level or an ill timed block. On hard, the game is relentless, and much more representative of what you’ll find online. Enemies will actually attack you, and bosses will gladly string long combos that take more than half of your life out. It’s a bit of an uneven experience really.
On top of everything else, the game comes with a gallery mode to view character models, concept art, watch in game movies, and listen to the game’s extensive soundtrack. It’s not all that much, but I kind of feel let down any time a game doesn’t offer these options in some fashion.
Anarchy Reigns is a game you should pick up despite its many flaws. As it is a budget title, the problems are comparatively easy to forgive. It also offers a multiplayer experience unlike anything you’re likely to play this year. While this is far from the best offering from Platinum Games, it is still something worth looking into. If you’re at all into beat-em-ups, you should probably already own a copy.
Short Attention Span Summary
Anarchy Reigns is an interesting game that has plenty of style, a fun combat engine, and engaging online multiplayer. However, it falls short in terms of story, and has many tiny nagging flaws that eat away at the overall quality. Were this a full priced retail game, it would be hard to recommend. In fact, my advice would be to wait until it goes down by at least half. Since the price is already there, I can easily recommend this game. It’s not going to win any game of the year awards, but it is still definitely worth checking out.