King of the Lawless – Anarchy Reigns Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
From pandemonium and rage comes the brawler Anarchy Reigns, the spiritual successor to MadWorld developed by PlatinumGames Inc., featuring a story told from two different perspectives and more fighting action than you can shake a fist at. In a world of chaos and political upheaval, does this beat-‘em-up have what it takes to reign supreme, or will its lawlessness be its downfall?
The tale of Anarchy Reigns is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a ferocious war has turned the planet into a desolate wasteland. Since then, however, humanity has unlocked the secret of nanotechnology, and has been able to compensate for mutations and weaknesses that have occurred as a side effect of the war. The narrative revolves around the hunt for Max, a former Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) agent who has gone insane, killed a loved one, and fled the scene.
Players take control of either Leo (a BPS agent and former student of Max’s who has been ordered to destroy him for his actions) or Jack (a Chaser who’s been hired by Max’s daughter to find him before the BPS does). Both characters’ stories bring a unique perspective to the tale and help reveal the reason for Max’s actions, as well as each protagonist’s reasoning for undertaking the adventure in the first place. Players will witness Leo’s inner turmoil towards his orders to kill his mentor, and the problems with his new authority, as well as the tragedy that caused Jack to get involved in the first place. Anarchy Reigns’ narrative will grab you by the heart strings and suck you in as you fight to solve the mystery behind Max’s actions.
The gameplay is just as interesting, and offers a lot of amusement for players on many levels. Anarchy Reigns’ storyline is divided into chapters, each having its own small free-roaming area to explore. Within this location, players are able to move about as they see fit and battle any enemies they encounter, search for collectable concept art, or take on missions – of which there are two different types: Free and Story. Free missions are time-based tasks given to the player to complete, such as killing as many enemies as possible or delivering objects, and Story missions serve to progress the plot – usually featuring a small cutscene relevant to the overall story. To unlock the next task, gamers need to accumulate points from either defeating enemies in aimless battles while free-roaming, or earning them by completing previous tasks they may have left unfinished. Although the Campaigns’ setup makes for some interesting free-roaming fun, it also breaks the story apart from itself. While the cutscenes featured before and after each chapter are very engaging and entertaining, the missions in between have little (if anything) to do with the overall story arc – breaking the otherwise terrific atmosphere. If the missions were more relevant to the plot, gameplay would feel less stretched out and would have fit within the narrative a lot better.
As for the combat itself, Anarchy Reigns mixes hack n’ slash with fighting game elements, which results in a Devil May Cry meets Street Fighter experience. Players use the X and Y buttons to execute either a light or heavy attack, with multiple presses resulting in strings of combos. These attacks can be used while standing, running, or jumping, all with different effects. Players may also use the B button to grab a foe, with different animations for a front or rear grapple. For defense, gamers simply need to hold RB or RT to take a blocking stance, or push the left thumbstick and press A to roll in the pressed direction. Be careful though, as your blocks can be broken by your enemies, leaving you wide open to an assault.
Of course, there are more advanced aspects to combat as well, including Killer Weapon attacks and Rampage mode. The former are special and powerful versions of your basic attacks, which can be triggered by pulling LT and attacking like normal. These moves unleash your special weapon. In Jack’s case, expect to use a dual set of chainsaws hidden in his mechanical arm, for very vicious attacks. In order to use them though, you must fill the Killer Weapon meter by either giving or receiving damage in battle – as a light attack takes one block from the meter and a heavy attack takes two. Rampage is a special mode that can be triggered, which gives temporary invulnerability, unlimited use of your Killer Weapon, and turns standard attacks into flurries of rapid and powerful blows. In order to trigger it, however, the Rampage meter must be full, and it is also filled by taking or dishing out damage. Items also play into combat a bit, as gamers can pick up weapons such as rocket launchers or mines, and defensive items like shields, which can be used at any time by selecting the tool via the D-Pad.
Anarchy Reigns also features an in depth online multiplayer mode, with a plethora of gametypes for players to battle across. Some matches include 16-player free-for-all Battle Royales, simple one-on-one duels, Team Deathmatch, and even a co-operative mode where you and two friends take on wave after wave of enemies. Gamers can search for or create either a private lobby for some competition among friends, or a ranked lobby if they want their stats recorded on the leaderboards. As well, gamers are able to choose between 16 playable characters, six of which were featured in MadWorld, While the basic Deathmatch modes start to lose their fun after a few rounds, the more unique ones like Battle Royale, Death Ball (a twisted take on soccer where gamers fight to get a virtual ball into the other team’s goal), and aforementioned co-op Survival are sure to keep players interested and invested for a longer term. Add in the frantic real time action events that can occur, such as a random carpet bombing, run away truck, or temporary healing stations, and you get wild online matches that are never the same twice. Just watch your connection speeds, as every other round seems to be fairly laggy – sometimes to a near unplayable degree.
Visually, Anarchy Reigns is a bit of a letdown. First and foremost, the graphics are sub-par for current gen consoles, as textures for both the environment and characters are somewhat pixilated and unclear overall. On top of this, the general resolution of in-game visuals seems quite low and blurry, as though one were attempting to play a previous generation title on an HD TV – which is strange as the HUD is very sharp and clear. A bit more care and polish could have made the title something truly wonderful. However, not everything is bad here. Animations in-game are actually very well done, with smooth transitions and fluid movements – even in the silly, over-the-top moments. Cutscenes do have some redeeming qualities as well; though still of a lower resolution than your average title, these cutscenes come out a bit clearer that in-game visuals, and include some stellar fight scenes – especially when things go into slow motion (an effect that’s usually butchered in other titles). It’s a shame that cinematics only come between each chapter, as they are the highlight of the game’s visuals.
Something that may not appeal to every player though, is character design. While certain characters have an interesting and badass aesthetic to them (such as Leo’s laser blades hidden within this mechanical arms and legs), others are absolutely ridiculous. For example, Nikolai is so huge and puffy that he looks like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, which looks terribly silly when he attempts complex moves while fighting. Other characters also suffer from disproportionate or inappropriate designs, such as being overly buff (to the point their head no longer matches their massive body), or having spikes for nipples. Overall, the visual design of Anarchy Reigns is very distinct in its post-apocalyptic setting and features some interesting themes, but it just may turn off a few players.
The sound, on the other hand, is a fairly satisfying experience. Voice acting in-game is surprisingly good, with only one or two lesser characters processing a voice like nails on a chalk board, and Jack is played by the badass Steve Blum (Grunt – Mass Effect 2 and 3; Grayson Hunt – Bulletstorm) – whose performance is perhaps one of the best of his career. The soundtrack is the only thing that may set some players off, as the original score is somewhat dull, unmotivated, and unmemorable – and the significant battle music is comprised of repetitive hip-hop tracks. Generally, gamers will be impressed by voice work, but will probably ignore the soundtrack in favor of streaming their own via their Xbox’s home menu.
When law returns to the land, and the craziness ends, Anarchy Reigns turns out to be worth a bit of your attention. Sadly, its brilliant and emotional story gets lost within a distracting missions setup and a plethora of other annoyances – graphics, overall design, and connectivity problems to name a few. If you’ve got some spare change and are looking for a way to kill some time until DmC and Metal Gear Rising launch, then you’ll find a few hours of entertainment here.
Final Score: 4.0 / 5.0 and a blurry kick to your chest.
About This Post