Conceptually, the game is basically a "Greatest Hits" of Platinum's offerings so far, incorporating elements of Bayonetta, MadWorld, Vanquish, and more, all set over the backdrop of fiendishly large arenas.
Anarchy Reigns (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Platinum Games
Released: January 8, 2013
Fundamentally, Anarchy Reigns feels a lot like Power Stone. Namedropping Power Stone alone is usually going to get people excited, but Anarchy Reigns has enough of its own charm to offer up something unique, while building on the formula of 3D arena brawlers.
For starters, combat is nuanced, and a bit complicated -- at least at first glance. There are unblockable killer attacks, weak and heavy attacks, grabs, ascending and descending strikes, something called "rampage mode" (think God of War's Rage of the Gods), evading and blocking, 360 degree attacks, and items. All of these abilities will have to be used in tandem for success, and it'll take a lot of getting used to.
All of these abilities have their own tactical tweaks to them, like the fact that killer attacks have both a weak and strong version, and use their own power meter.
You can recharge this meter through regular attacks, and this entire time, you're charging up your rampage mode, which nets you infinite killer attacks for a limited time and more strength in general. If you hit another player with the same attack simultaneously, you'll either cancel each other out, or enter in a button mashing Dragon Ball Z style punch-fest to determine the victor.
Finally, 360 attacks clear out everyone around you, but they take a bit of health to use, adding a risk/reward element to them. Normally I wouldn't take the time to explain how everything works so explicitly, but clearly you can see how deep fights can get as you're balancing all of these moves in the heat of the battle.
I'll get to the meat of the game's competitive modes later, but for now, I'll tackle the game's double-edged story mode. Things are fairly clear-cut here: there's a Black Side (Jack), and a White Side (Leo) -- both are around five hours each.
Campaigns are broken up into small open world maps, where you spend your time free-roaming around, gaining points, discovering hidden artwork, and taking on missions through giant beacons.
As you gain points (on the world map or otherwise), you'll unlock new missions, and eventually fight bosses and progress the story. You repeat this formula until you're done, and move onto the other side of the campaign -- that's about it. Since points determine when other free missions and story missions unlock, the better you do, the faster you progress.
The story is nonsensical and absurd, but it's about as fun as your average batshit insane anime. For instance, one of the first missions has you beating the ever-living crap out of a gang leader named Big Bull, only to have him induct you unwittingly as an "honorary member" into his clan.
From time to time Big Bull may pop up and help you out in a pinch, sometimes leaving the battle in a comical fashion. For anime and Platinum Game fans, this is an average Tuesday afternoon of gaming -- but for everyone else out there, I hope you're not expecting the most philosophically stimulating story ever, because you're not going to get it.
This isn't something I always make a point to highlight, but the musical score for this game is incredible. It's an eclectic mix of jazz and hip-hop that actually fits the mood of the game, and gets you sufficiently pumped up. It has a very large track list, so songs don't tend to repeat unless you're playing the same missions over and over.
But after that's all said and done, odds are you'll never go back to the story in favor of playing multiplayer over and over. The good news is, it works. Anarchy Reigns contains a decent netcode that handles lobbies well, and some modes can handle up to sixteen players for an all out brawl-fest.
I wouldn't worry about a lack of a cast, either. Character design wise, there's something for everyone. Truth be told I was never a big fan of MadWorld's Jack Cayman, but a newly playable Leo appeals to me personally, and the sixteen character roster allows for pretty much every playstyle possible -- from stealth, to speed, to grappling, to kicks, to transforming into giant robot jets -- you name the style, odds are you'll find someone you enjoy (including Bayonetta if you pre-ordered the game).
Matches themselves flow very nicely, and I've had way too many amazing picture-perfect moments to possibly recollect them all. Some of my highlights include split-second dodging and punishing players with my killer attacks, getting chased by a giant truck with blades on the front and surviving while four other players were ripped apart, and fighting a boss character in the middle of an eight player brawl.
Fights can get insanely hectic as you judge whether or not to get into a giant brawl-fest or head in the opposite direction and grab some items. The crazy arenas don't help, as random events will happen, like giant sawblade attacks, black hole appearances, or an aforementioned crazy boss fight.
As I type this I'm recalling yet another awesome moment that involved an epic one on one fight with another player, that ended with me getting sucked into black hole. I couldn't be mad at the game -- I had a giant grin on my face and kept going.
There are 13 modes so far with the two pre-order DLC modes included. Some are standard fare (Death Match), some mix it up a bit (3-Team Capture The Flag), and a few are off the wall (Dogfight). Odds are there's something for everyone here, even if I tend to settle with the sixteen player brawl mode on a constant basis.
For the completionists out there, in addition to the campaign and multiplayer elements, there are a decent amount of unlocks that can be earned either through campaign play or ranking up in multiplayer. Specifically, content like extra characters and powers (perks) can be earned as well as aesthetic rewards like emblems and art.
As for the mechanics of offline play, there's some good news, and some bad news. The good news is there are bots (yes!) included, that let you play every single mode in the game to your heart's content, without the need to connect to servers that will be dead in half a decade. It all works very well, and the bots themselves are challenging enough to the point where playing years down the line from time to time wouldn't be out of the question.
The bad news? There's no split-screen capabilities -- at all. No split-screen support is a severe detriment to what otherwise would be an amazing couch party game. Although bots are supported offline, it would have been nice to know that years from now when the servers are dead, I could sit down with friends and we could enjoy the game together. With couch play, this would be a no-brainer purchase for nearly every action fan ever -- sadly, it's something to think about.
Despite some issues, brawler fans should find everything they're looking for with Anarchy Reigns. It's ridiculous, it's fun, and it's packed with enough content to last you a long while, so long as you don't get tired of beating dudes up over and over. The budget pricing of $29.99 makes this decision even easier.
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