Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: PS3/Xbox 360
Release Date: 1/8/13
ESRB: M for Mature
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
A retail copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Platinum Games has earned quite a reputation over the years with their higher pedigree approach to action games. Even if they proudly have games like Bayonetta and Vanquish under their belt, it seems like as a whole, most of their games have been more so critical darlings than commercial successes. The ambitious developer hopes to continue the tradition by crafting their most recent game, Anarchy Reigns - a crazy beat 'em up/brawler and HD spiritual successor to their first title, Madworld.
Though the game has been out in Japan for roughly over half a year, and more than arguably fully-localized, it has finally received an official overseas release and at a discount $30 price to boot. Does this overdue release earn its keep or should it be left in the bargain bin?
Probably the most practical introduction to the game, outside of the necessary tutorial, is the game's single-player, which features two sides of a short story mode. Representing the 'black' side is Jack Cayman, familiar face and lead protagonist of Madworld in quite literally new colors, and representing the 'white' side is new character Leonhardt "Leo" Victorion. Both campaigns can are played separately by player preference, until both narratives eventually overlap for a final conflict, otherwise known as the 'red' side in the game's color based jargon. Jack's story tells the tale of a hot-tempered mercenary with a chainsaw attached to his arm and a quest for vengeance. Leo's story, on the other hand, tells of a law-enforcement cybernetic agent, tracking a rogue member by the name of Maximilian.
Admittedly, Platinum's games have never really been known for their high-quality storytelling, and it is especially apparent in Anarchy Reigns. Even if a lot of the cast seem to have a distinct flair, a good majority of them are pretty two-dimensional and some embody some very general stereotypes. It's a good thing that Anarchy Reign's overall tongue-in-check nature makes it apparent that it doesn't take itself too seriously, but that isn't to say that that tongue-in-check nature spares the game from feeling like, outside of the end, the single-player story was constructed in a somewhat basic attempt at bringing the off-the-wall cast in back-to-back, short-lived skirmishes.
Despite that, The single player is a solid means to get comfortable with the game, and the most efficient way to unlock a good bulk of the characters to play online. Unfortunately, it is possible to feel a bit underwhelmed with it as a whole. I enjoyed Jack's side of the campaign more, with its nods to Madworld and his more entertaining personality, but Leo's, from a gameplay standpoint, was more mechanically fun. Regardless, the single-player was, as a whole, pretty bare-bones and came off as repetitive. There are only a handful of maps and missions available, and overall it is centered around earning a certain amount of points until you can progress further. I wouldn't say it is particularly bad so much as it is 'entertaining enough' due to game's overall zany attitude and fun combat system.
Combat in Anarchy Reigns is solid, as you would expect from a Platinum Games title, and it certainly has their trademark over-the-top style and quirk. Battles allow players to mess around with both ground- and aerial-based crazy combos, as well as use deadly environmental objects/subweapons, or simply show off with plenty of character specific signature moves in the midst of combat. Like a lot brawlers and beat ”em ups, it can be easy to misunderstand this game for a ”button-masher“ and, in all honesty, it may very well be possible to get away with that in single-player mode. That said, for those willing to take the time to learn the basics of the game, or those willing to take the extra step to learn deadly techniques for higher-level play with the the virtual training room, Anarchy Reigns actually embodies the upper echelon of the craft.
Where Anarchy Reigns probably shines the most is in its online multiplayer. Players compete in various entertaining modes to showcase or better their skills. The more straightforward game types are tag-team, deathmatch (and the team variations), capture the flag, survival, and a few others, but I think Anarchy Reigns's more distinctive modes are Deathball and Battle Royale. Deathball combines the deadly combat with a hyperactive football-esque sport, and has teams try to score into opposing goalposts by any means necessary. Battle Royale, where similar in concept to deathmatch, is a much more frantic in nature free-for-all with many varying side-objectives, obstacles, and means to collect points and rise to the top. Technically, there is a few more modes that were relegated to pre-order downloadable content, but I was unable to try them as of this review.
Even though a lot of the multiplayer is good fun in its own right, I am a bit disappointed the game doesn“t allow any offline component for it. I“m sure the game probably wouldn't lend itself well to a split-screen nature, but I don“t see why the smaller scale modes like Survival, Tag Team, or Deathmatch couldn't be played offline. Plus, with the ability to use player bots in online private matches or even in the single-player 'simulator' of the online modes, even the bigger modes don't seem too out of the question to me. It just seems like an odd omission to not include offline multiplayer, or at least some version of it.
Visually, the game isn't likely to compete with the more renowned AAA big boys, despite using what almost seems like the entirety of a standard 360 disc in terms of space. There aren't a whole lot of maps, and neither the environments nor character models are likely to push the hardware for either platform too much. Having said that, the characters and their animations have a lot of distinct personality and the game doesn't really stutter too much on a technical level. Supposedly, the original Japanese release was riddled with quite a few technical issues, but I personally had no noticeable bugs in my experience with the game; I suppose a half year delay helps in that regard. Load times can possibly be a hindrance on 360 if you don't do a full install of the game, but are negligible otherwise.
From hip-hop to rap to techno beats, the game's overall musical score seems to complement the game's 'cool' attitude well. I also noticed Anarchy Reigns sneaks in plenty of musical fanfare reminiscent of Platinum“s Madworld, with more than a couple distinctly familiar artists and tunes, which is neat. On the voice-acting side, even if the main game doesn“t have the best script, the English voice actors do a pretty solid delivery throughout from story events to the battles, and I never felt compelled to dabble with the vocal tracks of other languages. I may question the liberties they took with some characters though, and the stereotypes some represent, but I have no real complaints with voice acting or the overall audio.
Anarchy Reigns makes for a very unique game, especially considering the default asking price of $30. Even if it could be perceived as a lack of confidence in the actual product, Anarchy Regins actually brings a much higher grade of quality to what is often associated to brawlers/beat ”em ups and more than earns its accessible retail asking price. The game does have some rough edges with a somewhat lacking single-player, a throwaway story, and non-existent offline multiplayer. Beyond that, though, it would be a disservice to not give the game a shot amidst the well-constructed combat system, online multiplayer, solid audio and voice work, and just plain fun over-the-top attitude. For those who enjoy Platinum Games' titles, they should feel right at home among the chaotic, lawless, but still very fun order that is Anarchy Reigns.
+ Fun combat system with many different playable characters
+ Entertaining online multiplayer
+ Solid voice acting and soundtrack
+ Lots of personality and style
+ No offline multiplayer
+ Somewhat lacking single player
+ Weak main story
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
A frantic and fun beat 'em up action game. Fans of Platinum Games should feel right at home, as Anarchy Reigns is more than worthy to note considering the fairly reasonable retail price tag.