|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Platinum Games|
|Release: January 8, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Anarchy Reigns is a strange conundrum of a game that doesn’t really know what it wants to be.
Hold on. Let me back up a bit here. Whenever we saw Anarchy Reigns at a trade show, its developers were always pushing its awesome multiplayer mode. It was supposed to finally provide the action genre with something to do online, giving players an experience that is somewhere between the cookie-cutter shooter formula, and the one-on-one twitch-based gameplay of an online fighting game.
But as a result, a lot of attention was given to the game’s multiplayer mode, and the single-player campaign suffers noticeably because of it. None of this seems strange until you realize that the single-player may actually be the best part of the game, while the multiplayer is unfortunately flawed.
Anarchy Reigns is something of a sequel to the Wii-exclusive Mad World. Once again, you control Jack, the man with a chainsaw arm, as you hack and slash your way through waves of baddies who are just waiting to die in gruesome ways. Mad World was known for its interactive environments, allowing you to put a baddie in a barrel, light the barrel on fire, skewer the barrel on a signpost, and then throw the barrel in front of a train. Unfortunately, Anarchy Reigns isn’t nearly as creative. Instead, it falls back on the standard weak/strong button mashing formula that we have seen in multiple brawlers of the past.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, because the tone of the game really supports the button mashing gameplay. The story is essentially a nonentity. It makes little sense and serves no purpose other than to ferry you between set pieces filled with blood and explosions. But that’s the best part of the game. You’ll be chopping enemies down with your chainsaw arm one second and riding a flamethrowing death car the next. The game’s set pieces come at a frequent enough clip that the standard button mashing gameplay between them never gets boring. In fact, it almost brings about a nostalgic feeling of games like Dynasty Warriors 3, which pretty much gave you no concrete goals outside of increasing your kills per minute. If you want to get fancy, you can, as the game’s combo system does allow for some flashy strings of hits. However, the combos aren’t listed anywhere and you will get by just fine by hammering the buttons randomly.
Anarchy Reigns is essentially the video game equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie, with a story that serves the bloody, campy, over-the-top gameplay. However, the single-player mode is depressingly short. Not only that, but it’s very easy to beat, never actually presenting the player with a challenge outside of a few cheap deaths. There are also points when this game becomes far less Tarantino and far more Michael Bay, relying on cutscenes which are far more awesome than the gameplay that either precedes or follows them. There are also some fetch quests and escort quests that slow down the pacing of an otherwise completely action-packed title.
The game pulls a No More Heroes by letting you wander around hub-worlds before you take on missions. Unfortunately, these hub-worlds are mostly there just for show. Missions are still unlocked sequentially and outside of the ability to go back and replay missions you have already completed, there is really no reason to make you run back and forth to each one. The hub-worlds are also pretty small, so you don’t really even get a feeling of satisfaction from wandering around. Cinematic scene transitions or a simple menu would have done just fine.
Still, as much as I can nitpick about certain stylistic choices here, the single-player campaign is a real treat. You have to have an immature, desensitized mind to relish in all the blood and over-the-top action, but if you’re not squeamish about gore, you’ll love every minute of it.
The multiplayer, on the other hand, has its own set of issues. It’s not poorly designed when considered in a vacuum. It allows up to sixteen players to duke it out in a variety of modes that we have seen in shooters before. The only difference is that you aren’t scoring points in Team Deathmatch using shotguns and sniper rifles; you’re scoring points using chainsaw arms!