Anarchy Reigns is one of the cheesiest games in recent years. It’s limburger, gouda, mozzarella and various other assorted dairy products rolled up into one package of lactating violence and rap songs that will leave your head spinning and your thumbs broken. But if you happen to take a bite of that cheddar, you might just fall in love with it.
Like a best of collection featuring previous characters from past games that Platinum Studios had a hand in, Anarchy Reigns plays like a 3D brawler. The basics of combat are all there, from light and heavy attacks, through to pick-up weapons and special moves, capped off by screen-shattering rage assaults. And yet, the combat is more than just a button-masher, as it does have several subtle ideas and nuances flowing through it, that extends through to the various characters that make up the Mad, Mad, Mad world of this title.
For instancing, hammering in a few quick attacks works as a solid combo, but put a slight delay on one of those kicks or punches, and some characters will use that time to leap back or circle around, ready to continue the assault. You’ve got heavy attacks doing some serious damage, while dodges give you room to manoeuvre, or set up an unblockable killer attack.
Hell, you can also grab foes for a quick instant kill, while filling up your rampage meter leaves you with enough super-powered high speed attacks to make even the nastiest mutant think twice. All in all, it’s a simple on the outside, but deeper on the inside combat system. And you’ll need all those moves for the battle ahead, because the landscape of Anarchy Reigns is one topsy turvy world of insane monsters and roving gangs, all looking to take a piece out of you.
At the core of the single-player campaign are the white and black side missions. Jack Cayman from the Wii classic Mad World handles that AC/DC side, while squeaky clean government and Bureau for Public Safety agent Leo tackles the White side. Each one of those protagonists has a campaign that will last around 4-6 hours, broken up into smaller missions that are unlocked by busting heads and killing anything with a pulse, in decent sized arenas that are disguised as levels.
It’s in those killing grounds that players take part in the story, which I won’t spoil here, but I will sum up in one word. Japanese. If killer mutants, giant monsters, betrayal, cybernetics and a characters making enough puns to make Gavin explode happens to be your idea of a good time, you’ll be in heaven here. But as for everyone else, Anarchy Reigns ain’t the Walking Dead when it comes to story quality.
And yet, despite being as wacky as your regular off-the-wall anime, it’s still kind of fun, thanks largely to the fact that zero craps are given. In fact, in a world where 50% of the main characters sport instant chainsaws, a pig mutant runs faster than an olympic athlete and a bondage model with nipple-spikes is a regular at a bar with a robot drinks-server that flips you off, this is merely a Tuesday for Japan.
It’s just a pity that the voice acting for this game is uneven at times. While Jack Cayman and Leo are adequately and gruffly voiced, you’ve got characters such as Edgar Oinkie who go into overdrive with swine euphemisms, and a voice that will make you want to shove sharp things into your ear cavities in order to drown out his squealing. And yet on the other side, a character like Adam possesses some of the best voice-acting of heard in years, as he shifts between bouts of madness and nostalgia. And then you’ve got the musical score. A selection of rap, jazz, funk and electronica that is somehow both fantastic and horrible, like an audio equivalent of Schrodinger’s cat. Here, listen to this sampling and see what I mean;
They’re over the top, rude and crude and make no sense whatsoever, and yet I hate myself for loving them. It makes no sense whatsoever. What does make sense though, is the rather solid online component of Anarchy Reigns, which sees up to 16 players gathering to crack some skulls and bust some spines. There’s a character for everyone, from Jack Cayman and Leo, through to the pimptastic Baron Black, the titanic Adam, the 50 shades of grey fan Mathilda and the brutal ballerina Bolshevik Sasha. More are unlocked as you progress through the game, with a certain hair-raising witch from a previous Platinum game making an appearance if you happened to have pre-ordered the title. (Hint” It’s Bayonetta. Ok, that wasn’t much of a hint).
Visually, it’s your standard Japanese game. Characters have skin smooth enough to slide on, while anything that involves gears and mechanics is imaginative and futuristic. The roaming enemies deserve some special mention here, because as you tackle vanilla gang minions, you’ll soon find yourself throwing down with Hulk-size mutants that swing flaming cars around as a weapon, or Berserker mutants that have nightmare fuel running through their veins. As for the rest of the characters, they’re as madly designed as the world around them. It’s just a pity that the various environments around them didn’t benefit from this level of detail.
Right now, there are 13 modes on offer, alongside two more if you did the pre-order tango. Match-making can take a couple of minutes, although I will admit that I could also attribute this to my 2 meg line, and the fact that I had ISP problems the week that I sat down for this. But when you’re in a match, man, are things chaotic. It’s a battle royale in some modes, with players piling on you, while laser-blades and tesla-fists rain down destruction. Multiplayer is all about skill, because each character is balanced enough to be a formidable weapon in the hands of a gamer who has taken the time to familiarise and learn about his favourite avatar.
Between those all you can punch buffets, players have the usual death-matches and team events, alongside capture the flag variants and the bizarre Dogfight mode. If you happen yo be anti-social though, and don’t fancy having a little Scottish turd sling insults about yo momma like what happened to me, then good news, because the multiplayer does allow for bots with decent levels of skill. And while online is great, it’s just a pity that there is no local two-player option, no split-screen whatsoever. Oh, how I yearn for a chance to whup some ass belonging to my netless buddies!
But the downside here, is that Anarchy Reigns isn’t much of a game to own if you find yourself without any net access. The multiplayer is obviously what will keep this title alive for a few years until a sequel most likely arrives and western gamers are forced to wait yet another year for the localisation, but on the financial plus side, at least it’s a budget title, in the R300-R400 region.
But at triple blue Randelas, it’s worth trying out. Single-player completionists can go back and tackle missions to achieve full platinum medals, art and character unlocks, while online gamers can get the most out of the multiplayer features.
Anarchy Reigns was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a Playstation 3