Fighting games are generally pretty clear cut: press start; choose mode; select character; kick ass. Brought to us by the people that created the well-received Madworld, Platinum Games’ new fighter, Anarchy Reigns, offers a new spin on the fighting genre.
For better or worse this game bears little resemblance to anything the majority of gamers will have been exposed to. The bulk of this game’s appeal is that it heavily incorporates online modes and is at a decent price. The unorthodox aspects provide something fresh but they might also be too much of a departure from the norm for the average gamer to endure.
Whatever semblance of a story fighting games usually offer is little more than a weak mechanism to get the player from fight to fight. Anarchy Reigns suffers from the same problem. The narrow campaign mode offers a choice of two sides to start off with that follows the same story from two perspectives.
Essentially both sides want to find some mysterious character and the story reads like a B-grade action movie. The themes are very quirky and contradictory, consisting of pop-culture referencing, profanity-filled insults one minute and poor attempts at gripping drama the next. Being forced to sit through un-skippable cutscenes disrupts the pacing and tempo usually associated with the quick flow of fighting games.
The campaign plays out in a limited open world where missions occur at certain points on the map, and recurring waves of enemies must be defeated to initiate the appearance of new missions. These missions are then scored upon completion, and adequate scores lead to new missions being unlocked to continue the story. The enemies are quite varied and there are even environmental changes such as buildings collapsing or spontaneous bombings of the dystopian environments to keep players on their toes. There are multiple instances where outright crazy events occur in the environment that will leaves jaws on the ground.
Campaign missions vary from simple “defeat X number of enemies”, to off the wall mini-games, helping keep things fresh but being quite unpredictable at the same time. The game is definitely not limited to constant brawls, which might be a breath of fresh air to some, or a tedious endeavour to others.
The overall look of the game is rather hit and miss. The character models are very well done and the environments are sufficiently detailed. They seem like generic cut and paste environments for any game that has dystopian/futuristic themes, but do look quite good. Unfortunately the invisible wall also features significantly, with little of the environment being explorable; although considering the genre this falls into one shouldn’t expect a large amount of detail. Overall the open world structure is acceptable, and ultimately much more than most fighting games achieve.
Eccentric and occasionally goofy voice acting is redeemed by the soundtrack, which definitely deserves a mention. It’s filled with bassy hip-hop tracks that perfectly fit the gritty and aggressive atmosphere of the game. Far from being a repetitive score that eventually needs to be blocked out, Anarchy Reigns deserves to be played if only to appreciate a perfectly fitting soundtrack.
The control layout will remind most players of typical hack ‘n slash setups. Face buttons assigned to heavy/light attacks and jump, and the shoulder buttons modify those inputs for dodging and alternate attacks. There are also two bars that fill up as enemies are defeated that can trigger different modes to beef up characters. Although the button inputs are the same for each character they each have different styles and the output will be unique to that character.
Anarchy Reigns does not disappoint with the character roster and individual styles to get accustomed to. Getting the hang of a surprisingly tricky combat system is another stumbling block, as very few of the finer nuances are explained. Managing the steep learning curve is rewarding, but it will take quite a few online matches and pretty frustrating deaths to get there. Simply put, you learn by doing.
Despite the paradoxical story line execution and odd missions, the single player is not why Anarchy Reigns has been making waves. Its main attraction is the extremely extensive and emphatically varied multiplayer. There are myriad modes (16 in total) that feature fighting staples like 2 Vs. 2’s and 16 player free-for-all, to an ultra-violent Anarchy Reigns version of NFL football, aptly named “Deathball”.
The multiplayer features usable items, and the inclusion of perks that can be unlocked throughout the campaign. Playing a brawler with 15 other people and beating each other senseless for control of a digitized ball is a satisfying experience that is unlikely to be replicated any time soon. A slight drawback is the matchmaking, which leans on the slow side and finding well-populated games is occasionally a challenge. A game that emphasizes multiplayer so heavily could have benefited greatly from a slightly more polished matchmaking experience. Only time will tell if the number of players involved online will hold steady or dwindle as the game ages.
The combination of a campaign with 3 difficulty modes and a multiplayer that is rivalled by very few games leads to a huge amount of replay value. Even story missions can be repeated with the whole roster of characters to obtain better scores. While Anarchy Reigns will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea it does offer an extremely unique experience. Players that are willing to dedicate the time to get used to the mechanics will be in for intense action difficult to find anywhere else. Gamers who feel that the market is saturated with stale and predictable releases should give Anarchy Reigns a shot – it will definitely be the only game of its kind on your shelf.