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Anarchy Reigns Review

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On 01/28/2013 at 12:00 PM by Travis Hawks

In the great tradition of wonderful trash, Platinum Games nails it again.

For anyone looking to get that classic B-movie experience in video game form.

If you’ve been asking for more from your games, then Anarchy Reigns might be just what you need.  It’s got more racial stereotypes, more campy dialogue, more leotard-clad dominatrixes, and more ridiculous fighting than you could ever need. If you want to groan at the thought of all of these disgusting and tired gaming fallbacks being crammed together, take heart! The entire crazy package is a total goof and it’s pulled off perfectly in one of the greatest send-ups of video game tropes ever made that’s also genuinely fun.

You’ll start to see jabs at the medium right from the start when you see the over-‘roided bounty hunter character, Jack. You play as Jack if you choose to take the “black” path, or you can play as pretty boy cop Leo on the “white” path.  If you go black like I did, you’re treated to some amazing dialogue stuffed full of innuendo and classic foul-mouthery.  Many of these achieve an even higher level of hilarity by mixing them with a story that could be told in a serious way but simply isn’t.  For instance, after Jack comments that a slinky law enforcement female who had been “at her current post for three years” should be “assigned to my post,” the camera fades to a maudlin flashback of Jack and his now murdered daughter.  Adding to the silliness is that Jack’s daughter, who is probably five years old in the scene, is about as tall as Jack’s bicep is wide.

These same overtones persist through every mission as you’re introduced to all the characters you would expect:  the sassy pimp and his quiet female sidekick, the demented psychopath, the deformed drug dealer, the silent ninja, and on and on as every action movie stereotype is brought in to join in on the fun.  The best part is that this whole silly narrative is actually constructed in a pretty cool way.  After you finish the path you initiate your game on (black or white), you have to start anew on the opposite path to bring all of the events to a close.  You would think this would lead to a lot of repeat missions and cut scenes, but they do a good job of showing other bits of the story that you didn’t know about on your initial path.

It’s also worth noting that some of the cut scenes are more like the silhouette slide-in presentation you would see in a 16-bit game, but done with budget-minded 3D character models.  For some reason, seeing these off-the-wall characters spout off at each other with terrible lip syncing and deeply uncanny facial expression just makes the whole thing more charming.  The graphics also look pretty cheap when you’re in the missions as a few of the fighting animations look pretty last-gen (at best) and defeated enemies turn into a roiling blob of blue goo instead of actual gore.  I’m sure part of that is due to international sensitivities about violence, but it’s pretty strange to slice someone up with a chainsaw-enabled hand and watch them fly backwards and turn into a blob.  Oh well, it’s all part of the B-movie ambience that is pretty consistent as you fight off thousands and thousands of street thugs and their leaders.   

Luckily, all of that fighting is pretty enjoyable.  As a verified dabbler in the modern action-brawler, I’m certainly not going to be able to tell you how Anarchy Reigns’ mechanics compare to Devil May Cry, but I can tell you that it works well and has plenty of skills to master. You’ll get accustomed to all of the skills in your repertoire as you plug through the game’s story and slowly unlock additional characters that can be used in the online multiplayer matches and on some occasions in the wacky campaign.  Your capabilities consist of light and powerful attacks, blocks, evades, throws, and character-specific killer weapons.  Each of these types of attacks and motions can be linked together into combos that you can happen upon randomly or slowly decipher and perform reliably. 

I had some trouble discerning how to perform each of the combos as I encountered them, and found that I was often just resorting to speedy button mashing to get by.  This works fine in most of the story, but will leave you lacking once you play other humans online.  It was in the multiplayer matches that I finally started to see how to time my moves a bit better and could occasionally get some good juggling sessions started as I clambered my way out of last place in a few rounds.  I prefer being explicitly told how to perform particular moves, as modern Ninja Gaiden games do, so that there’s no guess work but still a need for practice to perfect your skills.  Regardless, whether I was just randomly smacking the buttons or coolly working through honed maneuvers, I generally enjoyed the fighting mechanics in both the story and online modes.

The online multiplayer really shocked me with how great it turned out to be.  My first look at the available matches showed all the same game types that have been beaten to death in every FPS this decade -- like capture the flag and team death match.  As it turns out, playing these same modes in a brawler like this makes them feel like an entirely new sort of game.  For instance, in Capture the Flag, lengthy battles of entire teams fighting it out to regain a stolen flag can last for several minutes instead of the few seconds it would take in an FPS.  Being able to attack opponents with the flag and the game’s touted Action Trigger Events that juice things up with seemingly random carpet bombings, giant robots, and quicksand pits are creative ideas that work well. It’s also nice that several other game modes like Tag-Team Death Match are in a nice zone in between fighting and shooter games.  All of these factors combine to make Anarchy Reigns feel like something fresh. 

The biggest negative of the multiplayer -- and the whole game for that matter -- is in the online lobby system. Once you start playing a particular game type, the only way to stop playing matches of that type is to exit back out to the lobby and re-enter to try and get something different.  Sure, you can start your own match of the sort you want, but then you’re stuck waiting for randoms to drop in and decide that’s the type of game they want to play.  So, you end up fiddling around a lot -- either going forwards and backwards through menus or waiting around for other players.  It’s a shame that this system wasn’t set up better, because the online modes are a real pleasure.

If you think you can put away all your foibles, turn off your brain, and beat up tons of mutant goons, Anarchy Reigns just might be the dumb fun you need in your gaming life.  Yes, it’s horribly offensive, sort of ugly, and completely ridiculous, but it’s a blast.  It’s also only thirty bucks and the only reasons why it isn’t worth twice that are its dated visuals and rudimentary matchmaking system. So, put your social mores aside and come join the rest of us troglodytes and spike-breasted vixens in the greatest punch-fest to be had on the wrong side of socially acceptable.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

01/28/2013 at 02:09 PM

This sounds just as awesome as I hoped it to be. Sold.


02/22/2013 at 11:58 PM

My kind of game! (I have a love for beat em up grind-house cheese-cyber punk!)

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