2760827544Review15 e1360015460872 Ruling over the chaos    Anarchy Reigns Xbox 360 Review

I admit that I have a soft spot for Platinum games.  They developed MadWorld, Bayonetta, and Vanquish.  They were also the team behind Clover who developed Okami and Viewtiful Joe.  Their games included something in them to set them apart, whether it was a gameplay mechanic or presentation style.  While their games never got the commercial success they deserved, they do have a cult following.  Now they have released Anarchy Reigns, a brawler with a budget price.

I was a bit surprised by Anarchy Reigns, as it features several cast members from MadWorld.  Two single-player campaigns are available, and in one of them you can play as the lead character from MadWorld, Jack Cayman.  Instead of being on some twisted reality show where you fight to stay alive, you are on some post-Apocalyptic earth fighting to survive.  In the other single-player campaign you play as Leo, an agent of the Bureau’s Strike One unit.  What exactly this unit does is anyone’s guess, but let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter.  All you need is some sense of conflict to make an excuse to beat the crap out of each other.

Anarchy Reigns is a third-person brawler.  While there is more to the move list than just the punch, kick, and jump of Final Fight, the moves are simple to perform.  Using X is your normal attack and Y is your heavy attack.  You use these in succession to create combos.  A jumps and also evades when hitting the right trigger to guard.  B grabs an object, including other enemies, and lets you throw it.  Hitting A and X will perform a 360 degree attack.  You need to not only beat up enemies surrounding you on the group, but smashing items above you in the air is necessary as well.  Don’t worry, you can punch as you jump up, helping you to damage helicopters and other drones.  While each character has the same general move set, their timing and strength differs.  They all have special moves, but they are all performed the same way.  Using the left bumper to lock onto enemies helps you concentrate on one target.  Eventually a Rampage gauge fills and you can hit both the left and right stick buttons.  When you do, the Rampage mode activates, making you invulnerable with more powerful attacks.

In the single-player game, you make a choice to play as either Jack or Leo, but you will be given the opportunity to play as other characters as well.  As you start playing it looks like an open-world adventure, with story missions that you have to complete and some optional missions out there if you want to test your skills.  However, you quickly realize that you have to complete the story missions successfully to get enough points to continue through the story portions.  If you don’t do well enough, you either need to go through the optional missions, or you need to just grind through random enemies.  Not many games use points these days, so having to trudge through the single-player taking out fodder to progress can get old quickly.

The story doesn’t make any sense, and quite frankly, if you try to make sense if it your brain will hurt.  For Jack’s story line, early you encounter Big Bull and his posse.  You’ll fight him, fight his gang, fight him some more, fight more of his fodder, and finally fight him a little more.  While you thought that he was trying to kill you, instead it was all a little initiation.  He calls you “brother” and he will help you out since you are in his gang now, something you never asked for.  Sure enough, he’ll show up later on to help Jack out of a sticky situation.  The story is full of moments like that.

Fortunately, there is multiplayer to make up for the deficiencies in the single-player.  It handles 16-player lobbies without issue.  Considering that this is a brawler where close-range combat and split-second timing is the name of the game, it holds relatively well.  Playing games like death match, tag team, and capture the flag play much differently when you don’t have the ability to attack from a distance.  There’s even a mode similar to American football, appropriately named Deathball.  While that might have been fun by itself, Platinum decided it wasn’t chaotic enough and created dynamic events like big rigs barreling through the level or planes crash landing.  An item slot machine might also be able to help you get items to increase your kill count if you are lagging behind.  While there isn’t any split-screen multiplayer, there are bots available, so you can continue to play even after the servers go offline.

Graphically the main characters look good, with plenty if details to differentiate them.  The color palate is bright, making it the opposite of your typical post-apocalyptic setting.  Powerful attacks can result in plenty of sparks, with particle effects spraying all around.  There are plenty of different gangs within the game, with some members within the same gang having different hats or gas masks.  Still, many of the characters use the same model with different color swaps.

The voice acting in Anarchy Reigns makes sense for the character.  Big Bull echoes since he is a cyborg, while Jack has the same gravelly voice that he has in MadWorld.  The tone is serious, but there are comic tones to some of the very strange dialogue.  The music is a high dose of metal with some rap sensibilities mixed in.  Let’s just say that I was glad that I was using my headphones while playing.

I really didn’t know what to expect from Anarchy Reigns when I got it.  While the single-player has several issues, the multiplayer makes up for it.  The $30 price tag helps as well.  I wouldn’t recommend this to every fan of beat-em-ups, but if you can handle the unique Platinum flavor, then it’s worth trying out.