Games have misleading titles. There’s nothing final about Final Fantasy, you don’t poke anyone in Pokemon, and Batman never made an appearance in Project Gotham Racing. Anarchy Reigns, however, stays true to its name. Created by Platinum Games, the studio behind cult classics like Bayonetta and Vanquish, this third-person brawler is the epitome of absolute chaos.
From the moment you set foot into the game’s post-apocalyptic environs, you’re soaked in blood, gore, mutants and a seamlessly unending wave of pandemonium. Be it taking down rampaging monsters or avoiding black holes (randomness, thy name is Platinum), you’ll never feel short of devoting your entire attention span to duking it out in a world packed with a variety of events.
Picture this – you’re tasked with making a bunch of blood thirsty mutants meet the business end of a chainsaw. Sounds simple enough? Sure. Until you realise that the game throws in speeding vehicles hellbent on running you over, sends a squadron of aircraft to carpet bomb the entire level, decides to throw venomous mist spouting flora in your general direction or simply all three along with the aforementioned black holes.
Simply put, this is not your father’s beat ’em up. After all, there’s a story too. Anarchy Reigns has you in the role of Jack Cayman, a man with a chainsaw latched onto his mechanical arm. Some of you might know him as the protagonist from one of Platinum’s earlier titles, MadWorld, which was a Wii exclusive. Your mission is to seek out a fugitive named Maximillian Caxton (hence the Japanese title Max Anarchy, I guess).
The game also has you playing as Leo, also on the look out for Max, who was his mentor. You can play either campaign first and both segments are diverse in terms of bosses and events. Even each character handles differently, with Jack being a heavier, damage dealing tank, while Leo ends up being a nimbler, agile combatant.
While the plot may be sparse, it is well narrated via cutscenes that have an 80s anime vibe going for it, with an over the top, stylised approach that fits in just fine. There are campy moments and witty one-liners that elicit a lot more than just a chuckle. A word of caution: you’d do well to ensure people who are sensitive to hearing abuse (i.e. parents, younger siblings, better halves, etc) are out of the area as the game doesn’t hold back the f-bombs at all.
One thing that won’t have you swearing is the controls. They’re well thought out and easy to get a hang of. There are heavy and light attacks as well as the ability to block enemy moves and grab items. Click the analog sticks and you’ll be invincible for a short time. There’s a gauge which lets you use your character’s “killer weapon”, accessible with the press of a trigger. In Jack’s case, it’s a gigantic chainsaw and in Leo’s, blades.
Compared to Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns feels slightly staggered in terms of flow. The former had you persevering for that perfect, never-ending combo, a non-stop flurry of attacks if you will. However, this lets you string your fists of fury depending on the delay between button presses. It’s a subtle but important difference that makes it a lot less punishing for newbies to the genre.
Furthermore, it sports a free camera that lets you lock on to enemies. Given the nature of the combat that has you battling a myriad of mutants as well as avoiding a slew of environmental hazards, being able to switch between giving your opponents a free-aim or focussed pummelling quickly is ideal.
And pummel you will. When you’re done with the robust single-player campaign, you can choose from the 18 available characters to duke it out online. Borrowing from shooters, you not only have the option to have at it in the usual death match and team death match modes, but there’s also capture the flag and horde mode, to name a few.
At it’s worst, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of a beating from highly skilled players that would leave you feeling emasculated. Such is Anarchy Reigns’ learning curve online. The best case scenario has 16 powered up players in an absolute battle royale, what with the madness of the game’s environments translating into multiplayer. All in all, it’s a highly enjoyable affair that will have you playing long after you’re done with the solo event.
In terms of eye candy, it looks great in motion. Be it decapitations or simply dodging an attack, the screens don’t do justice. This is one game that’s better than it looks. Aurally, the eclectic mix of hip-hop, pop and electronic beats gel quite well with the onscreen ruckus. The talent might be no-name, but the tracks are solid and worth a listen if you have a disposition towards the these genres of music.
On the whole, Anarchy Reigns feels like a gamer’s game. There’s oodles of satisfying violence, over the top characters and a sense of absurdity that we haven’t had the chance to revel in since God Hand on the PS2. A rare game that delivers on both ends of the spectrum; it’s fantastically fun to play and it’s title actually rings true.
Now, if there only was a way to get Batman in Project Gotham Racing…