Anarchy Reigns: Old Chainsaw, New Tricks

By Kris . January 13, 2013 . 3:00pm

“It’s not the tool, compadre, it’s how you fuck people up with it!”

 

This is how chainsaw-wielding Madworld protagonist, Jack Cayman, justifies his choice of weapon to the high-tech “Cybrid” lawkeeper Leonhardt “Leo” Victorion in a particularly snarky mid-battle exchange in Anarchy Reigns, and curiously enough, that seems to be the game’s design mentality.

 

You see, Anarchy Reigns’s combat is a little bit like a chainsaw, simple and maybe a bit rusty. It uses the tried and true square-is-light-attack, triangle-is-heavy-attack, circle-is-grab layout that we’ve seen before. Changing things up a bit is the “Killer Weapon” modifier (L2), which will activate whatever your character’s weapon of choice is, allowing you access to more damaging and wider reaching attacks as long as you have your Killer Weapon gauge filled. Light killer attacks can be chained together (costing one bar per attack out of a full gauge of four ) and heavy killer attacks cost two bars and will treat you to a fancy little mini-cutscene of your character eviscerating your opponent if it connects properly.

 

You’ve also got a “Rampage” gauge that fills slowly, but causes your character to burst into flame and attack ludicrously fast while giving you unlimited use of your Killer Weapon.  It’s solid, if workmanlike stuff, but I never was blown away by what the combat allowed me to do. However, as Jack says, the tool isn’t what’s important, and Anarchy Reigns has a lot of interesting ways to “fuck people up.”

 

Anarchy Reigns is not a game that’s meant to be played alone, but it still provides a single-player campaign with a rather baffling story about governmental and legal system corruption and a revenge plot that doesn’t really go anywhere, but going through it feels disjointed. When you start a campaign, you choose which of two stories you want to play through. Black Side is about Jack and his quest for revenge against/bounty hunt for the seemingly insane ex-cop master of “Cybrid Arts” Maxwell Caxton. White Side has Leo hunting down Max as well, but their mentor-student relationship has him looking for answers instead of blood.

 

Regardless of which side you choose, you’ll be tasked with going through the four main maps and beating on the really weak, practically un-comboable cannon fodder enemies until you get enough points for the first side mission to show up. There are quite a few side missions where you’ll be tasked with killing a set amount of enemies in a set amount of time, with enemy difficulty ranging from the typical rabble you can kill two hits to the giant reptilian Berserkers who can kill you in two hits. The harder the enemies get, the more fun the missions become.

 

Cybrid Joes (a human-sized robot with a hand-to-hand fighting style aided by fire), for example, have a number of heavy-damage attacks that it’s impossible to knock them out of, so fighting them becomes an exercise in learning when to stop attacking and dodge. If you simply try to mash square against them like you can do with most of the other enemies in the game, you’ll get kicked in the head. It teaches you to be more reserved and learn to watch the enemy more carefully as you attack.

 

Other side missions get a bit weirder. You might be knocking giant spheres into goals, carrying a briefcase from one point of a map to another, racing a hovercraft around a changing makeshift racecourse (and running over enemies in the process), or a ride on a giant berserker that culminates in a kaiju-esque battle with a giant mech called Cthulu.

 

However, the side missions kind of feel like half-finished ideas and are rarely as fun as the main missions, which generally stick to the one-on-one or team battle format (with occasional injections of cannon fodder). I’ve long been a proponent of more “human-sized” bosses in action games, and the main missions are mostly a collection of just that. Aside from containing some zingy and profane dialogue, these fights pit you against enemies who basically have the same toolset you do and  give you an opportunity to experiment with how your combos would work against another player. For instance, I spent a lot of time during boss fights figuring out how to properly launch a stunned enemy, start an air combo, then finish them off with an aerial heavy Killer Weapon attack throughout most of Jack’s main missions.

 

However, some of the shine drops away when you finish one “side” of the story and the game unceremoniously denies you an ending until you… do practically the same thing with the other character. It’s the same format all over again, with the same cannon fodder enemies, but a couple of different missions. It seems like the game would be better served with a more traditional fighting game-y progression, with each character having a shorter story, but as it stands you’ve just got Jack and Leo with occasional options to play as other characters.

 

That said, despite how repetitive and occasionally underwhelming campaign is, it’s basically training for online multiplayer, familiarizing you with shortcuts through each stage and unlocking (almost) every character. However, even with the extended training mode that is campaign (and mostly platinum ranks in each main and side mission), I was immediately stomped when I went online.

 

My first Team Deathmatch basically resulted in each member of my team lining up one by one to get destroyed by a team that worked very well. That match, I got my team’s only two kills. I also got a painful taste of what the game calls ATEs (Action Trigger Events). Every so often, something random will happen in the map. Maybe a bomber bombs on everyone or a black hole will open up and send players all around the map. It’s chaos that isn’t always welcome (because a number of them like to trigger an overlong unskippable cutscene right in the middle of one of your combos), but it kept things interesting, even as my team was decimated.

 

My first 16-player Battle Royale was similarly unfortunate, but I learned that being an opportunist paid off. The game marks the players with the most points (gained by hitting or killing enemies) on the map with little crowns, and killing them will transfer a sizable chunk of those points to you, a rule that carries through practically every online mode. Playing like a hyena and only running into the chaos to pick off a player with low health can be handy, especially since each kill will bring you closer to “leveling up” which extends your health bar. This in turn makes it easier for you to win one-on-one brawls, but will make you a more attractive target since you’ll net your killer more points.

 

But Deathmatch (4 player free-for-all), Team Deathmatch (4 vs. 4), Tag Battle (2 vs. 2 vs. 2 vs. 2)  and Battle Royale (16 player), and other typical match setups are only a part of Anarchy Reigns’s multiplayer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Survival, because it’s basically campaign mode condensed and made harder. Here, cannon fodder are actually comboable, able to take more than two hits, and they come at you across 10 waves. You have 10 minutes to clear the whole thing with two allies (optimally friends) and the last wave either a giant boss from campaign or something similarly challenging (my personal favorite was an assortment of colorful robots that posed like Power Rangers). It’s lighthearted stuff for when you’re frustrated over constant death in one of the other modes and just want to relax with friends.

 

Death Ball was another mode that was more fun than it had any right to be.  Two teams of four battle over control of a shiny light, (which will be knocked from one player to another with a good hit) and if one team holds it for long enough, the opponent’s goal opens. From there, the person who has the ball can either run the ball into the goal or take a shot. Some shots are particularly flashy, but they can also be blocked if you get in front of the ball and mash the button that’s prompted onscreen fast enough. You’ll see strategies develop on the fly. Some players will just run around in their half of the court until the enemy’s goal opens up, some players will just try to kill the other team’s top scorers so they can’t score, and other players will just run blocks. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a “sports” game since Tecmo Bowl on the NES.

 

Perhaps my biggest complaint with the game is the grievous lack of local multiplayer. There’s an active online community at the moment, but the fact that I can’t just bring friends over to enjoy a game of Death Ball is tragic. I still play Power Stone 2 with my friends, and this taps into some of that same joy, but it’s just a shame that it only lets me play by myself or online.

 

While Anarchy Reigns might not be the most enjoyable tool from a sheer combat perspective, the game does a lot with what it has. It can be absolutely infuriating at times (coming in last in a Battle Royale while playing who are mostly rank 50 one of my earlier matches stands out, as does the slog of the repeated campaign), but it also has moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

 

Food for Thought:

1. I want to make note of the fantastic soundtrack. Naoto Tanaka’s hip-hop collaborations just make this game. While some of the lyrics are a bit silly, they set the tone really well for whatever game type you’re playing. I can’t imagine the game with any other music else behind it, because the soundtrack is so distinctive and so unusual for this kind of game.

 

2. While I didn’t particularly care for the story, the profanity-and-innuendo-laden banter got a couple of chuckles out of me, partially due to some strong voice acting. I do think that they used the “Bullshit” pun with Big Bull one too many times though.


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  • Nitraion

    Its been a while since i enjoy multiplayer targeted game like this :D

  • kaizin

    same here still wish it had local multiplayer but all in all this game is really fun

    • Nitraion

      While its true…but split screen is kinda trouble…

  • Revorse

    The games pretty wacky story line wise. From what I’ve seen. It’s enjoyable chaos. Something that I could have seen Suda doing with his wide array of Characters. But Plantniums got some cool mutha fuckas to play around with too.

  • HappyOnion

    really enjoyable game,was well worth the killer wait. gotta say that i am pleasantly surprised by how well platinum pulled off a good battle system and managed to balance that with all the crazy modes. heres hopin the community stays alive.

  • Akai Ringo

    i’ve been playing this game with the Japanese dialogue on. Its pretty phat. There are some pretty great seiyuu hiding behind those sexy girls…

    • Asura

      In this strange universe, in the sub v. dub debate you would actually be on the dub side. OH WHAT A WORLD!

  • z_merquise

    I didn’t expect much for the story especially for beat-em-up like this. It’s kind of like fighting game stories where you’ll expect it not to be good yet it would make you still interested to see how they interact with each other. But at least the dialogue exchange and the banter are really fun and mostly hilarious. Also, the fights in the cutscenes are really bad-ass and a real treat to watch.

    The multiplayer mode is where the game truly shine. It’s very fun and you can also enjoy it offline with AI bots. I mostly play Survival Mode. Beating up thugs, gun-toting robots and hulking monsters together with another players is really fun.

    And yeah, local multiplayer is a missed opportunity. This game would be much better if they did include it. Still, it’s a fun game and worthy of purchase. Highty recommend if you’re looking for a new beat-em-up game.

    • Solomon_Kano

      While I’d have loved some couch action with the game, I can imagine it’d probably get to be too much to keep track of. I mean, the action gets hectic enough not having to share the screen, I’d probably be distracted as all hell if I had to give up half of it (or 3/4 if they did 4 player local multi). If they could work it out though, I’d be down.

      It’s a pity the game didn’t really do well in Japan, because that’s something they definitely could’ve worked out given another go at it. Ah well.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvyMizuhashi Garyuu of Spades

        It’s also a pity that the sales in the west might not be any bigger with all that poor advertising, or lack thereof.

        • Solomon_Kano

          No advertising, niche appeal to start with, and the middling reviews guarantee that we won’t be seeing better sales here. Which is a terrible shame, because the game’s a hell of a lot of fun. I think if the gaming environment were the same as last gen the game probably would’ve had a better shot. Hey, maybe it’ll achieve cult status like God Hand*!

          *God Hand which, btw, Anarchy Reigns is apparently twice as good as according to IGN lol.

          GH
          http://www.ign.com/articles/2006/10/10/god-hand-review

          AR
          http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/01/11/anarchy-reigns-review

  • Draparde

    yeah i would have loved Local multiplayer since i often have friends over. maybe even alowing split screen online like some other games do.

    even so the game is very fun and addicting XD.

  • Cameron Ward

    I loved this game. i put my self in the mindset to enjoy this game and i just loved it!!!!!

  • Solomon_Kano

    I will say that a number of the campaign’s boss fights almost make the monotony worthwhile. The Kraken fight was crazy fun. All the repetition in the campaign (though Jack’s is made somewhat more interesting by the Baron popping up time and again) is easily made up for by the online though. Goodness gracious does online make up for it.

    This is probably the most fun I’ve had with multiplayer since Goldeneye 64. The combat’s a bit more shallow than what Platinum’s known for, but the sheer chaos of getting 16 players together online is something else. Being in the middle of a combo only to get tossed by a giant truck with a chainsaw grill and flames spewing out the exhaust is frustrating in the greatest way possible, so much so that I couldn’t even be mad. Platinum took something that should’ve been aggravating and made it hilarious, so props for that.

    It won’t be for everyone but, at $30, I really can’t recommend this game enough. The OST itself is worth the price of admission.

  • TruSpindash

    I am planning to renew my Live subscription just for this game, considering how much fun it is playing the online mode with just the bots. Although the single player campaign was relatively weak, their were some high points sprinkled within certain missions and boss battles.
    Also for anyone that wants it Gamestop mistakenly printed the PS3 DLC code on my receipt, AGED-95NR-F7T3.

    • Herok♞

      well it might have still worked for you and did you call and get a replacement code?

      • TruSpindash

        The code for 360 is longer than the PS3 one, but the guys at Gamestop were nice enough to give me the correct code when I called them about it.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Ojsinnerz Firo_Prochainezo

    Best 30 dollars I’ve spent on a console game this gen, and a great way to start 2013!

  • TrevHead

    Most MP games don’t gel with me but this does, great fun. Goddam love the character design especially Bull.

  • MediaMindControl

    Game is awesome despite the clunky mechanics in many parts of the game. I’ve awaited something like this all gen and I’m pretty happy with this as is. The presentation reminds me much of grasshopper’s work on games for suda 51 a lot! Particularly the execution in many of the mini games and especially that map where you ride the flying platform to race. I could see that being a mini game in NMH. This game though, reminds me so much of Heavy metal for dreamcast and I hope this game sparks more games of this genre. I agree with you, the music makes this game so much better and I find myself leaving it on to listen to music while I play p4g on my Vita.

  • Nemesis_Dawn

    Does the PS3 version have a custom soundtrack option? I’m trying to figure out which version to buy. I prefer the Dualshock controller over the 360 controller, but I kind of hate rap and everytime I watch a video of this on Youtube, I have to turn the volume off. I’d like something more enjoyable on it, like the Godhand soundtrack or metal.

    • Nemesis_Dawn

      Looked it up on GameFAQS and according to that site, the PS3 version doesn’t support that, so I guess I will be buying the 360 version. Want to support this game, but don’t want to have to suffer through that soundtrack.

  • thaKingRocka

    I’ve only played a couple of hours, but those hours have been hugely disappointing. The campaign is structured so miserably. I am sick and tired of hubs and the enemies all die in two hits. When they die, they take too long to fade away, so I’ve wasted effort trying to follow up when they enemies haven’t yet turned into blue blobs.

    I went online for a match and got utterly destroyed. I could barely get a hit in. I was constantly double-teamed and/or juggled, and I felt like I had no chance to learn. This sent me back to the SP to learn, but the SP was so boring and slow with Jack and Big Bull, and there is so much less feedback than there should be.

    I was so excited for this game. I liked the demo, and thought the full game would really deliver more and better content. So far, it seems I was wrong. I hope I’m wrong about being wrong though.

    • TrevHead

      You could always play with Sasha in one of the smaller arenas.

      • thaKingRocka

        I tried playing with her in the MP training/simulator. It felt like a totally different game. I think I need to just cut my losses and walk away from this game. Biggest disappointment of 2013 may have come early. :P

        • Chris Yuen

          I’m not that big of a fan of multiplayer as well, but I joined in just for the heck of it. Learn to block, evade. Spin master is a good ability if you are just starting off, like me. Sooner or later, you will start learning how to target other players or chase after them.

  • Kitestwinblades

    Its a Platinum Game kicking off a new year!
    I think that already says everything XD

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