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Review - Anarchy Reigns - Good, Dirty Brawling Fun

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Anarchy Reigns

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Anarchy Reigns is a hectic multiplayer-oriented brawler developed by Platinum Games and published by SEGA. It serves as a spiritual successor to Platinum Games' voyeristic beat 'em up MadWorld, which was released on the Nintendo Wii back in 2009. Anarchy Reigns follows protagonist Jack Cayman, a bounty hunter with a retractable chainsaw built into his arm, as he hunts down the officer responsible for killing his daughter.

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Playable Modes:

Anarchy Reigns has two major gameplay modes: the single player campaign, and a multitude of multiplayer modes.

The single player has players choose between veteran protagonist Jack or government agent Leo, as they travel through the anarchic cityscapes of the game in search of renegade agent Maximillian Caxton. The overarching story features a few bits of interesting melodrama: as mentioned, Max is responsible for the death of Jack's daughter, yet was Leo's mentor when the two worked together. But the character motivation doesn't really matter in the long run, as the plot boils down to stopping Max, while killing lots of thugs and freaks in the process. Simple enough. Go out and beat the snot out of stuff, because who cares? It's fun.

Each protagonist encounters and fights a portion of the playable cast on their adventure, which unlocks those respective characters for multiplayer play. Once the campaign mode is completed, players can replay these chapters with whichever character they wish and either try to earn a higher rank per mission, or just fool around and devastate the thug, mutant and cyborg populations of the world.

While replaying the single player adds to the game's replay value, it's the multiplayer and its assortment of crazy play modes that truly expands the life of the game. There are nearly a dozen different multiplayer modes to play with, from the bonkers 16-man Battle Royale, to Capture the Flag and Team Capture the Flag modes, to 4-player Deathmatch, to 2-player Cage Match, to co-op Survival, to an utterly unique brawling football mode called Death Ball (my personal favorite mode), among others.

Controls:

Anarchy Reigns features a multitude of playable characters alongside Jack and Leo - some are recurring characters from MadWorld, while others are all new personalities. Regardless of a character's origin, controls in Anarchy Reigns work the same way for all characters. Every character has two attack buttons, light and heavy, which can be strung together to form varying combos. Each character also has access to a "Killer Weapon" which is activated with the left trigger (or L2 on PS3 controllers). Jack, for instance, will protract his chainsaw. Players can combo with their killer weapon by holding down the trigger button while pressing the light or heavy attack buttons. Anarchy Reigns gives each character a grab/throw technique, which they can use to assault blocking enemies, or pick up environmental weapons.

On the defensive front, characters can block with the right trigger (or R2 on PS3 controllers), allowing them to deflect damage from enemies. Pressing the jump button while blocking results in a dodge maneuver. The jump and light attack buttons, when pressed simultaneously, initiate a 360º kickback attack that grants players temporary invincibility while at the same time giving them a bit of breathing room.

Finally, pressing the L3 and R3 buttons simultaneously activates a character's Rampage Mode, which behaves much like Gene's God Hand in God Hand. This ability allows players to attacking in a flurry of punches and kicks, Fist of the North Star style, dealing heavy damage to any poor opponent caught in the wake of the attacks. This ability can only be countered by another player in Rampage, initiating a button-mashing power-struggle when players clash. The player who loses the struggle is forced out of Rampage Mode and eats an enormous amount of damage.

All of these techniques combined make up the bulk of a character's actions in Anarchy Reigns.

General Gameplay:

Anarchy Reigns gives players plenty of environmental weapons and hazards to play with in addition to each character's base abilities, in much the same way that MadWorld did. Exploding barrels, vehicles, nitrogen tanks, street signs, etc. are strewn about the map, which players can pick up and throw at enemies. These items also have added effects - explosive objects will cause victims to ignite, nitrogen tanks will freeze opponents, and street signs will lock-up an enemy's controls when thrown - all of these effects can be capitalized on by smart players.

Helicopter drones will pop into single and multiplayer modes to attack players with projectile fire, missiles and buzz-saw attachments, but players can hijack the 'copter to use against opponents when the machine is damaged. This holds true for the flame throwing hovercrafts that harass players as well. Players can even hijack the massive mutants that pop into matches, if they weaken the beast's legs first.

Stages also throw in oddball hazards to menace players - airplanes will randomly crash into some maps, or seismic shifts will rearrange the map entirely. Monuments will fire off massive lasers across one stage, wheel excavators will scrape across platforms in another, while tornadoes will sweep cross yet another stage. Bomber jets routinely carpet-bomb all stages. Of course, enemies as well as players are vulnerable to this mayhem, which can be used to a cunning player's advantage.

To top this all off, there is also a small assortment of items players can use to help tip the scales in their favor. Sniper rifles, firebombs, stun grenades, satellite lasers, shielding barriers, missile launchers and stealth camouflage can all be used to thwart or outright kill enemies.
These elements combined make up the core of Anarchy Reigns' gameplay and all contribute to why the game is so fun. It's ludicrous and frantic, and even a little frustrating when you're on the receiving end, but a blast to play throughout.

The game has enough technical elements (juggles, cancels and combos) to make the combat fun and rewarding, but throws enough zany randomness into the mix to keep the experience light and silly. And the variety of multiplayer modes ensures that there are viable play modes for all players. Those who want to test their skill with a character may opt to play Cage Matches or Survival mode, while those looking for a fun brawling experience without too much madness may want to jump into 4-player Deathmatches.

Shortcomings:

Progress in the story campaign is made by earning points within each city hub. Optional missions and story missions open when a certain number of points are collected. Killing enemies is the easiest way to earn these points, but it is also the slowest method to earn them. Optional missions award players a large amount of points, but you may not necessarily earn the required number of points to progress to the next mission if you ranked poorly. Unless players earn a Gold rank or higher per mission, they will likely need to grind for points by killing enemies or re-doing missions. This can be tedious, even frustrating, for players new and unfamiliar with the game's combat, as they will be redoing the same missions repeatedly to just to make progress. This becomes less of an issue as the player gets better.

On the multiplayer front, Anarchy Reigns makes the bizarre choice of segregating multiplayer play into two camps - Ranked matches, and Player matches. Ranked matches, obviously, record your score on the leaderboards. But players are forced to play with random players, as there is no way to invite friends in Ranked matches. Finding a lobby of players for the game you want can be a tedious affair as well: I've waited some 15 minutes trying to get a Death Ball lobby to fill up, for example.

Regular players tend to stick to Player matches - a fact I was not privy to until I'd wasted a lot of time on the Ranked side of the spectrum. You can play with friends and you still earn experience while fighting in Player matches, so there's no real reason to play Ranked unless you actually care about your leaderboard status. I'm not entirely sure why Platinum Games decided to split-up the player base in this manner, but you have been warned - stick to Player matches if you want to play with friends and jump into games faster.

Finally, the lack of local multiplayer hurts. Truly, it is a disappointing thing to know that an over-the-top brawler of Anarchy Reigns' calibre was designed exclusively with online multiplayer in mind. Local split screen would have made Anarchy Reigns a terrific brawling party game, the likes of which haven't been seen since Power Stone. Alas, it doesn't do to bemoan what could have been, but hopefully Platinum Games will design this feature into future multiplayer-oriented games.

Conclusion:

All in all, Anarchy Reigns is a great brawler, offering up some very fun (and in many cases, unique) multiplayer modes to let loose in. Sure, the frantic free-for-all combat and erratic environments can cause frustration at times - sixteen players is too many, I feel - but the large number of multiplayer modes and the robust cast gives players plenty of content to sink their teeth into. And at a discounted price ($29.99), Anarchy Reigns is a title well worth the purchase.

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Video Game Trailers Examiner articles ©2013 by Gabriel Zamora; reposts permitted with link back to original article. All other rights reserved.

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