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Anarchy Reigns (Xbox 360) artwork

Anarchy Reigns (Xbox 360) review

"The multiplayer... the main focus of Anarchy Reigns and the obvious reason the game has been stripped of its former glory."

MadWorld is a title that took a very different approach from the usual 3D beat'em up offering, producing a charmingly violent and silly product for the Nintendo Wii. The black and white comic book visuals set the tone for the game's world, along with the surprisingly responsive controls that allowed you to chainsaw punks in half, slam them down toilets, shove champagne bottles down their throats, and throw them on spiked walls. The very fitting hip-hop/rap soundtrack and hilariously colorful commentary was the icing on the cake. Though the game has its share of flaws, some which I may have unintentionally dramatized in my review, they don't prevent it from being a fun and memorable title.

So it's to be expected that Anarchy Reigns was going to have similar gameplay with richer content. I mean, I wasn't expecting an exact replica, but at least hoped it'd share the same level of enjoyment and creativity. Shockingly, however, the game went in the opposite direction, either by flat out abandoning or minimizing what made MadWorld special. Immediately noticeable is the absence of the black and white presentation, trading them in for a modern look, closer in style to PlatinumGames' other titles, Bayonetta and Vanquish. The graphics look nice, but the abundance of bright colors to me feel out of place in a bleak and chaotic universe. It's very jarring to have these shiny characters, that look like they could be sold as a toyline for kids, running around ruined landscapes. Nitpicking? I dunno. It just feels like the black and white graphics fit the world better, while the new look is there to appeal to a wider audience.

Unfortunately, the flexibly fun motion controls that made you feel like you were accomplishing stuff and happy-go-lucky violence from the predecessor have been toned down, as well. In place of the original control setup is a very standard layout, making Anarchy Reigns perform like any other 3D beat'em up: a normal attack button, a strong attack button, a shoulder lock-on button, you get the point. It's awkward when the best improvements over MadWorld is how it's easier to evade attacks and lock-on faster. You can't even enjoy the grisly nature of the fights, as the game's maps, which range from a docking bay to a damaged shrine in a desert, now lack the various deathtraps and items scattered about. Tires, poles, vehicles, and exploding barrels are all that's available. Occasionally, you can hijack a floating platform with a flamethrower or a helicopter, but it's just not the same thrill.

Unlike MadWorld, even, Anarchy Reigns doesn't even encourage creativity, reducing gameplay to prolonged, repetitive mash-a-thons. Remember how you can whip out Jack Cayman's chainsaw immediately and gleefully cut people in half in the original? Not so in this follow up, since that attack has been scaled back as a special move that requires filling a bar through punching and charging up. You can't even pick up any goon and throw them at will! That option is now only regulated to specific enemies that are seconds away from exploding. When you grab any typical foe, you just sit back and watch a quick animation play out with your avatar pummeling the victim. Weak. Another kicker is how the goofy mini-games, Bloodbath Challenges, are also absent; no longer can you toss enemies in a jet engine or knock heads off with a golf club. As a consolation prize, Anarchy Reigns gives you disaster events, scripted moments that occur within each map that you must avoid, like a black hole or bombings from above. Er... yay?

You know what really, really sucks? Red blood has been changed to blue goo. The excuse PlatinumGames gives in the plot is that you're fighting mutants. Sure. Nevermind the fact that some of these mutants, like the giant orc with a sledgehammer, have appeared in MadWorld.

But is the single-player campaign mode still fun to an extent? Not at all. Doesn't even come close to MadWorld's entertaining and ludicrous experience. In comparison, especially with all those faults already mentioned, Anarchy Reigns' campaign trek is very monotone: you enter missions and defeat a certain number of enemies in a time limit, horde-style, using your atypical moveset. Hell, sometimes you don't get a specific number, just beat up easy red shirts until time runs out. Apparently this constitutes as fun. It's not. You'll have the exact same feeling of repetition from the start of the journey as you'll have when the finale is reached. I'd love to say the developers did campaign mode as an afterthought, but the thing is loaded with voice acting and flashy, highly-stylized cutscenes. If only they'd put this much effort into the play mechanics and design. Sadly, PlatinumGames pretty much force you to play the mode regardless, since it's the only method for unlocking new characters and gaining some abilities to use in multiplayer.

The multiplayer... the main focus of Anarchy Reigns and the obvious reason the game has been stripped of its former glory. So I guess the question that remains is: was it worth losing all the cool stuff for a streamlined online experience? I wanna say "not really". You're literally doing the same thing you did in campaign mode, beating the snot out of people, all with the exact list of moves, with the only real differences being that of the characters' individual animations. And considering melee is the main method of fighting, the closeness of combat ups the ante in terms of luck and less on skill, especially since up to 16 players can participate. This is spread across 11 modes, which sound like tons until you realize seven of the modes are just slight variations of deathmatch. The remaining four are two versions of capture the flag, a co-op horde mode, and what I found to be the most fun, Deathball, basically an American football mode where both teams pummel each other as the ball bounces and flies every which way.

I'll give the multiplayer credit for being slightly more entertaining due to bouts being played with and against real players. The disaster events actually play a more logical role, too, and can make or break a match for a team. However, as a multiplayer-based game made by a development team who's clearly lacking in that expertise, my problem with Anarchy Reigns is that it doesn't work well as a retail release. A title with this much simplicity and not as much content to justify its retail status, the game actually could have benefited greatly by being a download-only release with the campaign mode omitted. For all the hoopla Sega is getting for delaying Anarchy Reigns' international release beyond 2012, I'm surprised they didn't think about putting it on Games on Demand, or even thought of that from the start. I mean, considering their financial troubles, it would have been a smart way to save on money. But modern day Sega is being modern day Sega, I guess.

PlatinumGames, though, I'm more shocked about, because I've always looked forward to their games and have never been disappointed with their quality work. What truly bewilders me is how Anarchy Reigns ended up the way it did; considering their past titles share similar play mechanics, it's weird to see a barebones version of what they've done before. It's great they wanted to tackle something different, an online multiplayer experience, but it would have been best had they focused more on what they do best, making a solid single-player title. Multiplayer should have been an afterthought.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (September 09, 2012)

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