Published on January 8th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Cigar Smoke and Chainsaw Grease: Anarchy Reigns Review
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed]
Release Date: Jan. 8, 2013
Price: $29.99 (Yeah, you read right)
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
Anarchy Reigns couldn’t have come at a worst time.
The game releases into a world still mourning and ready to fillet anything negatively contributing to the condition of the human psyche.
While this is in no effort to persuade you in what to feel or my sentiments on the current plane of human connectivity, much like this video game, I am here to provide my experience and deliver something that may take you away from the real world for just a few moments.
For those not familiar with the series, the game follows Jack Cayman who is a “Chaser” or what is more commonly known as a bounty hunter.
The first installment to include Jack (MadWorld) was done in a graphic novel style. The game’s primary colors were black, white and of course, blood red. Anarchy Reigns borrows main character Jack Cayman as he hunts for Maximilian Caxton, one of his bounties. MadWorld is one of the more violent titles that can be found on the original Nintendo Wii, which is often referred to as a “kiddie” console due to its variety of family oriented games. The second coming of Jack is nothing short of a confetti burst of blood and tribute to its predecessor.
Straying away from the original stylized graphics, Anarchy Reigns is fit to meet the standards of beat’em up brawler titles of the current generation. The game has strayed from the black and white color scheme, but hasn’t left it 100 percent. Starting a new game allows you to choose between the “Black” or “White” side. Doing so allows you to follow intertwining story lines with the game’s characters crossing paths through each.
You may think you are out of the woods simply by beating either side of the story line. It’s easy to choose the “Black” side right away as that is the side that Jack is rollin’ with. This hints at the prior MadWorld release, but doesn’t keep the same game show theme as its back bone. Either way you go, this tongue and cheek brawler doesn’t hold much back. The “White” side journeys into a group of officers enlisted in the Milvallen Bureau of Public Safety (BPS). They too are on a chase but for differing reasons. Jack and the opposing crew have orders and are out to deliver their own brands of justice.
Anarchy Reigns is a bit different than what I thought it was going to be. At first glance it seemed this action brawler was to host a straight forward storyline and exploration to boot. The game features something similar to my thoughts, but is far different than most experiences out there.
Graphically, it was hit and miss. At times, landscapes were great to look at, but areas like the second level Port Valenda showcased blurry draw distances. When Leo’s blades appear, they are bright, sharp, and ready to battle, a heavy contrast to details in some of the environments.
The game might present itself as an open-world title, but it does so with the same essence of leveling up in mind. Instead of a player grinding for experience points, destroying enemies in varied melees will multiply point deliveries. Killstreaks are counted at the top of the screen while other bars indicate health, lives lost, special weapons and moves.
Combos and object kills can strategically drop enemies and rack up points. Points are allocated and must reach a specified goal in order to unlock each new level. For example, if you have the next mission opening at 70,000 points you must either A) defeat enemies until those points are accumulated, or B) rack those points up by completing missions. The levels progress the story line or simply provide an opportunity to, again, go berserk and bank more points.
Instead of introducing new moves throughout each level, new characters are brought to the table. Something unique about the game is the opportunity to drop into the boots of unlocked characters. This opportunity often comes after defeating them in battle. Characters like the “Pimpest Pimp” of them all, the Blacker Baron, or Russian hard-ass, Nikolai Bulygin, provide varying flavors in attacks. The game boasts a huge list of characters which is something even more promising for the online aspect of the game supporting up to 16 players. Moves and physics vary based on player builds, but most of which are either rogue-like speed like that of Leo, or built like a tank with moderate speed, Jack/Big Bull/Blacker Baron/Nikolai, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, the moves of the game are probably some of the most fun to use. The traditional weak and strong attacks are present. Using the ‘LT’ enacts your character’s Killer Weapon Attack. This comes in two flavors: Strong and Normal. For Jack, his mechanized Cyrbrid fist turns into a double-bladed chainsaw, chock full of blood and grease. It is fun to chain this move with combo attacks, giving more than just your traditional ‘LP+LP+SP’ set of combos.
The lock button ‘LB’ does prove useful yet wonky when more than two enemies are near. The block button ‘RB’ seemed like more of an afterthought, proving useful in only a handful of situations. Aerial attacks work well with chainsaw jabs and downward smashes, not to mention the traditional 360 degree attack (costs small tab of health) that clears overwhelming attackers.
In the genre, players must usually balance power moves with some sort of magic power (MP). In the case of Anarchy Reigns, a player’s special bar is filled when general contact or combos are achieved. The bar allows the use of Killer Weapon attacks. After being used, even if there isn’t any contact, these bars are depleted. Strategy in its use will either have you repeating a mission or becoming triumphant with the use of your Rage (‘LS’ + ‘RS’), Killer Weapon and Normal attacks. Power-ups grow in quality over the course of the game and are equally fun to use.
Your survival heavily relies on your mastery of these attacks, plus the use of the environment. Dismantling certain enemies like Drones makes them explode after the initial hits. Berserker Mutants (reptilian looking monstrosities) on the other hand can take a beating and a blatant tenacity in order to put a dent in their health bar. These aren’t as unforgiving as the Super Mutants, which are assholes to say the least. Executions for these beasts emphasize the game’s brutally elegant combat, gutting, and at times, relieving them of all limbs.
Often, the difficulty is masked with unforgiving attacks and unrelenting enemies. Figuring patterns are interrupted with onslaughts of new drones. You’ll likely throw your controller or flip the closest table. That is, unless something like missiles or sniper rifles are nearby. Reading enemy descriptions will also save time as they reveal interesting tidbits useful during combat. Utilizing weapon pickups can significantly drop an enemy’s health—and your boiling blood pressure.
Even though the combat can be brutal, I would have liked to see more options in executions of these enemies when your Rage is enacted. There are variations only based on character and beast, not power level. Achieving a full special bar and the ghost flames aren’t as special without expelling both their contents.
What would any beat ’em up title be without a sparking difficulty anyhow?
The game does have a heavy difficulty at times, but it is bearable. It is not so much felt in the swarms of Killseekers (the mindless grunts or goons of the game) wielding flaming bats, or the standard mechanized ninja. No, the difficulty can be found within most of the more heavy-hitting juggernauts as mentioned before. Bigger enemies aren’t necessarily difficult to defeat if played right, but can be overwhelming when attacks or power-ups aren’t managed.
Any given mission or goal to complete is based on a few factors. Entering a level and completing its mission, whether it’ll be slaying 50 enemies or defeating Cthulhu, a pulse shielded tower of pummel, proves challenging in the most part due to time constraints. Battling the clock and time management is often as difficult as the enemies themselves.
The sounds of the game are something worth mentioning. Much like the soundtrack from that of MadWorld, the speedy raps and upbeat punk sound do more than just carry players from blow-to-blow. One of the first times that a Cyrbrid Joe (drone style kick boxer with a mean bite) was encountered, it was like he was hot-steppin’ to the beat, ready to lay down a whoopin’.
Mixing of both futuristic beats and bludgeoning combat of the game work seamlessly to create a new style for that of Anarchy Reigns. That, and the vulgarity in which it reaches. The Blacker Baron is by far one of my favorites, droppin’ lines that would make the inhabitants of “South Park” blush.
The dialogue of the game is nothing short of what you’d find in most bro-hymn action movies. Although, I did find it was a bit more meaningful than the usual one-liners and taglines with quality voice acting. It was just too bad the lip-sync was stubbornly off more than half the time. The game loosely provides a story line but fails to really explain where the Killseekers are stemming from or where they run off too when they get too scared of your militant anarchy. It does however provide more into the story of Jack and the BPS crew through their constant bickering and playful jabs.
“A Kraken? F*ck me!”-Leo
The game shines on many levels, but confusion has to be one of the hindrances. Playing the game over time will get you acclimated to its structure. There are four levels in the main story, each holding missions within those sections. For example, when a new level is reached, (the game opens up to Altambra, a city filled with villains and goons) regardless of side you choose, the areas in the city can be explored.
Safes with concept art and power-ups are littered over the exploratory portions of the map. This gives more meaning to the level design more than just beating enemies and scouring it to complete missions.
Be wary of your adventures; in any given moment bombings, poisonous gas or rampant big rigs could ruin your fun. Dying in the city during free roam portions resets your kill count and calls for an immediate respawn. Other than the annoyance of death and waiting, there really isn’t a threat of losing at any point of the game. Missions can be replayed for higher medals and points aren’t lost.
It was a bit confusing at first to traverse each level and its open-world-like experiences, especially with the extra environment events occurring. While they did prove challenging, annoying at times, they did add to the challenge of getting from point A to B, thus prolonging the experience. Even encountering our first official boss, the Big Bull wasn’t quite what I expected. These boss battles are enacted through seeking out mission beacons and activating them to play the level. I would have liked to see more interactive items like throwable objects or more deathtraps to throw enemies to. The flame pit where the Big Bull was located would have been perfect for a few fiery deaths.
There is enough content within each level for high replay value. Missions are deconstructed having goals in mind. As mentioned before, killing enemies and defeating the clock is on the table for most of these. Bonuses are dealt in vitality, time and “tries” or lives, left. Medals are earned by being successful in not losing lives or crushing the clock.
The multiplayer of the game introduces characters from the game’s story line. Levels and matches are opened up for each character to partake in; power-ups are changed from single slots turned on through the directional pad, but rather are continuous over the multiplayer battle. Time constraints will do the same to limit your ‘anarchy’ but act more as a challenge for big teams. This is something that gives major value to the game considering the price point and bang for your buck. The additional promises of DLC are simply the icing on the cake.
There is more to say about the multiplayer, but only local co-op was journeyed through. It might seem like there is, however, replay value in the multiplayer. Offers of additional levels via DLC and character content will be sure to keep the game fresh and a continuous blast.
As a beat’em up action goes, the game holds its own. We don’t know what the future holds, and cybernetic limbs could very well be a possibility. With the promise/threat of mechanized bodies there is no telling what power can do to people.
Anarchy Reigns brings Jack back and his lust for brutality. Over the course of the game, players become familiar with his chainsaw bearing fists and brawling ways. With a light story line, the game reveals more about the seemingly heartless bounty hunter. It may not introduce anything exceptionally new to the genre, but it does however bring a fun brawler to the table.
The game boasts a $29.99 retail price, DLC, additional in-game content and 16 player multiplayer battle royale. There is a ton of stuff packed into a deal of a game.
While the game may not appeal to everyone, those who are looking for a kick ass time filled with black eyes and muddy bloody chainsaws are in for more than a two stroke choke.
+ Pricing: Bang for your buck (SRP: $29.99)
+ Character Unlocks/Content
+ Online Multiplayer
+ / – Storyline
+ / – Missions can be repetitive
– Confusing user interface (UI)