Anarchy Reigns, the latest title from the action masters at Platinum Games, is the Power Stone successor I've long desired. Anarchy Reigns combines Power Stone's multi-tiered environments with Fist of the Northstar's post-apocalyptic urban chaos (and exploding defeated foes), adds a first-person shooter's massive and varied multiplayer modes, and coats it with the insane combat featured in Platinum Games' own God Hand and Mad World. That said, Anarchy Reigns stands as its own title thanks to a deeper-than-expected fighting engine that should appeal to both the button-mashers and hardcore types. It's Platinum's most daring game to date and, for the most part, the developer manages to hit all its marks. I reviewed the Xbox 360?version, but Anarchy Reigns is also available on PlayStation 3.
The Action Pack
The game's set in a post-apocalyptic world where cybernetic technology is the norm and a cybernetic police force oversees a wrecked city plagued by gangs and hulking, reptilian mutants. You choose one of two characters (Jack or Leo), and switch between various characters as the tale unfolds. That's all you need to know. It's a skeleton of a story that propels the single-player experience and gives you "reason" to place a fist squarely in a thug's face. You earn points from defeated enemies to unlock new areas of the massive game world. This leads to some RPG-like grinding, but Anarchy Reigns keeps things fresh by including vehicles to hijack, multi-level stages, and Action Trigger Events (random events such as an out-of-control truck or poison gas that add another level of danger).
There are 16 diverse characters (17 including the Bayonetta pre-order DLC bonus) with fighting styles that range from the quick and deadly to brutish powerhouse. Each fighter has an array of standard moves, grabs, weapon-based attacks, and specials that drain either the power or health bars, as well as kill moves that utterly obliterate enemies. Combat has a distinct and satisfying rhythm. You can, certainly, button mash to your heart's content, but learning a character's move set and timing is key to mastery. For example, quickly tapping the light attack button may result in two consecutive jabs, but if you place a slight delay between the two inputs, you may unleash a punch > blowback attack (depending on the character used). Regardless of how you plan your attack, the result is a stylish flurry that makes you look and feel like a fighting champ.
Counters, evasions, reversals, and blocks comprise the defensive move set. Power ups scattered across the battlefield include the likes of health packs and rocket launchers.
Visual and Audio Style
Anarchy Reigns cast of wacky characters have the patented Platinum Games touch that combines the futuristic, the wild, and dramatic. Characters, for the most part, are fluidly animated statuesque figures who brawl in spacious levels. There are a few instances where the graphics don't hold up, however; characters sometimes appear to skate across puddles of water rather than actually running through it. A minor gripe, I know, but one that stood out.
The official soundtrack (available for purchase via Amazon MP3 and iTunes) features lots of beefy hip-hop tracks that blend well with the game's urban madness. Underground Los Angeles-based legends, Dilated Peoples, also contribute a track that features lyrics that tie into the game. It's refreshing, considering that hip hop is one of the world's most popular musical styles, to see rap tracks used outside of dance and rhythm games.
That all goes out the window when you dive into Anarchy Reigns' many multiplayer modes. Like the Call of Duty or Battlefield games, Anarchy Reigns focuses on online combat. Sixteen players can mix it up in a variety of game modes that include Team Battle, Co-op Survival, Capture the Flag, and many more. There's a lot to do online and, thankfully, my multiplayer sessions suffered little lag.
The sheer number of characters tossing items, performing combos, and executing kill moves turns a potentially skilled-based action-fighter into a mess of flailing limbs; it also makes positioning the camera a chore. Multiplayer is much more tolerable in small numbers, but as the player count approaches double digits you're likely to have nearly every potential combo attack interrupted by you being attacked. I would've much preferred a four to six person player cap. Deathball is the multiplayer highlight as it drops you into a Rugby-like game that's incredibly entertaining. There isn't, however, any offline multiplayer modes, which is a shame. Anarchy Reigns has the chops to be a great party game.
King of the Hill
Anarchy Reigns may have some multiplayer issues due to its chaotic nature, but that very element?mad brawling?is part of the game's overall appeal. The fighting engine is deceptively simple, but those who want a deeper experience will discover that there are a very solid number of moves to master. It's a testament to Platinum Games unique take on action that Anarchy Reigns isn't a bland brawler?the insanity and constant stream of fist fodder makes it one well worth your dollars.
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