Now before going into detail about this review I think it would be a good idea first to give you guys a low down as to how this game ended up on shelves in the US and Europe. When the game was first released it was called Max Anarchy however it was only released in Japan so the only way western audiences would hope to get it would be to import it for the PS3 or Import it for a chipped Xbox 360. The strange thing about the once was Japanese exclusive was that it was fully localised. All English text and subtitles and all English voice actors meant that there was no reason not to import it in, however that would mean paying a lot more on top of the game due to import tax. So, after six months of waiting, the game gets a western release but is it all it's cracked up to be?
Anarchy Reigns is a beat 'em up action game from Platinum Games, the same guys that have released other SEGA titles as Mad World, Bayonetta and Vanquish. They always did excel at creating fast paced action games and this is no exception.
The game takes place in a very Mad World styled world, with a mix between post apocalyptic environments, over the top Asian cities and desert wastelands. There is a lot of Mad World inspiration with the art style and the level designs in this game. When I was just running around the areas looking for bad guys to beat up and missions to complete, I kept feeling as if I was playing Mad World with colour. This isn't a negative however, if anything it's a positive because the art style comes through to complement the characters involved and the bloodshed that follows.
Now the campaign was surprisingly better than I originally thought. I have played Mad World and Vanquish before and so I know that Platinum Games is very skilled with creating interesting and immersive storylines. In the case of Anarchy Reigns I was expecting the story to be a little lack lustre due to the games emphasis on multiplayer beat 'em up combat. However I was greatly surprised when I started playing.
The campaign is split into two, the white side where you play as Leo and the Black side when you play as Jack. Leo, along with the fellow members of the Bureau, team up to look for their long time partner gone rogue Max who has been sentenced to death after allegedly killing his wife. As you play as Jack you go through the game also looking for Max, this time however to find revenge since he discovers Max was the one that killed his daughter. These stories intertwine with one another and upon completing one the player is automatically jumped back to the beginning of the other so that they can find the true ending of the game. There is one thing during the cut scenes of the game however that seem a little too hastily done and look poor. Before going toe to toe with some of the major bosses in the campaign you have an introductory cut scene to show a little bit of smack talk from either side. The problem with this is that there is no lip synching what so ever and their mouths are just yapping around to the dialogue. This infuriated me as the rendered cut scenes where really well executed, just seems as if there was a lack of dedication when it came to making these scenes.
Leo and Jack's characters are really well done, you get to look into their backgrounds and learn why they are looking for Max, giving you a reason to feel for the characters and how they act as they do. The problem I have with this is the reason why Max has suddenly gone on a mass killing spree. The reason as to why this occurs is due to his excessive driving and drug abuse which for me doesn't do the story justice. It would have been a better idea to say that his 'Cybrid-Arts' where malfunctioning causing the tech inside of him to take control. It didn't ruin the story completely for me but it did leave the main antagonist on a sour note. Also, Max's involvement in the White side's story makes more sense than that of the Black side's story due to Max having a connection to Leo. The black side is more about Jack fighting his inner demons rather than finding the man who killed his daughter, which I think is an interesting twist and I like it.
Now let's talk combat. This is the key area that the game excels at. Throughout the game as you fight multiple hordes of enemies you can dispose of them in many ways from doing simple to use single button combos to extravagant 100 hit combos using a mix of juggles, grapples, punches and weapon attacks. Each character has a completely different set of moves and styles giving you the chance to see who you like best. The only tedious part however is that in order to unlock all the roster for online play, you must complete the campaign in it's entirety. I can understand that the developers want you to get use to the game but if you want to get used to stringing together combos and using different moves there is a tutorial mode that allows you to try out all the different moves, so you shouldn't have to be forced into something.
Combat feels fast paced and very rewarding, especially when you can go from fighting guys with cattle prods to giant mutants from the sewers. Later in the game the enemies to get tougher, variants of the seemingly easier enemies start showing up and it adds more of a challenge to the regular game which is pretty good.
There are a few complaints I have with the campaign however that tie in with the combat. First are the missions, they are diverse and have a lot of variety as to what you can do however selecting a mission can be a hassle. In order to select a mission you have to go to the mission marker in the over world, stand still for a few seconds for the prompt to come up then press the select/back button in order to start the mission. This can be incredibly annoying since you have enemies chasing after you or up to 5 mutants wanting to decimate you whilst you try to stand still. The second complaint has to do with the difficulty of the missions. After each one you are rewarded with a rank ranging from bronze to platinum. In some of the missions getting the platinum rank is incredibly difficult whilst in others its just too simple. The difficulty spikes on missions that involve big enemies like mutants but drops heavily when it just involves you using a weapon to kill as many enemies as possible. It just doesn't feel balanced and can be a hindrance to some gamers that are just looking for an even challenge.
Now I can't talk about this game without covering the multiplayer. I can sum it up in three words, it is fun. The game play can change depending on the available game modes, the action is faced paced and riveting as you go toe to toe with your friends and the satisfaction you feel after winning a match is extraordinary. It is like they have been able to simulate the feel you get from beating Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat or defeating Ryu Hyabusa in Dead or Alive. It makes you feel as if you could be standing over an arcade booth with your friends playing this game which to me is a great feeling.
Overall the game was very enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone that has played anything from Platinum Games before as well as those who enjoy games like Devil May Cry and Street Fighter. Although the game is solid with a lot of concentration on the combat, the roster of characters and the game modes, there feels like something is missing from the campaign to make it stand out more. Check out my final score below and be sure to post your impressions of Anarchy reigns in the comments.
Solid mission structure, combat is amazing and the storyline overall is a very good experience to behold.
The graphics are great for the art style the game aims for. There are no real graphical demands on the console that helps it run smoothly however the game could have a more variant coulour palette than just blacks and dark colours complementing by light yellows and reds.
Fantastic soundtrack. All the songs in this game are really great and have even been released as an album online. A must have for all players that truly love their in-game soundtracks.
The game is presented well, with a few flaws. Although the lip synching and cutscenes are done to a good standard, the pre-boss fight cutscenes are messy and create a sense of laziness with the design.
Althought the main campaign spans two story arcs, as well as an unlockable arc, there is not as much replayability in the main campaign unless you want to get the Platinum ranks on all missions. The multiplayer however is something to be played again and again.