Anarchy Reigns review

  • The primal simplicity of mashing buttons to bash in faces
  • The crazy cast of characters
  • How ridiculously over-the-top it all is
  • May be too campy for some tastes
  • The dullness of some single-player missions
  • Not knowing what the hell is going on in multiplayer

Can you catch a missile and throw it back at the jet that fired it at you? No, probably not. It’s also unlikely that you’d be able to sprint up a collapsed building in high heels, or punch a car with your bare hands so many times that it explodes. But Anarchy Reigns, Platinum Games’ frenetic third-person beat-'em-up, makes these godlike feats seem commonplace. It's that devotion to stylish excess that makes the game's action so appealing, where the battles are so absurd and nonsensical that you can't help but be charmed. It’s just a shame that the multiplayer is more frustrating than it is fun--especially given the fact that it feels like the core foundation for the otherwise short game.

You can think of Anarchy Reigns as a pseudo-sequel to 2009's MadWorld, as it brings many of the Wii game’s black-and-white characters into living color. Jack Cayman, the grizzled ex-Marine brute with a hand-mounted chainsaw, is back. This time around, he’s sharing the single-player spotlight with nimble pretty boy Leo Victorion, as they chase after a fugitive in a super-suit. Over the brief four-to-five-hour campaign, you’ll encounter dozens of skilled rivals, hulking mutants, deranged street thugs, and military drones. And you’ll punch them. You’ll punch them all, in the face, again and again and again.

You'll experience oscillating levels of enjoyment throughout the story mode, as scattered missions take you on a full tour of the gigantic levels, with the occasional flashy cutscene mixed in. Said missions range from exhilarating (riding a berserk mutant or gunning down waves of robots) to boring (escorts and fetch quests), with a fairly consistent variety--but they're made far more exciting by an increasingly nutty suite of environmental threats that break up the pace and keep you engaged. For instance, a fist-fight with a reptilian-skinned beast might be rudely interrupted by a crash-landing cargo jet.

Anarchy Reigns keeps things nice and simple when it comes to combat, using a rock-paper-scissors balance between your repertoire of quick jabs, powerful lunges, and hard-hitting grapples. Blocking and dodging are key to nabbing a high score, but there aren’t any extensive combo strings to remember or upgradable abilities to train up; even if you’re mashing buttons willy-nilly, you’re likely to get far. Call it dumbed down if you must, but it’s hard to deny the satisfying simplicity of pounding away at a single button to take down mobs of enemies.

Yeah, it’s short, predictable, and pretty darn easy to beat--but the single-player campaign is exceptionally entertaining while it lasts. Diehard fans of Platinum Games can look past the brevity of the single-player, and will relish the more intense encounters with powerful enemies. If, however, you’re not fond of gruff one-liners, sappy dialogue, anime-style duels, and hilariously over-the-top caricatures, all of the game’s ludicrous style may fall flat for you.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer side of things doesn’t quite hit its mark. Here you can play as a multitude of colorful fighters besides Jack and Leo, battling in a variety of team deathmatch, 16-player free-for-all, and one-on-one modes. And while you may think you’re hot stuff after plowing through the solo campaign, you'll be singing a different, frustrated tune when you get ganged up on and beaten to a pulp within seconds. The problem with the multiplayer is that it reduces the combat to an unintelligible mosh pit of violent chaos. With or without teams, players tend to congregate in one area of the huge map, where things devolve into a move-spamming, kill-stealing mess.

Shaky latency doesn’t help matters; at times, lag can cause your opponents to flicker around you, or make you exit a grapple animation momentarily frozen in place. Also, the frequency of grab moves and stuns means that you’re constantly having control of your character taken away from you--something that’s never enjoyable in a multiplayer experience. One-on-one encounters offer a better test of your chin-socking prowess, but the trade-off is the removal of all the riotous excitement of being the one scoring all the kill(steal)s in bigger matches.

Anarchy Reigns may be a case of style over substance, but if quick-and-dirty brawling is what you’re in the mood for, it’s guaranteed to scratch your savage itch. It’s a shame that the multiplayer, which could’ve prolonged the game’s frenetic fun, will serve as an amusing distraction. But when you just want to turn your brain off and pummel waves of baddies, it doesn’t get much more gratifying or outrageously stylish than this.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.

More Info

Release date: Jan 08 2013 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Jan 11 2013 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Platinum Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:
16+: Violence, Bad Language
Lucas Sullivan

Tried to summarize his personality in a single sentence; failed. Maybe you'll get a better picture on his Twitter @Ljrepresent

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • MassSaber - January 10, 2013 1:40 a.m.

    It does feel like this review concentrated more on the SP rather MP I would've liked to know how many different modes are available for example I mean I don't think any one thought the SP would be steller it is an MP brawler after all
  • TheDudeFromNowhere - January 9, 2013 1:59 a.m.

    Will buy and play soon! It looks fun, deep, and the character roster is just mind boggling.
  • Darkhawk - January 8, 2013 12:09 p.m.

    Anyone else concerned this was only reviewed on one system? Remembering Bayonetta, should we not question whether it's only one system that's been fucked over? (A different one this time, but nevertheless.)
  • jackthemenace - January 8, 2013 9:28 a.m.

    Well, I've already pre-ordered it, but I've never found much in multi-player fighters. The single player was pretty much all I was going for, and with a price tag that great, I wasn't exactly expecting Metal Gear length. Plus, with Platinum's track record for difficulty levels and stuff, most of the fun- and trophies- will come out of replaying the story on harder settings. And one-on-one with friends can still be fun, or Multiplayer with bots, if it exists. Besides, it's Platinum. Even if it's NOT fantastic, they deserve the money just to make up for the money they've lost because people didn't buy their great games. I'd REALLY hate for them to go out of business AGAIN.
  • GR_LucasSullivan - January 8, 2013 12:52 p.m.

    This is definitely the kind of game where, if you want to like it, you will like it. So your purchase will pay off :)
  • BladedFalcon - January 8, 2013 5:35 a.m.

    "May be too campy for some tastes" Hold on... The game features a cast that includes a pig-like dude shape shifting into a giant lizard, and a dude that transforms into a yet. And the trailers happily informed you about this from the get go. How can this be taken as a point against the game if it was painfully obvious that they were going for over the top from the very start? I mean, I get that the campiness may not be for everyone, but the same argument can be made for ANY very specific style a game chooses. "May be too serious and harrowing for some" should then be a bad negative point to make in say, The walking dead game. >_> What I'm trying to get at here is, yes, if the game suddenly shifted tones, when it was meant to go for something else, then it SHOULD be considered a bad thing. But when the game made it pretty damn clear that is was going for campy, how is taht an issue? ._. ANYWAY. Kinda surprised to hear that the single campaign might potentially offer more interesting stuff that the multiplayer XD and it's a platinum game, so I expected a short campaign anyway. I might end up getting this after all :D
  • archnite - January 8, 2013 6:34 a.m.

    The campy negative point could have been replaced with Bayonetta as DLC and it would sum up my feelings completely.
  • CombatWombat101 - January 8, 2013 12:24 p.m.

    The point clearly says that it "may be too campy for some tastes." As in, "Some people might not be into how campy it is." Stating in advance that it's going to be campy doesn't change how some people might feel about it. If I cooked food for a contest and told judges in advance that it would taste terrible, they're still entitled to knock points off for it tasting terrible. Holding true to your original vision doesn't automatically earn you points if that vision can be seen as a negative thing, be it campiness or terrible flavour.
  • BladedFalcon - January 8, 2013 2:24 p.m.

    The problem here is that you're equating campy to be inherently bad or terrible. Of course, campiness CAN be bad, so can be extremely grim and serious, like so many popular games are, and you don't see reviewers knocking off points or stating "it may be too humorless and serious for some" Do you? And I am not saying it should automatically earn you points, but just in the same way, it shouldn't automatically detract you points either. Also, just to point a very specific point of comparison: Saints Row 3, an extremely, unashamedly campy, over the top game that had much, much more stuff you could consider crass or silly than this game, what score did it get in this site? 10 and even stated campy as one of the POSITIVE points. So why the double standard?
  • CombatWombat101 - January 8, 2013 3:12 p.m.

    I'm not saying campiness is inherently bad - shit, I'm fond of some camp myself every now and then. But there are those for whom campiness *is* inherently bad, whereas to be honest, I don't think I've met a single person who's ever put down a game for being "too serious." It shouldn't be surprising that campiness can be viewed as a negative while seriousness isn't when campiness is absolutely the one that's outside the norm. There are going to be those who don't like that which goes against what they're used to. Plus, when looking at various campy games, I think it's important to look at, for lack of better phrasing, where they take that campiness, and what they do with it. Is it campy for the sake of being campy, kind of a campy-by-numbers, or campy-by-committee? Or does it run with it and make it fit its universe? In my opinion, Saints Row 3 is undoubtedly part of the latter camp. The whole "attitude" of the game was ridiculous and over the top - the entire universe of that game was constantly jumping the shark, and they made it work. This is in contrast to certain games that have come out recently which seem to just scream "Look how WACKY I am!"
  • Zowie - January 8, 2013 3:34 p.m.

  • Rub3z - January 8, 2013 6:16 p.m.

    Hey Falcon ol' buddy, can you do me a favor and tell me how this game goes for you? I'm on the fence but sitting on a bit of cash that I don't want to spend on something boring like a new shirt or pants. Most of my pants are gifts now that I think of it...
  • BladedFalcon - January 8, 2013 8:51 p.m.

    Well, I don't think if I'll be able to get it any time soon either >>; Unless they upload it to the PSN as a digital download, because living in Mexico, Niche titles like this rarely make it to small cities like the one I live in ^^; Still, if you are on the fence on this one, why not just wait a wee month more, and get Metal gear Rising: Revengeance instead? THAT is the platinum title I personally think it's gonna knock it out of the park, having already played the demo, the only thing taht could make it be not great at this point, is if it had too many serious bugs or glitches, but it's platinum we're talking here, they develop their games tightly.
  • Cyberninja - January 8, 2013 3:01 a.m.

    Seeing as its a $30 dollar game you could do worse with that much which is why I am fine with the score
  • Redeater - January 8, 2013 12:23 a.m.

    Meh, I'll still buy it. Platinum is one developer who isn't afraid to go balls out, bat shit crazy. If you don't support that type of creativity then you don't get the right to complain when your only choices are going to be the new Halo,COD or AC.
  • Zowie - January 8, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    Exactly, it kinda pisses me off though 'cause it feels like those types of games are doomed to be ignored