Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date: January 11 (Europe), January 8 (North America)
Developer: Platinum Games
Genre: Beat 'em up
Anarchy Reigns is a game that lives up to its name, a no-holds-barred brawler set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop where law and order have long since perished. Bayonetta studio Platinum Games has set the stage for some brutally-satisfying multiplayer bouts, but the robust combat mechanics on offer feel wasted during a paltry solo campaign.
The game takes place from the third-person perspective and is a combat-driven affair, where the action is designed to be as hard-hitting and brutal as possible. Enemies' bones can be heard snapping like dry branches on impact and mutants that get on the wrong side of your special attacks explode in a shower of blue blood.
There's an impressive level of range and finesse to the combat, with a countless array of attacks on offer; some more spectacular and devastating than others. Delivering combos is the key to success, but the game doesn't skimp on evasive techniques and destructive special moves either.
The simple, yet in-depth, combat is used only to its full potential when playing online. There are 16 characters on offer in the multiplayer modes, and although the control system remains the same for each, their unique abilities lend an air of freshness to the experience.
Anarchy Reigns peddles some familiar multiplayer scenarios, such as all-out deathmatch and capture the flag, as well as a few surprise inclusions. The focus on hand-to-hand combat makes for a welcome change of pace in flag-capturing contests. Having to physically take your opponent down at close quarters means skirmishes are usually decided by skill, rather than cheap tricks.
- "The focus on hand-to-hand combat makes for a welcome change of pace in flag-capturing contests. Having to physically take your opponent down at close quarters means skirmishes are usually decided by skill, rather than cheap tricks."
Living up to its name is what Anarchy Reigns does best. With 16 players all knocking hell out of each other it can be easy to lose your bearings, particularly if you end up on the end of a multi-hit combo or brutal special move, yet it feels chaotic in a good way for the most part - a real treat for the adrenaline junkies.
Environmental variables of the Michael Bay variety add some spice to the mix. Squadrons of jets fly overhead carpet bombing the arena, hefty trucks plough through the streets and explode, and poison gas attacks will have you frantically running for safe areas.
The solo campaign is more of the same chaotic brutality, except you will find yourself beating gangs of mutants to a pulp across mission-based scenarios before brawling with a badass boss. Unfortunately, this portion of the game feels restrictive, repetitive and tacked on, making Anarchy Reigns something of an incomplete package.
- "The solo campaign is more of the same chaotic brutality... Unfortunately, this portion of the game feels restrictive, repetitive and tacked on, making Anarchy Reigns something of an incomplete package."
Missions are typically formulaic, ranging from escort quests to taking out a fixed number of bad guys. The decision to make missions unavailable to players until they have accumulated enough points appears to have been taken to pad out the experience, but the potential was there to build something of more substance around the robust fighting mechanics the game offers.
The disappointment associated with the single-player campaign is compounded by its wafer-thin storyline, which isn't helped by the amount of cringe-worthy puns, excessive cursing and bad jokes that find their way into the cutscene dialogue.
Anarchy Reigns doesn't disappoint too much in the presentation department. The blistering rap soundtrack ties in nicely with the action on-screen and the graphics certainly do their job, if you can excuse the odd camera falter when the action becomes too frantic for the game's own good.
Developing a multiplayer-centric title is all well and good, but Anarchy Reigns could have been something more. Playing solo is a necessity for honing your skills and unlocking new options before you take the fight online, but those tight controls and enjoyable combat feel wasted during the hollow and repetitive single-player campaign.