MadWorld was a gory (and artsy) little M-rated game released on the Wii back in 2009. The only problem was, the Wii’s core audience are gamers who want the same Wii Sports clones and Nintendo titles.
Naturally, MadWorld flopped.
Then the guys at Platinum Games said, “Why not give it another shot?. We’ll change the name, remix the gameplay, add color, make it online multiplayer focused, and release it to a different audience. That’s bound to work, right?”
Systems: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed]
Developer: Platinum Games
Release: January 8, 2012
I have to say, I have a raging boner for Platinum Games. Since their inception, I’ve played every one of their games and while they range in quality, they are always distinctive, memorable, and a blast to play. Best known for producing Bayonetta, this is a company with so much style and personality that even their most conventional games put most others to shame. But before Bayonetta, there was a little black, white, and bloody as hell game called MadWorld released for the Wii which Anarchy Reigns is the pseudo-sequel to. While there is a campaign/story mode which doesn’t really follow any story threads from MadWorld, the biggest selling point and a huge departure from the norm for Platinum is that this game is built for online multiplayer.
Anarchy Reigns feels like a throwback to classic beat-em-ups like Final Fight and God Hand. If you’re wanting a Bayonetta like experience, you’ll be sad to find that there are no lengthy combos or the same twitchy pace to the gameplay. It may seem shallow at first, but the finesse comes from knowing when and where to use all the game’s systems. Each character has a “Killer Weapon,” like Jack’s chainsaw arm or Sasha’s snow spikes, that’s use is tied to a meter. This meter quickly refills by landing light and heavy attacks or getting hit yourself. In addition to killer and normal attacks, there are numerous weapons like sniper rifles or rocket launchers scattered around the map. You can also pick tires and exploding barrels lying around and chuck em at your opponents. And if that’s not enough, there are vehicles like helicopters and flamethrower-equipped hover karts. All the elements blend together to provide a varied approach to a beat-em-up if you are willing to experiment.
Single player mode follows a similar structure to MadWorld where you are thrown into a decently sized map to explore and kill enemies. You gain points from killing enemies, which unlocks story and side missions. Completing these missions gives your more points, which unlock other missions, and it’s a rinse and repeat cycle from there.
While the single player has an obvious structure, the game tries to keep throwing different scenarios at you. You’ll practically never do the same mission type twice in a row. One mission you’ll be tasked with killing a hundred cannon fodder enemies with mini bosses thrown in, while the very next mission will have you in a hover kart time trial, and the one after that you’ll be shooting enemies while hanging from the bottom of a helicopter that you hijacked. The campaign never really gets boring and keeps you moving along at a steady pace, throwing different game types at you while introducing enough story bits to keep you interested.
You’ll play two sides of the same story. On the Black Side you’ll play as Jack, the gruff bastard from MadWorld with a chainsaw on his arm. On the white side you’ll play as Leo, the upstanding and sleek pretty boy cybernetic cop. Both sides will be after the same heinous criminal, and you’ll get to see their changing motives for why they want him captured. To spell it out here would distract from story so I’m not going to do that. Platinum Games does a good job of fleshing out the main characters by explaining their motives, and its gets pretty interesting to see how those motives clash with each other. Minor characters, on the other hand, are mostly throw away bosses.
Some people may react negatively to the broad Ebonics and “Engrish” accents and caricatures on display in Anarchy Reigns, but I find it a bit hard to take that seriously when there are steroid-over-dosed guys running around with chainsaws on their arms. To me, the game was just having its tongue stuck all the way in its cheek and picking fun at all those old beat-em-ups which had the same types of stereotypes. It comes off as playful rather than hateful or mean in my opinion.
While the single player is fun, the multiplayer is where the bulk of this game’s life is intended to be spent. Platinum Games was pretty forward from the get go that this is a competitive online brawler, something which really hasn’t been done on consoles. The game even comes with a fully featured training mode, as if wasn’t clear that this is intended to be taken as a fighting game.
The game modes are all typical stuff with death match, team death match, capture the flag, and other games with various team sizes. There’s even a co-op type game were you can take on the enemies from the campaign.
While modes are somewhat typical, what goes on during an online match is anything but. To describe it as a Bayonetta (or MadWorld) with an up to 16 people death match with a heavy emphasis on points is a limited description of all that goes on. In addition to running around and killing your opponents, you’ll have to deal AI enemies who can put a wrench in your game plan thrown in. Killing them gives you or your team points, so you have to consider the risk and reward to try and take them on. Don’t get too comfortable though, because you’ll have to deal with environmental hazards like giant saw blades or carpet bombings which changes the pace of the match. And to top it off, entire stages can change which opens up new areas of the map.
To say it’s chaotic would be an understatement, but it’s really fun and oddly strategic at times when you get into it. Each character has their unique moves, strengths, and weaknesses, and learning them is part of the fun. In addition to the core mechanics, multiplayer mode also has customizable perks to augment your character and give the game a bit more depth to explore. Once you grasp the game’s mechanics and learn when, where, and how to use your killer weapon, it becomes very much like a fighting game…with 16 other people, carpet bombings, and people shooting you from helicopters.
As fun and unique as the multiplayer is, your enjoyment will not only depend on how much you like the game mechanics, but also on whether others stick around to keep the online aspect alive. It sucks to find a game you like, only to find out that no one is around to play with online. Judging by the sales of Platinum Games previous titles, it is a little worrying. Maybe chainsaw arm guys and a cheaper price point are enough to entice customers and keep some of them around.
Anarchy Reigns ends up being an interesting game. Its mechanics are both familiar and foreign, especially when thrown together in an online multiplayer setting, but all seem to work together in a satisfying way once you get the hang of them. It has enough style in its presentation to be instantly memorable. The game is like nothing on the market, which is both to its benefit and detriment. If a fun game that’s a bit different from the norm is something you are looking for, then Anarchy Reigns might be worth your time.
In Anarchy Reigns, female characters are Bayonetta-esque, meaning tall slender bodies with elegantly long legs. While they seemed to be designed from a template, they have more variety and personality between them than you’d find in other games where they just swap different heads onto the same body. I’m looking at you DOA.
Between the Rin sisters, you get the petite and dangerously innocent Ai Rin, the middle sister Rin Rin who wears a comically short china dress complete with all the panty shots you can stare at, as well the very mature and buxom older sister Fei Rin whose assets sway with every slight movement.
Then you get the mischievously deadly cyborg Mathilda, who never fails to bend over and give you a good look at her ass while she slams a spiked bat into your face.
And my personal favorite turns out to be Sasha Ivanoff, who seems to be the antithesis of Bayonetta, or even the rest of the girls in the cast. Donning a white nano suit that hugs her every curve, Sasha is a graceful sight to behold on the battlefield. Every attack from her feels like it’s being channeled by an elegant dancer and seems to designed to show off her plump ass.
Oh, and lets not forget Bayonetta, who is available as a pre-order bonus. Be sure to get her if you plan on getting this game.
While the ladies are all interesting, the game is still a bit of a sausage fest, so the bulk of the cut scenes in single player focuses on they guys. When the girls do show up, the game doesn’t do much with them. It feels like a missed opportunity, but you can always check them out in multiplayer or the model viewer.
– Sullivan O. Bradley