- Publisher: SEGA
- Developer: Platinum Games
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Fighting
- Pros: Fun gameplay; tons of content; great multiplayer; nice presentation; bots!; $30 MSRP
- Cons: Story campaign isn't fun; 16 player matches too hectic
The story in Anarchy Reigns features Jack Cayman, who starred of the Wii-exclusive Madworld, but knowledge of Madworld isn't required to make sense out of Anarchy Reigns. Put simply, it doesn't make sense either way. Jack is hunting down a fugitive and meets a lot of crazy characters along the way which make up Anarchy Reigns' playable cast. All you need to know is that all of the characters have crazy abilities like chainsaws built into their bodies, armored suits, elemental attacks, rocket powered hammers, and other awesome stuff. This is a game that relishes in how over the top and crazy it can be.
It has to be said, though, that Anarchy Reigns is much more fun in multiplayer than it is in the single-player campaign. The single-player is more like a beat-em-up where you explore hub areas and fight through wave after wave of brainless foot soldiers in between the occasional boss fight. The SP is a bit of a grind because it becomes too repetitive pretty quickly, the hubs aren't that interesting, and as cool as some of the bosses might be, the experience as a whole just isn't that fun.
Another great feature is an offline training mode against bots that features all of these modes. Real people are definitely more fun to play against, but bots are fun too. Unfotunately, there is no local multiplayer, only Xbox Live play.
One other slight drawback is that you have to unlock most of the characters. You do this through either playing the story campaign, or by ranking up in multiplayer matches (not in offline training matches, though). You can unlock everyone pretty quickly online, however, so it isn't too bad if you dislike the campaign (like us).
When you figure everything out, Anarchy Reigns is one of the most fun and satisfying brawlers of recent memory. Everything is, well, crazy, and the unique character designs, huge range of fighting styles, flashy and interesting attacks, neat environments, and overall unpredictability and randomness of it all is an absolute blast. The 16-player fights can get a little overwhelming and frustrating, since there isn't really any sort of attack priority going on during combos and you can (and will) have enemies interrupting your combos by hitting you in the back while you're focusing on trying to attack someone else. You can easily get surrounded and pounded into submission, which isn't very fun, but you do learn how to assess the situations better, position yourself better, and defend better the more you play, so those situations don't happen all that often once you learn the game a little better. Thanks to the wealth of different modes that all play fairly differently and offer their own fun and satisfaction, along with the large cast of interesting characters, there is a lot to do here.
The presentation in Anarchy Reigns won't exactly wow you, but it all works well in the context of the game. The environments are sort of bland, but the game maintains a steady framerate even with a ton of characters onscreen, so we'll take that trade off any day. The characters, on the other hand, are nicely detailed, are all unique and easily identifiable, and have fantastic animation that makes every punch, kick, and chainsaw through the neck look great. We also really dig the sound with a fantastic soundtrack and solid (but intentionally (we hope) corny voice acting) that, again, fits the tone and context of this wild and crazy game.
All in all, Anarchy Reigns is a solid brawler that we highly recommend. The solo campaign isn't particularly good, but everything else about this package is pretty much amazing. With great multiplayer, a training mode against bots, tons of game types and modes, and lots of characters to play with, you are getting a lot of game here all for just $30. We also really like how it offers the same sort of multiplayer options that popular shooters do, just in an entirely different genre, which makes it easy to jump in to and might just knock CoD or Halo down a peg. Or not. But those that do give it a chance, and put the effort to learn to play well, will have a great time with Anarchy Reigns.