When Platinum Games’ Madworld first came out for the Nintendo Wii, it was a breath of fresh air. With its neo-noir visuals, crazy beats, and addictive gameplay, it instantly called to the masses that were looking for something new. Of course it didn’t get all the attention it deserved, due to it being exclusive to one console, but it did leave a lasting impression, even if many didn’t get to try it.
Developed by Platinum Games/ Published by SEGA
Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
It seems that this time around things are different. Anarchy Reigns, Platinum Games sequel to Madworld, is bringing all the carnage and mayhem to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. With next-gen graphics and a new focus on multiplayer, will the game garner the same acclaim as its predecessor, or will it be dead on arrival?
In Anarchy Reigns, chaser and Madworld protagonist Jack Cayman is enjoying another day in the ruined city of Altambra, a dirty and gritty place full of strange mutants and stranger cyborgs. Searching for a missing father, his time at a bar is interrupted by the Bureau’s Strike One team, composed of Leo Victorian, Sasha Ivanoff and leader Nikolai Dmitri Bulygin. It seems that both Jack and Strike One are looking for the same target, but not with the same motives. The race then begins to see who could find Maximilian Caxton first.
The plot, as action-packed and entertaining as it is, is quite silly. While it doesn’t really make sense most of the time and it’s pretty far-fetched, the story remains enjoyable with its B-Movie dialogue and over-the-top scenarios.
In story mode, the game is divided into two different campaigns, one featuring Jack and the other newcomer Leo. Once a character is selected, players must then play through chapters, each containing 6 missions. Gameplay in Anarchy Reigns is very similar to its predecessor.
Each chapter is composed of one large, multi-layered stage that is full to the brim with enemies, power-ups and collectible secrets. Players unlock new missions – which can be of the story or side-mission variety – by earning points. Points are gained by defeating foes in creative ways and completing side missions.
Mission types vary wildly in Anarchy Reigns. From the typical beat-up-everybody-in-an-area missions and escorting vulnerable targets to a safe zone, to doing laps around a track in an aircraft and fending off a a gigantic Kraken before a ship is destroyed, there’s plenty of diversity in the campaign to keep things fresh and interesting.
Boss battles pepper the main campaign, pitting the player against strong foes of many shapes and sizes. These encounters require players to think quickly on their feet, and different strategies are necessary to get the upper hand. These battles are really entertaining and on occasion unlock the opponent for use in multiplayer.
Combat is what Anarchy Reigns is all about, and it’s safe to say that it’s very satisfying here. The fighting system at the heart of the game is complex and deep, typical of Platinum Games titles. It’s not intricate enough to keep newcomers from enjoying the game, but it’s deep enough to separate the button-mashers from experienced players. The system very similar to a fighting game, as it features combos, juggling and super attacks.
Players have many options when it comes to tackling the opposition. In addition to weak and strong attacks, a grab button and the ability to jump, each character has access to a Killer Weapon, which can be used to deal crazy amounts of damage as long as the player has some energy in the killer gauge. Then there’s Rampage, a ability that send characters into a frenzied state and allows them to deal massive amounts of damage with regular attacks, regenerate health, and have unlimited access to the Killer Weapon. On the defensive side of things, players can block attacks, parry blows by matching the attack type of the opponent, and roll away from harm.
Stages also provide a lot of things that can either aid or hinder players. Scattered throughout the battlefield are power-ups that can grant the use of firepower like rifles, rocket launchers and grenades, or can aid the player by gifting shields, limited use of invisibility or instant rampage. These power-ups can greatly help in a pinch or can change the tide of the battle in a heartbeat.
There are also traps that can badly hurt players. From structures that are in a stage, like a giant tower that spews fire every couple of minutes and pools of lava, to randomly activated ones, like a bombing run from jet fighters or a gas tanker that begins driving recklessly through the streets and tearing up everything in its path, these deadly obstacles do a great job at keeping players alert and attentive to everything that’s happening on-screen.
While the campaign is very enjoyable, the real fun comes from the online multiplayer. Here, players can take part in team deathmatch, capture the flag, battle royale, tag battle and all sorts of varieties on the formula. Every mode featured in multiplayer is great, and thanks to the number of foes (ranging from 16 players to two depending on the match type) every match is a thrilling experience. Players here can also switch out Jack and Leo for a large cast of playable characters (provided that the were unlocked in the campaign) that feature their own unique combos and killer weapons. While some characters are stronger than others, they’re mostly balanced and fun to play with.
Visually, Anarchy Reigns is an average-looking title. Replacing the black and white, cel-shaded aesthetic of its predecessor for a more colorful and realistic graphics, the game actually loses some of its former charm. While the main fighters are well designed and look great, everything else really looks bland. The action-packed cut-scenes really do a great job at making stuff look good though.
When it comes to sound, though, the game really nails it. Punching and kicking, destroying stuff and explosions all sound loud, forceful and violent, and really add to the overall experience. The soundtrack is also fantastic, featuring catchy tunes that range from hip-hop to heavy metal.
After playing the game for a good while, I found that Anarchy Reigns is a fine action title, capable of keeping me glued to the screen for hours. Sure, the story may be a bit silly and the visuals may look a tad outdated at times, but at the heart of it lies a game full of depth and replay value. If you don’t mind busting heads and punching everything in sight, your time in this arena will be a genuinely good time.