Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review: Anarchy Reigns (PS3)


OK so it's been a while since I reviewed a new game so here we go with a title I have really enjoyed playing for the last few days.

Anarchy Reigns is bonkers mental to put it briefly.  Developed by Platinum games who brought us titles like Bayonetta, Vanquish, Madworld and Infinite Space.  Anyone who has played these games are aware of the kind of flair Platinum has for the over the top anime style action they employ in their games.  Anarchy Reigns is a pure brawler at heart developed as a sort of Smash bros. style game with more in depth combat and highly stylised characters.

Bayonetta is a limited edition bonus, but all copies are so....
The story of Anarchy Reigns is merely a framework to allow for the characters and arena environments.  War has ravaged the world so badly that nations as we once knew them have ceased to exist.  Biological weapons coupled with nuclear have laid waste to vast areas of once habitable land, but humanity has survived and now live in pockets of relatively high tech civilisation.  Humanity has embraced cybernetics to the point that some people are almost entirely machine, barring a few items such as your brain and heart.  This is because of the huge number of natural birth defects caused by the many mutagens in the human DNA stream because of the wars.

This is about as much explanation as you need since the game is mainly about beating the crap out of each other in interesting and brutal ways.  Anarchy reigns boasts a singleplayer campaign that allows you to play the story from two separate but intertwined perspectives.  One has you playing as Madworld's protagonist Jack Cayman with his cybernetic chainsaw arm.  The other See's you as newcomer Leo, a high tech combatant wielding arm and leg mounted energy blades.

The story is largely forgettable as it throws numerous acronyms and back story at you as if you already know all of this beforehand, while the characters are entertaining and memorable but again their motivations and interests aren't all that compelling for players to really care about.  Each chapter in story mode is set in one of the games open arenas which can be pretty substantial in size for a fighting game.  These take place in derelict streets, oil rigs, sunken casino's and dusty ruins of the old world.   

Blacker baron and his sexy fists of fire!
Missions are unlocked as you earn points which come from killing the local mutant population.  Killing these characters can unlock concept art and 3D models as well as drop helpful items such as shields or missile launchers.  Beating any boss character will unlock them for use in multiplayer and free play when you complete the campaign.  Since the areas are open you are free to explore and pound enemies as you see fit, allowing you to get to grips with the games timing based combat mechanics and lock on controls.  During these jaunts you may encounter some of the games more random events, such as planes falling out of the sky, bombing runs, mutant attacks, runaway tanker trucks, attacks by giant robots and more.  These can all happen during multiplayer games so you need to be aware of what is happening anytime during a match to avoid these dangers.

The missions themselves come in two forms.  Free missions are optional but do help to unlock the story missions faster and help with your overall score.  These can be anything from escorting a bartender robot to riding a giant mutant to destroy everything in your path.  Story missions advance the plot and feature fully voiced cutscenes and some cool action shots.  Completing all three story missions advances you to the next level.  Some reviews such as Gametrailers state that you cannot skip these cutscenes or dialogue sections, but you can skip them by pressing SELECT on the PS3.

Hazards can kill you instantly, always be aware of threats
Obviously the main point of Anarchy Reigns is the combat and here the game does not fail you.  Combat is a simple two button system for basic attacks.  A mix of light and heavy strikes can be chained together to create combo's while modifiers are introduced by timing.  Two light strikes broken by a brief pause and then adding a heavy strike will create a totally different combo compared to pressing light, light, heavy for example.  Jumping attacks can be added to the mix along with dash attacks to close the distance between you and your opponent.

Every character has what the game calls a killer weapon.  Killer weapons are things like Jack's chainsaw or Bayonetta's wicked weave.  Holding down the trigger button on the controller readies your attack.  Pressing light attack will initiate a powerful combo using your killer weapon, while pressing heavy attack will attempt to use your most damaging version which shows off a cool animation if it connects.  You cannot use your killer weapon indefinitely though since each use drains a bar which can only be refilled by attacking normally.  Eventually you will be stringing attacks together that utilise both normal and killer weapon attacks to brutalise foes.

Mastering the lock on function is a must when going online as it's the key timing as to when you need to focus your strikes against a single target or switch to free cam to assess the ever changing battlefield.  Online players are wholly unforgiving and you will likely get your ass handed to you several times before the flow of combat clicks with you and you can then mash some noobs face in repeatedly.  It's not that the game is imbalanced against new players, it's just that the combat is so deliberate it takes a little adjusting to.

Coop battles against AI can be fun but also very tough.
Multiplayer gametypes take the form of mass 16 player battle royales, while other types include a version of American football, team capture the flag, tag team matches, team tag matches, one on one cage matches, team battles and more.  The variety is such that most players will find a gametype they enjoy more than others since it caters to a large range of playstyles.  All of these modes can be played against the AI also so if you have a downed Internet connection you can still enjoy the action.

Graphically Anarchy Reigns isn't spectacular.  Characters are very detailed and animate brilliantly but rough textures can be seen throughout the games environments and standard enemies.  The unreal 3 engine does show it's age a bit here for a console release this still looks good.

The games soundtrack is a brilliant mix of electronic and jazz music, something of a Platinum trademark for their titles.  It fits well with the action and anime styling.  Voice work is good considering the material the actors are working with and they deliver it well enough.  Blacker Baron is a personal highlight for me despite the massive stereotyping.

Overall Anarchy Reigns is a great package for fighting game fans.  It only costs £17.99 online at amazon and in store is only couple of pounds more, so there isn't a reason not to get this while it's still such a good price. 

SCORE: 8.0/10


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