Review

Anarchy Reigns

Chaos And Creation In The Junkyard

Anarchy Reigns is typically brash and bananas for Platinum Games, but it’s missing a core of clarity.

By Anthony John Agnello • January 14, 2013

Platinum Games doesn’t always produce coherent work, but the concepts are usually clear. All of Platinum’s games—from the gluttonous sexy-witch fantasy of Bayonetta to the hard angles of Vanquish’s near-future world war—are chaotic stews of noise, color, sex, and violence. They’re like the notebook doodles of an anime-obsessed high schooler. Binding together all of that sound and fury, though, is a focus on ideas. Platinum’s misunderstood satire MadWorld has a clear core beneath its garish style. It’s about improvisation and adaptability, a brawler influenced by post-bop jazz. This is why Anarchy Reigns is so disappointing. All the usual flash is present, but there’s no creamy center. Noise, fury, and nothing in between.

Anarchy Reigns is a semi-sequel to MadWorld, taking place in the same dystopian future and starring most of its principal characters, which makes it an even bigger let down. The new game is broken into two halves where you play as a couple of bruisers chasing a suspected war criminal. The White Side, as it’s called, casts you as sexy lightsaber-armed cop Leonhardt Victorion—there’s that high school notebook again—while the Black Side gives you chainsaw-wielding Jack Cayman, the bounty hunter from MadWorld who looks like a terrifying extra from Frog And Toad Are Friends. They each have their own sharp weapons, sweet jackets, and separate paths to the war criminal, but there’s not much difference between them—they both spend most of their time punching out mutant freaks and robots.

Anarchy Reigns

Eschewing the predictable fight-cutscene-fight rhythm, Anarchy takes place in open landscapes, like a bombed-out naval port and a desert fortress, and you have to earn points to unlock missions within them. The story missions are straightforward, but the “free” missions, which you can do over and over to rack up points, are the first cracks that betray the game’s tonal dissonance. One stage might have you punching glowing balls into chain-link goals, while in the next you’re sparring with giant leeches. Those missions may have an appealing goofiness, but they’re also shallow and repetitive, another reason to hammer the attack buttons some more with little need for strategy.

There’s no room for self-expression in Anarchy’s fighting. The characters share the same basic moves, distinguished only by speed and slightly different attacks. (The spandex-clad ice queen Sasha is slow, for instance, but she has a better spin attack to shake off foes.)

Anarchy Reigns

Were Anarchy consistently funny, it could save itself from dull fisticuffs. Platinum typically has a decent sense of humor about its games, but Anarchy never scratches deeper than surface slapstick. MadWorld grounded itself in laughs to highlight the inherent absurdity of hyper-violent fantasy. By contrast, Anarchy Reigns rubs together throwaway chuckles and grave seriousness. An early chapter, “Your Favorite Pimp’s Pimp,” introduces the Blacker Baron, a brick building-sized Huggy Bear cosplayer whose golden gauntlets spawn flaming eagles. That chapter is followed by a dead solemn five-minute scene of Jack at a cemetery weeping over the death of his young daughter. Stone-cold seriousness, wacky hijinks, ultraviolence, and pugilism devoid of subtlety or heft—these instruments could be effective, but they aren’t played in concert here.

There is one significant difference between Anarchy Reigns and Platinum’s previous games: You can play it with others. It’s meant to bridge the gap between free-form, go-anywhere fighting and Street Fighter-style combat, with a number of online modes that can drop you in a pit of as many as 16 people duking it out. Like the main game, this multiplayer competition isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s missing a discernible idea at its heart. Whether in head-to-head deathmatches or co-operative modes where you and a few other players are knocking down computer-controlled foes, the fights are still just dull repetition. Street Fighter works because even though its fighters share the same basic controls, each character is refined and distinct. Anarchy Reigns is too generic by comparison.

Anarchy Reigns

MadWorld is about improvisation and creative expression. Bayonetta, for all its “sex-witch vs. the gods” spectacle, is about grace—its fights demand smooth patience rather than brute force. Vanquish is about velocity, a kinematics master class that just happens to be overflowing with exploding robots. They all possess clarity within chaos. Anarchy Reigns invokes chaos in its own name, but it isn’t about anything at all.

Anarchy Reigns
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Price: $30
Rating: M

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  • Haymz_Jetfield

    I picked this up over the weekend and it is definitely worth $30 if you’re into the Fist of the North Star-style huge men beating the shit out of each other in the post apocalypse genre but as with most Platinum games I can’t see it being of interest to anyone outside of that.

  • Citric

    So is the top image a massacre at a hand model convention?

  • Destroy Him My Robots

    Oof. I can’t comment on this one because it still hasn’t arrived (I thought the demo was okay and ordered it because it’s cheap and I was bored over the holidays and buying things is fun), but I’ve got to say that I’m rather disappointed with Platinum’s output overall. And my gripe with them is that, when compared with their designers’ previous output rather than their contemporaries, they always lacked that clarity of purpose and elegance of design mentioned here. Just this Friday I mentioned that you could see a lot of Fujiwara in Mikami, but I think Vanquish threw that out of the window. When you’re checking your radar and adjusting your camera, the kind of calm focus amidst the chaos that leads to sublime action gaming is undermined. It’s too free.

  • duwease

    I played both Bayonetta and Vanquish — the latter because the former was such a ridiculously fun and polished action game with an incredible battle system.  The latter was a bit of a letdown in some ways.. it played out as a fairly normal cover shooter, although the gimmick of zooming from cover to cover on rockets *was* pretty fun, especially when you were involved in setpieces that really relied on it.  But all of the completely over-the-top bulldozer action motif of Bayonetta was toned down for a drier but still a bit whacked sci-fi story.

    And now this.. why not just a sequel to Bayonetta *sniff*

    • alguien_comenta

      it played out as a fairly normal cover shooter
      The rocket slide wasn’t a gimmick, it was the whole game. If you were just playing it as a regular cover shooter, then yes it was generic but it was never meant to be played like that. But yes, I agree that Bayonetta is miles better

    • herostug

      Vanquish was supposed to be played like a score chase game and the only possible way to do that was abandon all cover.  The game design failed because it didn’t communicate that to the player very clearly, but it most definitely is not a “farily normal cover shooter”

      • duwease

        I can certainly see that.. I think you’re right.  It didn’t help my playthrough that I played on Hard, which requires you to spend a lot more time crouching behind cover recovering your health, and be very quick with what shots you take.  And I never replayed it to try and max out the level scores, because, unlike Bayonetta, there was no point in doing so.. no unlocks or anything.

        But in Bayonetta I did a “just beat the game” run-through, and then a score chase run-through, and the second was where the beauty of the game design really shined.  So from that experience I can see why your argument holds water.  They just did a poor job motivating you to try that score chase.. there were no in-game rewards or even achievements for doing so.

    • http://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

      The good news is we are getting a sequel to Bayonetta.

      The bad news is it’s a Wii U exclusive (as of now).

      • duwease

        Wii U??  That’s ridiculous.  That’s nonsensical.   That’s… well, Bayonetta, I guess

        • http://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

          Sounds like the story is Sega essentially cancelled the sequel and Nintendo swooped in to bring it back to life. I believe they’re actually publishing as well. 

  • TaumpyTearrs

    I saw my little brother playing this online on his X-Box and went out and bought myself a copy (I have a PS3). For $30 its a fun chaotic online fighter, and the one-player is just to get used to the gameplay or serve as a diversion. You can unlock all the characters by playing online and leveling up enough if you don’t want to play the one player at all.

    Its not amazingly deep, but its a crazy online fighter and I like the variety of matches and characters. Durga (i think) is my favorite so far, I just unlocked him and he looks like a Metal Gear boss, he has a gun in his leg and a tail. Playing 4 vs 4 or 2vs2vs2vs2 or 16 man free-for-all is nuts, and the stages constantly have batty shit going on (dodge the exploding cars flyin at you!).