We often talk about games that manage to slip under-the-radar despite their inherent brilliance, but unsung developers are less of a talking point. It’s arguable that Platinum Games – the Japanese studio that formed following the closure of ‘Clover’ – are a company that fall under this category. Their personnel include many of the talented individuals that worked on 2006’s beloved action-adventure ‘Okami’ and, more recently, they made the highly acclaimed third-person action game ‘Bayonetta’ and my personal favourite out-and-out shooter of the generation – ‘Vanquish’.
Their latest output, ‘Anarchy Reigns’, is a spiritual sequel to 2009’s Wii-exclusive ‘MadWorld’ and signals the studio’s first foray into online multiplayer. The game actually slipped out in Japan last summer, but is only now seeing a worldwide launch. It’s important to note that although this is a ‘retail title’, it’s being sold for approximately half the standard £40 price tag most disc-based console titles are sold for. This may suggest a lack of quality when compared to their last game, the high-budget triple-A shooter ‘Vanquish, but considering the pedigree of the developer I remained optimistic.
In a sense though, my concerns going in to ‘Anarchy Reigns’ proved disappointingly accurate. Graphically the game is a far cry from anything you would expect on this generation of consoles, let alone Platinum’s own standards. Look a little deeper however, and you’ll find a template for what could potentially be a distinguished brawler.
Multiplayer is the clear focus here, so my comments on the surprisingly single player component will be brief. Perhaps it’s not up for me to decide what the developers wanted to focus on with Anarchy Reigns, but the less said about the single player portion of the game, the better. Platinum Games present their latest title as an open-world brawler, but within hours the games limitations start to show.
Yes, there is an open world, but it’s despairingly ugly and vastly uninteresting. Essentially you traipse through the world towards your next mission, killing an assortment of enemies as you go. Anarchy Reigns’ strong fighting mechanics (which I’ll get to a little later) make it enjoyable enough at first, but it all gets pretty repetitive quickly and you’ll soon find yourself pretty bored.
It doesn’t help that the game’s narrative is woefully uninteresting. Much like with the studios previous efforts there’s an attempt to tell a story, but thanks to stereotypical ‘hard-man’ styled characters with about as much visible emotion as Sylvester Stallone’s plastic face, it simply doesn’t work. This wasn’t a problem in Platinum’s previous titles because high-budget visuals helped us gloss over these shortcomings, but Anarchy Reigns doesn’t have the same visual prowess and so the brawler’s single player mode falls flat.
Thankfully, Platinum saves the best for multiplayer. Anarchy Reigns starts to make sense with sixteen unique characters punching, kicking and chainsawing on a large battlefield. The game’s deep, combo-heavy fighting system takes time getting used to. Combined with the usual ‘Capture the Flag’ and ‘Deathmatch’ type modes, online multiplayer is genuinely a lot of fun.
On top of this are destructive events that occur during matches, which can change the course of battle by wiping out the majority of a team or at the very least shake things up a bit. Everything from out of control vehicles to exploding bridges appear in multiplayer battles, which adds an exciting element to online play. There are also some three-player co-op modes on offer, as well as violent take on football named Deathball. In short, there’s a wealth of modes, characters to experiment with and experience to earn – and this all comes together to create a strong online portion of an otherwise flawed game.
So where does all this leave Anarchy Reigns? For a title that’s essentially launching at half price, value for money is far from the issue. If you do choose to invest in Anarchy Reigns, there is a lot of fun to be had if you’re in to third-person brawlers. Attempts at the spectacular, like encountering massive bosses in the campaign and running from explosions in multiplayer, don’t provide the same jaw-dropping moments that previous Platinum titles have offered, but if you’re looking for some cheap fun with interesting ideas thrown in the game serves its purpose.
As alluded to previously in this review however, it’s difficult to get past the fact that Anarchy Reigns feels more like a very good template rather than a fully fledged release. The mechanics are rock solid, but drab graphics, generic stereotypical characters and repetitive gameplay mean the final product falls flat.
I keep referring to the pedigree of the developer behind Anarchy Reigns and that’s intentional because there are signs of the talent the talented Japanese studio have in abundance. With a Bayonetta sequel, Metal Gear Solid spin-off and Wii-U exclusive on the way from Platinum, you’d be forgiven for skipping Anarchy Reigns and waiting for the studios bigger releases. But if you have £20 to put down and enjoy causing a little bit of anarchy, then by all means raise hell!