Anarchy Reigns review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Platinum Games
Medium: DVD-ROM
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Anarchy Reigns is the newest Platinum Games developed title published under SEGA?s roof, featuring a number of familiar characters culled from Mad World, one of the earliest titles by the developers over at PG that debuted on the Nintendo Wii a number of years ago. Despite carrying over a setting and roster, Anarchy Reigns feels like a very different game to Mad World, and is more akin to an old-school beat ?em up than anything else, with a heavy emphasis on an online multiplayer component that actually feels reminiscent of Dreamcast classic Power Stone.

The single player side of Anarchy Reigns might be seen as an excuse to unlock the roster for the multiplayer portion of the game, but I found myself having a fair amount of fun with it. For your initial playthrough you?ll pick either White Side or Black Side, giving you control of one of two characters as you make your way through the storyline that sees you hunting down a rogue peacekeeper/agent by the name of Max. The Black Side of this story come from Jack, the protagonist of Mad World, hired to hunt down Max by Max?s own daughter, after Max is wanted for the death of his own wife. The alternate side, White, features Max?s former partners hunting him down for the same reason.

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The structure for the single player campaign is sort of unique. For each chapter, four a piece for each ?side?, you?ll be plopped down in a somewhat open setting to explore. Here you can get into random fights with local thugs, which in turn add to your point total upon defeat. Garner enough points and you?ll unlock two types of missions, one type that advances the story, and another labeled as Free Mission. These missions are all about scoring high totals, and offer up a variety of ways to take on bad guys with unique clearing requirements. There?s a fair amount of variety there, and while the requirement to reach a certain score for level unlocks could lead to some boredom in between, you?ll generally have little issue scoring enough points in Free Missions to advance without the need for grinding.

That said, your enjoyment of the single player side of the game is going to depend solely on how inventive you feel like being. On normal the game provides little challenge, even the boss fights, which are at least a little more involved and interesting, are pretty easy to pass. There are some moments where certain events are triggered, like bombing runs from overhead jets, poison gas filling an area, and large destructive vehicles careening out of control. The only issue with these moments is that you?ll end up seeing all the alternatives quickly, and so when they start to pop up again later in the game the surprise or wow factor tends to wear off quickly. Bumping the challenge up to hard alleviates some of this, but the thug style enemies you fight against still don?t require much more than alternating weak and strong attacks for basic combo strings to defeat, and make up the majority of the encounters you?ll come across.

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But that?s where the online side of Anarchy Reigns comes into play, which gives us one of the most unique online experiences I?ve seen in a versus mode for quite a while. When you take the game online, you?ll be able to choose from a fairly expansive roster provided you?ve unlocked the majority through the single player campaign before trying it out. And the roster is so unique, that rarely does one character seem instantly comparable to another. Each has their own unique move set, but the command inputs seem to be universal, making them easy enough to pick up and play. There are certainly differences in movement speed, strength, and health, but once you figure out the basics you?ll have a pretty decent grasp on how to do moderately well with anyone, making this an ideal experience for newcomers and certainly a more welcoming experience than your average fighter.

Another plus in Anarchy Reigns online mode comes from the number of unique modes available to play. The modes available range from 4 player free for all Deathmatch scenarios, to 16-man battle royales. You can play a match of Deathball, which is a 4 on 4 team based game that has you grabbing a lone ball and moving around a court. Hold on to the ball long enough and you?ll unlock the opposing team?s gate, which you?ll need to either carry or toss the ball through. This is easier said than done, because while carrying the ball your movement speed and attacks are limited, and succumbing to a string of combo?s from an opposing player will typically see you stripped of the ball. There?s also Tag Team versus modes, multi-team battles, capture the flag, and a handful of others.

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The only real issue I had with online play in Anarchy Reigns is that the matchmaking seems to be iffy at best. I had the most luck with it when I was creating my own games as opposed to using the custom or quick search features. And even then there would be some lengthy waits for the room to fill with players, which requires every spot to be filled before continuing, unless you opt to play with bots. I had some minor disconnection issues as well, usually before a match would start, which would boot me out to the main multiplayer menu. These are most likely launch issues, but they certainly need to be ironed out quickly if the online community for this game is meant to survive for any extended amount of time. As it is, despite being a pretty niche and unique title for both PS3 and Xbox 360, there does seem to be a hefty number of players online at any given moment.

Overall Anarchy Reigns is definitely worth a look. There?s a substantial amount of content present for the asking price, and the overall feel of the game is pretty polished. The combat aspect that drives the single and online play feels really solid, with easy to pick up and understand movesets for characters that don?t feel like cookie cutter copy and paste jobs, featuring strong art direction and a fantastic soundtrack to wrap it all up. Platinum Games continues to impress with their newest release, and I can?t wait to check out their next effort.

Grade: B+