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Tap, tap, tap, tap…tap. Before you ask, no, this isn’t the button guide on how to play the retro classic Streets of Rage. It is, however, the overall premise of how to succeed in Sega’s newest title: Anarchy Reigns. Developed by Platform Games and published by the aforementioned Japanese giants, Anarchy Reigns is a beat ‘em up/action game set in a post apocalyptic future, where the humans are modified and the beasties are large. Following on from the 2009 Wii game, MadWorld, this open world brawler introduces a whole new story that combines characters old and new, resulting in many entertaining yet often-repetitive results.
Anarchy Reigns is split into two main modes: Campaign and Multi-Player, with the first mode being split between two stories, both of which you can play through each revolving around a different character. There’s Jack (the same Jack Cayman from MadWorld), a bulky, cyborg chaser who is looking for Maximillian Caxton (a fugitive who used to be the Bureau’s Strike One unit leader) and there is Leo, an agile, electric blade touting Strike One agent who also seeks Max.
Within both characters’ tales, there are two missions options: Main and Free. Main missions allow the story to continue, while free missions are re-playable missions that help to build up the necessary XP that is needed for main ones to become available. Basically, the better you do in the free missions (the higher the medal you get) the more XP you are given therefore allowing you to quickly continue with the narrative. However, if you don’t feel like getting XP that way you can simply choose to pummel the local fodder around your level, which you can easily locate while you are free to explore in-between missions. You can also return to any completed level at any time and retry the free missions if you so wish.
In terms of storyline, don’t get your hopes up too high. Depth and detail are not key elements to Anarchy Reigns’ plot and as a result both stories are rather flimsy and weak. The locations between both Jack and Leo’s story paths are mirrored so don’t be expecting variety in this department. However, you can expect variety in other areas. For example, each battle, although it may feel somewhat similar to the last gameplay wise, will never be the same. Concepts known as Action Trigger Events continuously happen throughout the game with runaway trains and tsunamis suddenly appearing from nowhere.
Then there are the opponents.
Between giant squids, angry mechanical bulls and fire wielding pimps, Anarchy Reigns has a variety of villains for you to maim, injure, or kill and you can do it in an assortment of ways. Using Killer Weapon attacks, unleashing a rampage, using special items you may have picked up, throwing anything you can find and hijacking various vehicles, will all result in blood-splattered carcasses piling up in front of you and graphically, these scenes are a joy to watch. The levels themselves are also rather pretty, with collapsing debris realistically falling whenever you feel the urge to smash through a building’s foundation.
In short, this is mindless fun at its best but sadly it does all become quite repetitive after a while. Citing this reviews first paragraph, tap, tap, tap is all that is required from you and after an hour or two of playing the campaign, you will undoubtedly become bored. The missions, while they may not all be the same, each have the exact same agenda and even with the variety of electronic ways to kill foes, the reality is that they all require the same monotonous action on your part, with very little having to happen elsewhere. Anarchy Reigns’ Campaign mode is not meant for long sessions but instead short, gaming bursts that need to end before your mind stops engaging entirely and your empathy for your character stops completely.
Platinum Games, however, whether they counted on to this effect or not, seemed to have devised Multi-Player for this very reason: to give gamers a break, without forcing them to switch the game off altogether. With a choice of Ranked or Player matches, you can choose to play for pride or fun in a range of online modes that will keep you entertained for hours. Personal favourites include the Cage Match, where two people fight like futuristic wrestlers in a steel cage, the 3-Team Capture The Flag, where three sets of two have a set time to bring the flag back to their base as much as possible (the team who has brought it back the most times win, obviously) and Death Ball, a deadly spin on American football, where two teams aim to score as much as possible, while pummelling their opponents to an early grave.
Multi-Player mode is Anarchy Reigns’ saving grace. Instead of the mindless tapping mentioned before, you are forced to use a bit of brain power and think of a strategy. You can’t just always pound what is in front of you, here you often have to aim well and choose your opponent carefully. Of course, this brings on much button bashing but with different goals being sought, you actually relish the kills you get instead of meeting them with indifference. The most pleasing element of the Multi-Player experience is, of course, what brings us all online: knowing that a human being is behind that video game character.
It’s that driving human competitiveness that wills us to win and this game really gives you a sense of online satisfaction, especially when you know someone somewhere is throwing their controller against the wall because you killed their player in a close combat brawl. However, you will need to bear in mind that in order to unlock all the Multi-Player characters, you need to complete the Campaign mode with both Jack and Leo, an annoying aspect to an otherwise great online experience.
With Anarchy Reigns, you might not get the ugly, but you will get the good and bad. Fortunately it’s the latter that is often over-shadowed, especially if you play the game’s Campaign mode in moderation and its Multi-Player in excess. Still, if you’re looking for a driving narrative or a thought provoking, intense, gaming experience, then Anarchy Reigns may not be the title for you. Someday though, you’ll want some mindless brain crunching fun and on that day you’ll be sorry you don’t have something like this to turn to.