Anarchy Reigns Co-Op Review
We are each an avatar of the apocalypse. 16 warriors made of flesh-fused metal wreaking havoc across a scrap of ruined earth. Cyborg bounty hunters,genetically altered gangsters, cybrid government agents, one big bad pimp, and a host of other battle-hardened warriors vie for each other's destruction with dual bladed chainsaws, jet powered hammers, "Super Sexy Fists of Fire," and an arsenal of even more ridiculous weapons.
Bombs rain down from a burning heaven as a giant made of electricity and steel battles a juggernaut of madness and glowing red positron blades. Three sisters of the Crimson Dragon clan crash through the fray, a screaming trident of lightning, ice, and fire. A grotesque man-pig swells into a beastly scaled monster and heaves a car after them. Somewhere off to my right a ninja does battle with a god-forsaken Go-Bot, while a cat/man/cannon creature tries to get in a cheap shot. But I don't have time to take it all in, there's a damn tornado coming and I've got to keep pounding the X and Y buttons until my Rampage meter is replenished. Then I can click my thumb sticks, pound X and Y some more, and send the dark-haired pretty boy turtling before me to the pits of respawn hell. All the while I'm aware a grizzled mutant hunter might come up behind me and slam my sexy lady body through the pavement, face first. This isn't your average brawler. This is a 16 man Battle Royale fashioned by Platinum Games. This is Anarchy Reigns.
Jack scratches the Baron's back. Through his front. With a chainsaw.
I'll come out and say it right now: Anarchy Reigns is a heckuva good time for $30, especially in the gaming wasteland of January. It's not great, and I'd be more than disappointed if I spent 60 bones on this crazy brawler. That said, it has its charm, and the price is right. For the purpose of this Co-Op Review, we'll say the game has three basic ways to play; a single player campaign, a dedicated co-op mode, and several different multiplayer versus modes.
The core mechanics are the same throughout each game mode in Anarchy Reigns. The X button murders, the Y button murders harder, and when you hold the Left trigger while pressing the X button, you guessed it: murder hardest. Left trigger and the Y button? Super murder. Yup, it's a button masher. There's a little more to it than that, there is a throw button after all, and characters do have their own subtle nuances. Larger creatures, like Big Bull, are slower, but they give and take more damage, plus they can throw two enemies at once. Smaller characters, like Sasha, are much quicker, but seem to be more fragile. The characters are defined by their looks and their Killer Weapons. It's not as shallow as the old Mortal Kombat games, where the only difference between each character was a special move and a Fatality, but at a glance it has that vibe. Even after a couple of days with the game most of the characters seem similar. Everyone has the same button inputs, which is good for balance, but bad for variety.
I'll begin with the story mode, since that's where I found the tutorial. Okay, you caught me. I jumped into the multiplayer and got my cyborg butt kicked. I retreated to the single player campaign, where I could lick my wounds and select the difficulty. (I rolled Normal, which was rather easy.) I chose to start on the Black Side and play as MadWorld's chainsaw-wielding badass, Jack Cayman. I could have picked the White side and played as little goody two-shoes, Leo. He's armed with sparkly blue elbow blades, or something. It doesn't really matter which side you choose. You must play both the Black and White sides to complete a full campaign, and then you need to play them both again, in opposite order, to see everything. It takes about eight hours to wrap it all up.
Leo and Max discuss the finer qualities of good Chinese food. Not really.
The story is fun enough, but the character portrayals at times can be a teensy bit racist. The Blacker Baron has some... interesting lines. And then of course there are the women, who, well, look the way women look in fighting games. There are also plenty of F-bombs and other lines of nonsense. I found the writing silly and too ridiculous to be offensive, which isn't a bad thing. While the story played out I was constantly bombarded by hip-hop that ranged from "This is pretty good, I guess I'm still hip and with it," to, "Turn this crap down and get off my lawn before I call the cops." As a side note, not a single dub was stepped. Keep in mind, I'm over 30, so my taste in music hasn't mattered for years.
The game takes place in large, ugly environments. Nick pointed out the atrocious draw distances. The character models were passable when I was up close and personal, but once I moved a few paces away from something it appeared to have been smeared with Vaseline. I didn't have much time to look around, because I was immediately assaulted by grunts, called Killseekers, who populate the land. These guys are a constant nuisance in the campaign. They're easy enough to kill (they punch in half real good), but if you actually want to spend any time not getting shot, shocked, or set on fire, they become rather annoying. The only reprieve comes when they eventually turn tail and run away --and the only thing that will make them retreat is if something worse is coming your way, like large, hammer-wielding Executioner Killseekers, or even larger reptilian mutants, or countless robotic drones who are armed with shields, firearms, and jetpacks.
Overpowered weapons like Sniper Rifles can change the tide of battle in any game mode.
Once I took out a few Killseekers a mission opened up. These come in two flavors, Free Missions and Story Missions. You can skip Free Missions if you like, but you must complete Story Missions to advance the campaign. New missions are unlocked by earning points through free roaming combat or repeatable Free Missions. Most of the objectives focus on beating other player characters or surviving waves of enemies. Two absolutely horrible missteps come in the form of a mindless racing game and a craptacular ball punching travesty. Luckily, these two distractions make up about 15 minutes of the eight hour experience.
The whole campaign is decent enough. It has its moments, but it's basically the versus mode with bots and cut scenes. What's even more baffling is the fact that friendly AI accompanied me through many of the missions. This is a huge missed opportunity for cooperative play. The overall campaign experience would have been greatly enhance had three player co-op been supported. At least the friendly AI is somewhat competent.