Review: Anarchy Reigns

SEGA open up the year’s retail game releases with Anarchy Reigns, a game which unbelievably served up its reveal trailers over two years ago. So with such a long wait since the game was first shown off, and most people forgetting it even existed, has Anarchy Reigns got enough to start gamers off on their 2013 spending? Well, with the game getting a budget release (£20 at release, and probably less than that already) the price is certainly right, so with a bit of luck some crazy gameplay will be just the ticket… right?

Well yeah, sort of. In the single player campaign things don’t start very clearly – after a bit of an intro you get dropped into an area with bad guys appearing out of nowhere, with nothing to do but beat them up. After a short moment a tutorial appears, giving you the chance to enter a virtual arena and learn the ropes a bit. Initially it’s easy to dismiss this, after all who does the tutorial in a button masher like this? Well it turns out you should – after a few deaths at the hands of huge mobs or chunky enemies I ended up buckling and completing the tutorial, learning a load of new tricks in the process. For a button mashing what-the-hell-’em-up (it’ll catch on) there’s a surprising amount of depth to the combat options available.

Even after the tutorial pops up, and an initial free level (which is basically a point builder that can be played over and over again with various medials on offer) it takes some time to realise that all of this random beating up and all of the free level points are going towards building up your points meter. At certain intervals new levels are unlocked, and it’s this mechanic that opens up story levels as well as further free play levels. It can turn into a bit of a grind before long, and you feel like you have to replay the free levels to pick up quicker points and progress through the story, but it’s a decent chance to practise some of the moves you’ve learnt in the tutorial.

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The story itself is reasonable and can be followed through two options, but despite some nice variety in some of the levels and missions, it feels quite samey at times. It’s not helped by the fact that the game isn’t the prettiest thing you’ll set your eyes on, and some large levels aren’t really enough to make you get carried away. It’s not terrible, and there are some nice touches, but don’t expect anything spectacular. You might not even notice all that much – there’s so much going on and so many bad guys to take on you don’t get much chance to take in the scenery.

So the single player is playable and pretty enjoyable, but what about the online multiplayer? Well this seems to be where the main enjoyment will come from. With pretty quiet online servers Anarchy Reigns is struggling to get itself up to speed online, but if you can get a game you’re in for something quite bewildering.

Anarchy Reigns was clearly created as a multiplayer game – whether you can get your head round the concept of a huge button mashing brawler with a focus on deathmatches in large arenas is by the by; that’s exactly what this is. Depending on the type of game you can have up to 16 players, all running around dealing as much death and damage as they can muster. At first it’s baffling – my first game ended with no kills and more time scratching my head over how I just got killed than actually playing the game – but take some time to figure it out and it’s good fun. Death Ball – a kind of killing-infused version of football – is an especially good laugh but is helped along with teammates who want to work together.

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There are plenty of characters to unlock – something that can be done in the main campaign – each having their own styles and stats. It doesn’t make a vast difference because of how fast and frantic everything is, but I’m sure there are benefits to sticking with one main character – after all, the people who were kicking my butt seemed to know their characters inside out. The multiplayer is certainly the place to be, but with quiet servers and ultimately repetitive mashing gameplay I’m not sure how long it’ll all last. It deserves some attention though, if for no other reasons that it’s genuinely enjoyable and offers something pretty different to the rest of the current fighting genre.

With such a low starting price, Anarchy Reigns is worth a punt if you’re after some pretty mental brawling. SEGA got it spot on by not releasing it at full price, and they deserve some reasonable success for trying something different and offering a fun online portion to the game. But a single player campaign that feels a bit hard to chew lets things down a bit, and they’ll be hoping for some more sales to make the online side more consistently enjoyable. But for a slightly barking mad punchathon, look no further.

Reviewed on PS3

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