This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Platinum Games' over-the-top multiplayer brawler Anarchy Reigns, which reviewers describe as "rough at times but overall entertaining." Anarchy Reigns currently earns a score of 73 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Tim Turi at Game Informer scores Anarchy Reigns at 7.5 out of 10, calling it "an action-packed online brawler with some rough edges."
"Online gaming experiences are dominated by shooters and sports games, while action games tend to be single-player affairs," he notes. "But what would happen if 16-player deathmatches were populated with chainsaw-wielding maniacs and cybernetic ninjas instead of gun-toting army dudes?
"Platinum Games' Anarchy Reigns answers this question. The 3D, arena-based brawler hosts chaotic battle royales where anything goes, along with a lengthy single-player campaign."
"Anarchy Reigns feels like a hybrid of a fighting game and action game," Turi continues. "Blocking attacks and pulling off flashy throws is as satisfying as it is in Street Fighter. Unleashing a flurry of light and heavy attacks against opponents is similar to action games like Asura's Wrath (complete with ridiculous and powerful special moves)."
The game has its share of control issues, however. "Babysitting the clunky camera and selecting targets with the finicky lock-on system can spoil the fun," Turi recalls. "Juggling your enemy in the corner is a cathartic treat, unless you can't see the flaming semi-truck b-lining towards you."
"Anarchy Reigns' multiplayer scratches an itch I didn't know I had, but its camera faults and near-identical character move sets hold it back from scratching hard enough," Turi writes. "However, online matchmaking is quick and easy, and the network fidelity held strong through every round I played. The campaign is rough at times but overall entertaining, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a high-caliber action experience. "
GameSpot's Mark Walton rates Anarchy Reigns at 7 out of 10. "It's not every day that you're forced to fight a squid to death, let alone one with vicious, electrified tentacles and a penchant for chewing on aircraft carriers," he begins. "Nor is it every day that you see said squid get sawn in half by a loud-mouthed pimp, or its squelchy offspring squished into bloody black ink by a man with a rusty chainsaw for an arm."
"As brawlers go, Anarchy Reigns is certifiably insane -- and that is most certainly a good thing," Walton asserts. "Its ability to combine kooky characters and bizarre situations with a thoroughly satisfying combat system is an admirable achievement, and an entertaining one at that."
Walton finds that Anarchy Reigns' gameplay grows repetitive, but remains fun throughout. "There a lot of fighting to be done in Anarchy Reigns -- so much, in fact, that it can get a little repetitive after a while," he admits. "Thankfully, the third-person combat system makes punching, kicking, and performing gruesome, bloody combos entertaining enough to stave off much of the creeping apathy."
The storyline is a low point, however. "It's a confusing collection of nonsense, partly because little, if anything, is explained thoroughly enough for you to follow, and partly because the characters spout dialogue that's about as thoughtful as a Christmas card on Valentine's Day, and no less idiotic," Walton warns. "Even the deeply sinister Russian overtones of Nikolai Bulygin and the humorous jive of the Black Baron aren't enough to save it."
"There are moments of brilliance in smaller online battles or in some of the single-player's set pieces, where it all seems to click and the gory combat becomes so enjoyable," Walton says. "Anarchy Reigns might not hit those highs often enough to be truly great, but it's different enough and crazy enough for a chainsaw-fuelled rumble or two."
Lucas Sullivan at Games Radar gives Anarchy Reigns3 out of 5 stars. "Can you catch a missile and throw it back at the jet that fired it at you?" he asks. "It's that devotion to stylish excess that makes the game's action so appealing, where the battles are so absurd and nonsensical that you can't help but be charmed. It's just a shame that the multiplayer is more frustrating than it is fun -- especially given the fact that it feels like the core foundation for the otherwise short game.
"You'll experience oscillating levels of enjoyment throughout the story mode, as scattered missions take you on a full tour of the gigantic levels, with the occasional flashy cutscene mixed in," Sullivan continues.
"Said missions range from exhilarating (riding a berserk mutant or gunning down waves of robots) to boring (escorts and fetch quests), with a fairly consistent variety -- but they're made far more exciting by an increasingly nutty suite of environmental threats that break up the pace and keep you engaged. For instance, a fist-fight with a reptilian-skinned beast might be rudely interrupted by a crash-landing cargo jet."
Sullivan isn't as impressed with the multiplayer aspect. "Unfortunately, the multiplayer side of things doesn't quite hit its mark," he writes. "Here you can play as a multitude of colorful fighters besides Jack and Leo, battling in a variety of team deathmatch, 16-player free-for-all, and one-on-one modes. [...] The problem with the multiplayer is that it reduces the combat to an unintelligible mosh pit of violent chaos. With or without teams, players tend to congregate in one area of the huge map, where things devolve into a move-spamming, kill-stealing mess."
"Anarchy Reigns may be a case of style over substance, but if quick-and-dirty brawling is what you're in the mood for, it's guaranteed to scratch your savage itch," Sullivan concludes. "It's a shame that the multiplayer, which could've prolonged the game's frenetic fun, will serve as an amusing distraction. But when you just want to turn your brain off and pummel waves of baddies, it doesn't get much more gratifying or outrageously stylish than this."