No one does violence quite like Platinum Games. From the sliding, power-suited madness of Vanquish, to Bayonetta’s hyper-sexualised, shoe fetish acrobatics, this is a developer that’s cornered the market in stylish and stylised gore.
Even Madworld’s monochrome exploitation-fest – with its hideous splashes of red and hilarious sign posted brain injuries – stands head and shoulders above the drab greys and browns of western-developed shooters and brawlers.
This is precisely why the first few minutes of Anarchy Reigns are so listless. All of Platinum’s big, brash characters are here, all rippling neck muscles and impossible chest appendages, but the backdrops to your brawls are brown-washed and generic. There’s none of the sparkle or swagger we’ve come to expect.
Even the character models are a little bland, with Madworld’s chain-fisted Jack in particular looking like he’s just stumbled in from a Gears of War title. And that feeling of mediocrity is compounded by the single-player campaign’s lack of ambition.
Picking from either Jack, or pretty boy Leon, you’ll battle through a series of scraps and tumbles as a story about murdered daughters and madness meanders its way through your brain. The entire thing is uninspiring to say the least, with only a few moments that really show what Platinum can do; a three way brawl against a giant squid in Jack’s half of the story being a rare highlight amidst the dirge.
Thankfully though, the single-player portion is a mere appetiser, practice for the main multiplayer meal if you will, that also ensures that Sega isn’t peddling a game with a disc that’s half empty. This does make the purchasing equation simple however: if you’re after a rewarding single-player experience, don’t bother with Anarchy Reigns.
If, however, you’re looking for a game that throbs and hums to the smashes and crashes of a online scrum; that pours scorn on subtlety and poise and rejoices in a mad, multi-coloured ballet of kicks, punches, and offensive weapons, then there’s a lot here to enjoy.
Not that it’s a perfect experience even here however. The melee combat is balanced at the expense of real characterisation – every character’s combos are basically the same – and while some pugilists are strong and slow, and others nippy and weak, when the screen is full of chaos it’s sometimes hard to tell whether your blows are even making contact.
That’s the price of Platinum’s vision. While there are plenty of different modes, from capture the flag, to a version of basketball with more decapitation than usual, they almost always end in a massive brawl in the centre of the level.
Entertaining most certainly, but that fun comes at the expense of the soul that Platinum’s other games resound with. There’s a lack of the purity of Bayonetta, because timing means nothing when eight other super powered brawlers are trying to cave your head in.
The problem is thus: Platinum has tried to make everyone feel special, to try and make each fighter in the ring feel like they’re top dog, and in the end all that does is make everyone feel a little average.
Anarchy Reigns is worth your time, and it’s worth the effort you have to put in to master it, but compared to the rest of the developer’s canon it just doesn’t cut the mustard. As I said, no-one does violence like Platinum Games, and that expectation is precisely why it never rises above the merely passable.
By Harry Slater
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Platinum Games