Anarchy Reigns Retro Review – It’s a Mad World

If you were one of those lucky gamers who pre-ordered Anarchy Reigns online back in 2012, then you were probably very pleased to see your copy arrive up to two weeks early, allowing you smile smugly at those preferring to pick up the game in-store on launch day, not that many shops were even bothering to stock it. If the early release wasn’t enough to inspire you to pick up Anarchy Reigns, then how about the Limited Edition retailing at under 20GBP? Tempted yet?

It all sounds too good to be true. You might be wondering how the game could ship so early before release. Well, that’s largely down to the fact that Anarchy Reigns was ready months earlier. The Japanese version, titled ‘Max Anarchy’, featured a fully English language option and was released back in autumn 2012. Surely though that’s not a big enough reason to half the price of a new-release game, right? There must be more darkening Anarchy Reigns’ potential to justify such an act.


There is one very important fact that Platinum Games doesn’t seem to want you to know: Anarchy Reigns is the sequel/spin-off to MadWorld, a Nintendo Wii exclusive. MadWorld brought violence, excitement and vibrancy to a system that had suffered an extraordinarily agonising wait for something to feed the appetite of the mature gamer. Slick, stylised and critically acclaimed, this post-apocalyptic rampage through a bloody, gladiatorial TV show was everything that Anarchy Reigns could also have been.

Anarchy Reigns is an partially-open-world beat-’em-up game with musou elements, developed by Platinum Games and published by Sega. It was released in Japan on July 5th, 2012, in North America on January 8th, 2013, in Australia on January 10th, and in Europe on January 11th, at least ‘officially’.


The game is set in a post-apocalyptic future in the fictional city of Altambra. Three months after being arrested for his wife’s murder, the former Bureau of Public Safety agent, Maximillian ‘Max’ Caxton, stages a jailbreak, and his former team, the Strike One Unit, is dispatched to Altambra to find and kill him. Agent Leonhardt ‘Leo’ Victorion splits off from the group to search on his own in hopes of bringing Max back alive, as he remains unconvinced that his former mentor could have turned into a violent killer.

At the same time, Chaser Guild member Jack Cayman is met by Max’s daughter Jeannie, who asks him to retrieve her father alive. Jack begrudgingly agrees, though he possesses a hatred of Max for accidentally shooting his adopted daughter Stela during a rescue mission. While searching, Jack encounters rival bounty hunters Blacker Baron and Mathilda, along with several drones that pursue and attempt to kill him.

Anarchy Reigns’ storyline, which only actually features in the single player campaign, is surprisingly disappointing. The objectives of both the ‘Black Side’ and the ‘White Side’ are to capture Max (from which the Japanese version of the game gets its name). Your protagonist must chase Max across four one-hour-long stages within Altambra while contemplating whether to kill him in a chaotic display of vengeance, or drag him home to answer for his crimes.

Sadly, your actions have no effect on the story, and upon completion, you’ll realise how little you’ve really accomplished. It’s fortunate then that it didn’t last very long, but as mentioned earlier, the single player campaign is only a warm-up exercise before tackling multiplayer.


Anarchy Reigns may flirt with MadWorld’s themes but it has more akin with turf-war brawlers like the Dynasty Warriors series, without the level same level of character interaction, the strategic use of bases, or of course, the historical charm. Despite the emphasis on multiplayer, the game pushes you to play through the single-player campaign a couple of times to learn the ropes.

To begin, you’ll need to choose a faction; the Black Side, comprised of beefy cyborg-type characters, or the White Side, made up of flashy, super-suited, government agent types. I chose the White Side initially, hoping to play as the slender, ice-angel Sasha, only to have the game repeatedly deny me the option to play as the blonde bombshell in favour of the new main protagonist, the confusingly indecisive Leo Victorion, with MadWorld’s Jack Cayman leading the Black Side.

Despite being able to choose a faction, you will have to play through both campaigns to finish the story, and the faction you chose first will decide your playable character for the final boss for you, which is something of a restrictive design choice. A richer fighting experience would be welcome too, and the question has got to be asked: why haven’t more layers been applied here when so many other developers do so effortlessly? There really isn’t much depth to the combat system.

Sadly, many of the characters feel more or less the same. There are minor differences in speed and execution, but in terms of power and stamina you’ll struggle to pick out who are the better choices. Whilst this makes for an easier transition when changing from one character to another, your personal favourite will likely be based purely on aesthetic terms. There are 18 playable characters, not including the guest appearance from bonus DLC character, Bayonetta. Each brawler has their own fighting style but all fall within simple and customisable special weapon attacks.

Clicking the left and right analogue sticks activates ‘Rampage’; speed and power are injected into combat, characters bolt around the area and basic attacks are transformed into Hundred-Hand-Slap-style beat-downs. Once fully charged, Rampage feels more invaluable in a tight spot than blocking or evading ever does, which does add to the repetition.


The graphics during cutscenes are pretty and detailed enough if you forgive the appalling lip-syncing. Sadly, the in-game character models are a noticeable step down in quality. Whilst it’s common for action games to switch to low-resolution character models mid-combat to reduce slowdown, Anarchy Reigns relies on them far too much, and as a result, looks average at best most of the time.

Fortunately, some effort has been made with the soundtrack; it features full songs written solely for the game which help maintain that chaotic theme with their random styles, not that any stand out as being particularly memorable, though each has its charms. While the voice-acting is complete and fully available in English, the overly gruff, gravelly and sometimes flamboyant performances make for a cast that’s tough to recommend here.


Whilst you may assume then that multiplayer is the more rewarding area of the game, it does end up feeling rather pointless as a whole. You see, all of the game’s unlockables (concept art, character profiles, etc) are connected to the single-player campaign. This includes all trophies, so you don’t really have much incentive to even attempt multiplayer.

To make matters worse, a couple of the playable characters are actually killed off during the single-player campaign (no, I’m not telling you who) and therefore playing as them afterwards or battling them again in multiplayer feels like a massive continuity error.

Still, if you’re the type who cares little for pacing and plot (shame on you) then feel free to drag your chainsaws, fiery gauntlets and intricate bludgeoning instruments into the arena for Tag Team, Battle Royale, Death Match, Capture the Flag, Survival, and Deathball. Many of these modes can be played cooperatively, and this is where the real Anarchy Reigns begins.

Survival matches set you and your team-mates against waves of increasingly challenging enemies. Killseekers, the thugs in this dystopia, offer little resistance and neither do the flame-throwing Pyrokillers. Giant Executioners and lizard-like Mutants prove far more worthy opponents, making the learning curve somewhat unpredictable, and that’s not a good thing when you’re trying master the mechanics to give you an edge against skilled human competition.


Sadly, there are more than a few flaws. Anarchy Reigns brazenly skirts structure and quality in its campaign to deliver a fast, fun multiplayer. Perhaps the saddest thing about the game is that its creators appear to have a severe lack of faith in its ability to capture the imagination of its audience, and concentrating largely on multiplayer does not excuse shoddy craftsmanship in its single-player.

The third-person action-adventure genre is overflowing with heavy hitters. Many are content to deliver satisfactory, narrative-driven experiences while many others strive to over-achieve in that same department. The Batman: Arkham games, the Metal Gear Solid games and more modern masterpieces like Enslaved and Heavenly Sword are all shining examples of storytelling.

All too often, titles that waive their responsibility to engage mind as well as matter find themselves lining bargain bins instead of disc trays, yet despite the threat of early admission to the gaming graveyard, some developers continue to produce games that are, sadly, not very interesting. This is exactly what’s happened to Anarchy Reigns, even before its release.

Comparing Anarchy Reigns to the top action-adventure titles might be a tad unfair given the game’s budget price tag. However, since it was originally planned to be a major retail release, we shouldn’t be too forgiving. Anarchy Reigns is unlikely to threaten Bayonetta and Vanquish as a Platinum Games trophy product, though it would’ve been nice if it tried a little harder to compete.

I used the phrase ‘average at best’ earlier, and that seems like a pretty accurate summary for Anarchy Reigns as a whole. There are certainly plenty of game modes to keep you busy for a while and a fair amount of content crammed onto the disc, but none of it really excites or entices. Anarchy Reigns earns its ‘budget’ status and fails to impress in pretty much every area, particularly when compared with the usual high standards produced by Platinum Games in the past.

Far too many reviewers fell into the trap of basing their scores entirely on multiplayer sessions from the earlier Japanese release, only to regret their decision soon after when considering the full, finished product. Yes, it is only 15GBP, but it’s still 15GBP that could be better spent elsewhere. If you haven’t had chance to try a Platinum Games PS3-era game yet, pick up Vanquish or Bayonetta instead.


  • Budget price-tag
  • Some interesting characters
  • Fun multiplayer


  • Short, lackluster single-player campaign
  • Repetitive, uninspiring combat
  • Sloppy presentation

Anarchy Reigns


A fun, action-heavy brawler with some interesting characters which quickly loses its edge once the story fizzles out and the repetition kicks in.

Gary Green
PS3 version reviewed