Anarchy Reigns’ tight combat and over-the-top action are brilliant in places, but tiresome in others.

The Good

  • Satisfying combat system
  • Fabulously gory combos
  • Chopping the head off a giant squid with a chainsaw.

The Bad

  • Difficult to follow the story
  • Some single-player missions get repetitive
  • Big online brawls don’t work as well as smaller ones.

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. 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. But then, this isn’t your typical game. As brawlers go, Anarchy Reigns is certifiably insane–and that is most certainly a good thing. 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. Unfortunately, the story is poorly told and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And there are several frustrating, repetitive missions to play through, not to mention some iffy multiplayer modes. But when Anarchy Reigns hits its stride, the combo-fuelled fighting is messy, gory fun.

Anarchy Reigns: giving new meaning to the term ‘blue-blooded.’

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Technically, Anarchy Reigns continues the story of Jack Cayman, the sadistic frontman of the Wii-exclusive Madworld. But with the exception of a few subtle nods to its spiritual predecessor, there’s little to be missed by jumping straight into the action–the story won’t make much sense either way. This is the tale of Cayman and fellow protagonist Leonhardt “Leo” Victorion, who are hunting down a fugitive named Maximillian Caxton. Caxton, it seems, has gone insane and has begun using his cybernetically enhanced body to start exacting bloody murder on innocent citizens, one of whom happens to be Cayman’s daughter. Cue a few cheesy, emotionally charged flashback scenes, a barrage of forgettable character introductions, and some gibberish about a power-hungry law enforcement group, and you’ve got yourself a plot.

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. Even the deeply sinister Russian overtones of Nikolai Bulygin and the humorous jive of the Black Baron aren’t enough to save it. Still, in Anarchy Reigns the plot serves the gameplay, not the other way around, and in that respect it succeeds in pushing you around from one fight to the next with little fuss.

And boy is 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. Thankfully, the third-person combat system makes punching, kicking, and performing gruesome, bloody combos entertaining enough to stave off much of the creeping apathy. Part of that comes from its simplicity. There are just two types of attacks for you to use–normal and heavy–with another button allowing you to block. Combining the three by varying your button presses creates all sorts of interesting combos, where Cayman swings, kicks, and uppercuts his opponents, turning them into a bloody mess. A subtle pause between each attack lets you know when to unleash the next and gives the combat a fluid feel. Nailing the timing to perform combos can be tricky, particularly as none of the commands are listed anywhere, but it’s so satisfying once you do and Cayman lays waste to a group of enemies with a series of brutal smashes.

What's going on here? Who cares? Go punch stuff!

What’s going on here? Who cares? Go punch stuff!

You can spice up your combos by using jumps–which let you unleash uppercuts and ground smashes that are useful for breaking up groups of enemies–or by using Cayman’s chainsaw, which saws smaller enemies in half and takes huge chunks of energy off larger ones. It’s linked to a special attack bar at the bottom of the screen that lets you get four blows out before it depletes, after which you have to resort to normal attacks to fill it back up again. The chainsaw is a requisite for defeating the larger, more aggressive enemies, such as rampaging mutants and giant, hammer-swinging goons. Thanks to the smooth combo system, adding the chainsaw into your regular attacks soon becomes second nature, while grisly visuals and guttural sounds make using it satisfying.

Anarchy Reigns’ tight combat and over-the-top action are brilliant in places, but tiresome in others.

By Mark Walton