There's a host of reasons why The Incredible Hulk probably doesn't play videogames (for one, his hands are too big for the pad), but if he did, Anarchy Reigns would be a favourite. A game from the team that made the near-balletic brawler, Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns keeps the flowing combat for which Platinum Games is famed but drops the elegance and grace.
This is a game about smashing things, about the simple pleasure of picking up a car, then walloping a man dressed up in a giant, bull-themed exoskeleton with it. It's a 20-page love letter to brute force, written in the blood of pulverised foes. It's also a game about multiplayer.
You'd think Platinum's combo-heavy brawlers wouldn't work competitively, since the best players can string attacks together for about as long as it takes to make it a cup of tea. And you'd be right. The combat's simpler here, forcing gaps and openings on players no matter how skilled they are. That said, someone who knows what they're doing can still outclass the competition. Characters have a standard and a heavy attack (X and Y, respectively), while holding LT activates your character's killer weapon - a giant hammer, say, or chainsaw - that can be used temporarily for super-powered strikes.
Despite the tweaks to battle mechanics, Anarchy Reigns is at its worst in a straight-up brawl. Its controls are built for one-on-one combat, which means you'll end up duelling a foe only for some opportunistic chancer to smash you round the back of the head, every single time. There's a spiralling chaos to these battles, enhanced by unpredictable environmental hazards like runaway lorries and aerial bombardments. At times, such anarchy can be fun, but it's frustrating, too. Objective gametypes such as Capture the Flag work better, giving players something to focus on besides slugging one another.
The single-player mode offers some spectacular boss battles, but pads out the experience with long-winded slogs against disposable drones. Without humans to fight, the relative rigidity of combat is exposed, though Platinum could never make hitting something anything less than satisfying. Anarchy Reigns is a brash, scrappy runt in a litter of spectacular action games, but in making online brawling just about work it still offers something of its own.
By Craig Owens
Occasionally frustrating carnage-filled brawler
- Spectacular carnage
- Epic scale
- A genuine online alternative
- Big matches lack focus
- Less intricate combat than Bayonetta