State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is a fun, well paced top-down shooter that oddly reminded me of the original Grand Theft Auto. I’m not comparing the two by quality, of course, that would be silly, but there’s a very, very slight likeness as to how the game plays. The premise of the game is very bare, but then, when it comes to a game like this, it’s easy to overlook. Players take on the role of an ordinary citizen when one day, life takes an unexpected turn for the worse when aliens attack the planet and wreck heaps of havoc.
Leaving nothing but destruction in their path, everyone takes up arms to defend themselves and for reasons unknown, will gun at you from all angles. You’re thrown into the experience with very little to go on, outside of a quick scene that shows a news reporter describing the above story introduction. Once this is over, you’re plopped into the game without a tutorial of any sort and are left to fend for yourselves. Usually I would grill a game for the lack of a tutorial, but due to how simple State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is to play, it gets a pass.
That said, there are indeed some on-screen button prompts that will explain what you need to key-in to interact with cars, shoot weaponry and so forth. The initial aim of the game couldn’t be any simpler if it wanted to be; make your way to the bank and rob money from whichever gang that controls it. The kicker? Well, as alluded to above, everyone and their dog is out for their pound of your flesh, making for a nonstop action-fest that rarely buckles under the weight of its simplistic concept. This is a game that’s about kicking ass and taking names.
Something that it manages to achieve at a regular pace. Making your way to a bank may sound simple on paper, but in practice, it can be quite the opposite. Now, you can either walk to this bank or drive to it, but either way, you’re in for some trouble when the hordes of enemies and the boss battles make an appearance. General rule of thumb: shoot anything that isn’t static as you make your way to your objective. Once you reach the end of each stage, powerful boss encounters will be sat laying in wait to truly test your reflexes.
Bosses typically house more powerful weaponry and capabilities, though they’re not overly difficulty to suss out and eventually overcome. Once defeated, you’ll earn some cash (because we all need that in a world ruined by aliens) and a new weapon that will replace either your main slot or secondary slot weapon. There’s a total of over sixty weapons in the game and you’ll receive a new one after each level has been completed. This mass firepower does come in handy, given the sheer number of foes that the game will constantly throw at you.
It doesn’t matter where you go or which route you take to your objective, enemies will constantly hammer you from all directions. The game’s difficulty curve is fair for the most part, but there are moments of play in which it spikes, causing some tough spots that can frustrate sooner than excite. Enemy capabilities will also alter as progression is made. To begin with, you need not worry about anything other than enemies with guns, however, later on, the game throws bomb-slinging maniacs at you and even the occasional overhead ill-tempered alien.
Being a top-down shooter, you do have a good point-of-view to see all of the action within. There’s also a few different ways that you can play; be it running and gunning or jumping in a car and driving over everything. State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem does well to mix things up throughout play too, lending the game a nice bit of diversity. There’s some added depth on top of this through the game’s upgrade system as well. Once you beat a level, you’re given the choice to spend your collected currency on a small range of added benefits.
This includes the likes of being able to better your firepower, such as increased critical damage and range of spray. Players can also level-up and upgrade the character’s traits; speed, health and so on. Simple stuff, but effective nevertheless. Levels are short, lasting only a handful of minutes per-whack, but they’re massively addictive. When we take the very generous price tag into account (£6.39 – or region equivalent), there’s no denying that you’re getting your money’s worth. Especially if, like me, you enjoy good top-down shooters.
Visually, this is where I suspect many will take issue, there’s not a lot going on. I appreciated the game for what it was and the hand-drawn art – complete with stick-men characters – was serviceable, but I wouldn’t come into this expecting to be knocked over. When all is said and done, it does the trick and it certainly looks distinct, if not impressive. The same can be said about the audio too, which is neither impressive nor annoying, it’s just what you would expect. Nothing more, nothing less. Still, I’ve had a blast with this game and I suspect fans of the genre will enjoy the same outcome.
State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is an exciting and simplistic top-down shooter that offers up a solid amount of content for its generous asking price. The difficulty may indeed fluctuate unfairly from time to time and its visuals are very basic, but when all is said and done, there’s a lot of fun to tap into here. Don’t take it at face value, because it’s likely to pleasantly surprise you.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.