Have you ever wanted to revisit the classic, top-down action of the original Grand Theft Auto titles or Smash TV? Did you ever think it would be cool to incorporate elements of danmaku or “bullet hell” shoot-em-ups as well as RPG-style progression and a skill system? Did you also think it would be great if this game looked like a Flash game from the early 2000s and featured sound effects made from the developer’s mouths? Me neither, but that’s exactly what you can expect from State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem.
State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is an arcade-inspired shoot-’em-up where you direct the titular “Master of Mayhem” on his quest to rob banks, kill aliens, and then rob more banks and kill even more aliens until the credits finally roll and you ask yourself why you just spent 5 hours doing the same thing over and over again. There are a grand total of 4 different level types within the game that are repeated in an obnoxious cycle that spans a mind-numbing 48 stages with the only real differences between them being the enemy varieties and bullet patterns. If slogging through this monotonous game only once is not enough for you, the game also features a New Game Plus mode as well as a Hard Mode option, which increases the amount of overabundant, infinitely spawning enemies within each stage.
One of the biggest problems with the gameplay in State of Anarchy (other than the fact that the game is unashamedly repetitive) is progression, or more accurately, your character’s weapon progression or lack thereof. Upon completion of almost every other stage, you will be awarded a new weapon that will either fill your primary slot or your special weapon slot, which, admittedly, sounds really cool on paper. The reality, however, is that there are both too many weapon types and the actual “progression” is completely arbitrary. Your character will go from using a pair of handguns, to a shotgun, then to buzz saws, then to double rifles, and back again, but more often than not, the next weapon you receive does not feel like an actual upgrade and more like a step backwards. What should be a player reward instead turns into a roll of the dice and the game forces you to pick up the new weapon in order to proceed to the next stage.
Another issue in the game is the RPG-style skill system and the weapon upgrades that you can purchase with the money you accrue during the course of the game. Most of the skills you can get are passive skill boosts which increase HP, run speed, or upgrades to your weapon damage, rate of fire, or weapon range which would actually mean something if said upgrades made a noticeable difference during gameplay. Outside of the Rage, Bloodlust, and Deadly Kick abilities and the first few levels of HP, you probably won’t notice the difference if you try increasing your speed or damage because your actual damage numbers are not displayed and the increments they are increased by are miniscule.
The game also suffers from occasional frame rate issues or frame skips during particularly hectic moments in the game. Even on Normal Mode, which has less mobs than Hard Mode, I still experienced these hard drops several times while I was playing, particularly in the alien world sections filled with numerous enemy turrets and bullets galore. This fact is even sadder when you take into account just how bland the graphics in the game actually are.
If I was forced to say at least one thing positive about State of Anarchy, it would be that the soundtrack is actually half-decent, at least during some portions of the game. The annoying circus-style music that plays every time you get into a car during most of the game is not something I care to remember, but the music that plays during boss battles and inside banks is pretty good compared to the quality of the rest of the game. The hard rock-inspired tunes go well with the fast-paced action concept of the game, although it’s a shame it’s wasted on the finished product.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this game to anyone, but I know there are people out there who may enjoy it. So, if you enjoy dull backgrounds and doing the same thing over and over or think it’d be great if a poop joke was turned into a 3 hour long epic, then this game might be for you. For everyone else, I highly recommend spending your $5 on something else like fast food or cigarettes if you are really that bound and determined to slowly kill yourself on the inside.