Gamescom 2011: Anarchy Reigns Hands-On Preview – Max Anarchy
Written Friday, August 26, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
If Platinum Games has become known for anything, it's for pushing boundaries. Whether it's pushing the hack and slash envelope – or rather shooting it out of a cannon into the sun – with Bayonetta, or rolling up the third-person shooter in a cigarette paper, lighting it and throwing it at a giant robot for Vanquish, Platinum is fast becoming famed for grabbing a genre by the scruff of the neck and shaking it violently until all of the hackneyed bits fall out.
Innovation is what the developer is all about, and with Anarchy Reigns, Platinum is shifting its focus to the fighting genre and looking to infiltrate an untapped online multiplayer space. Sure there's Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat and others all catering for an online market, but Anarchy Reigns is something altogether different, offering an all-out melee for up to eight players on one map.
Single-player has you playing from one of two perspectives: black for Jack and white for Leo, and both are on a mission to track down Max, as in 'Max Anarchy', the game's Japanese title. For our hands-on though, we're on one of Anarchy Reigns' smaller multiplayer maps with four-players simultaneously battling via system link, and what follows is a chaotic fight to the death. Picking the Transformer-esque Garuda, we plough straight in brandishing our big arm drills, bristling with sparks as we rush into the fray. Stupid idea. We immediately get our ass handed to us by the other three players, who negate our button-mashing attacks with grab moves, throwing Garuda to the ground and stomping his big metal head.
It's an unceremonious introduction to Anarchy Reigns, but it prepares us for the onslaught of attacks we have to manage from our three opponents, as we wade back in for another go, holding the left trigger to once again rev up Garuda's fierce tornado drills. With the drills primed, we swing using X and Y for horizontal and vertical attacks respectively, scoring a few palpable hits in the process and even bagging our first kill. It doesn't take long before we're tearing chunks out of Big Bull, keeping the lithe Mathilda at bay and taking the fight to the Blacker Baron, but it's all too late for this round, as we hang our head in shame with a paltry third place.
Garuda proves to be a little on the slow side for our tastes, and although his ability to transform into a jet to cover more ground quickly could prove useful on larger maps, it's almost useless on the smaller 4v4 map we're on. By comparison, Mathilda is much quicker and tougher to pin down, whereas Big Bull and Blacker Baron measure up favourably with Garuda's bulk and heavy swinging attacks. On to the second round then, and we decide to opt for a quicker character from the eleven announced so far, which include Jack, Leo, Blacker Baron, Zero, Garuda, Mathilda, Big Bull, Nikolai, Oinksie and Durga. We pick Sasha, Anarchy Reigns' resident ice queen who has a figure and fighting style not unlike Bayonetta's.
Diving into another Deathmatch, we decide to err more on the side of caution this time around, letting our three rivals – Nikolai, Zero and Leo – go at it, before coming in from the side and picking on Zero, beating the crap out of his cyber ninja ass. A volley of quick punches and kicks opens Zero up, leaving him primed for an all-out assault with Sasha's snow spikes, which act almost like Ivy from Soul Calibur's whip, arcing through the air and carving through your opponent's defences. Mixing things up with some grabs using the B button, we start to mount up a pretty decent kill streak, blocking with the right trigger and retreating to the upper levels of the map when things get too hairy.
Sometimes hanging back can be a good idea, and on this particular map there's fans on the lower level that boost you up to a higher plateau, where you can go to catch your breath. This map is also suspended above a city though, so going higher up can be a risk, and can result in a long drop to your death if you're on the receiving end of a powerful attack. Knowing when to defend and when to strike is key in Anarchy Reigns, and makes for an interesting and strategic to and fro during fights. So, having killed Zero several times, bested Nikolai on more than one occasion despite being frazzled by his Tesla Blitz and overcome Leo's positron blades, we whittle down the Deathmatch clock and snatch our first victory, which proves to be hugely satisfying.
Deathmatch is of course just one of Anarchy Reigns' multiplayer modes, with Battle Royale providing a free-for-all with the last man standing taking the win, Cage Match pitting players against one another in a more confined arena and Co-Op Survival tasking you with defeating waves of enemies in close combat alongside friends. Each multiplayer mode unlocks various perks as you level up that SEGA assures us maintains the game's balance, while providing impetus to keep playing and advancing. Single-player is where you'll unlock more characters though, and the more you play the more moves and skill sets you'll gain access to. And before you ask, we did enquire as to whether Bayonetta and Jeanne will get a look in amongst the roster, telling SEGA we think it's a no-brainer to have them in there. SEGA's reply? “Well, if you think it's a no-brainer, then Platinum has probably thought about it.” Our fingers remain tightly crossed then.
Bayonetta or no Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns is pure Platinum in its approach, with balls-to-the-wall action and no quarter given in its fights. Occasionally the action can seem a little too frenetic at times, but then that's part of the fun too. It does feel like the mechanics could use a little more polish as the game heads towards its 2012 release, and Platinum is almost certainly on the case, as well as focusing on ensuring the lobbies and matchmaking are as smooth as humanly possible come launch day. With a mad cast of characters – of which there's more to come – and a fighting system that works rather well for the most part, Anarchy Reigns is shaping up to be a blast, and yet another feather for Platinum Games to place in its increasingly feather-laden cap.
Anarchy Reigns is out in January 2012.