Not since either Jumpman or Cut the Rope has a game’s name been so literal or so fitting. Platinum’s first foray into online gaming is a perfect storm of Super Sexy Fists of Fire (not our words but the game’s), flying heels and smack talk, and if that wasn’t enough it’s served up with a side order of natural disaster.
The biggest problem, it seems, will be trying to make sense of it all. Sitting through nearly 20 minutes of Anarchy Reigns doesn’t really clear things up too much either – it’s a chaotic mess and it’s a struggle to both keep ahead of it and pick out a logical string from the on-screen noise.
But we’ll try. Set in a – surprise surprise! – post-apocalyptic city, Anarchy Reigns stars a cast that’s heavy on the nano-tech augmentations, all of whom are fighting to the death. An offline campaign mode promises to shed some light on its slither of story, but it’s the online that’s the focus, and it’s that component that’s on show today.
First up there’s Battle Royale, which – as the name suggests – is one almighty free-for-all. Eight players contest across what looks like a surprisingly large map, one that’s not only set across several tiers but also several small districts. The vertical nature of it has its own upsides too: at one point someone flings themselves off a tall building into the middle of a full-on brawl, using their heads to break the sizeable fall.
When players fight the combat looks like being a halfway house between the blunt theatrics of Mad World and the rich complexity of Bayonetta. Combos are wrought from a simple set-up that sees normal and heavy attacks mixed up with a grab button, and to keep everything in check there’s a lock-on function too.
Power-ups lend the action an added edge of unpredictability. Some of them simply buff the player, while another – intriguingly – pulls two players into a separate arena where they face off one-on-one.
Think along the lines of PowerStone and you’ll be a small way towards understanding how Anarchy Reigns plays out – throw in Platinum’s eccentric aesthetic and the picture becomes that little clearer. Blend in the Action Trigger Events – or ATEs as they’re referred to – and you’ve some idea of how truly crazy it all is.
ATEs range from raging tsunamis that consume whole portions of the stage to black holes that crop up and suck players in, and they’re all in the realm of the catastrophic. They threaten to fundamentally alter the way fights are conducted too: one of them sees an outbreak of mutants that gradually grows in numbers and power, forcing players to fight together as they struggle for survival. It’s another layer to what’s already a heady and intoxicating mix.
Unsurprisingly, given its status as spiritual successor to Mad World, there are more than a handful of familiar faces that help anchor it all. First there’s Jack, who makes the journey from the Wii exclusive’s monochrome universe. He’s been put through Anarchy Reign’s own filter, though, and now sports two chainsaws and a more aggressive look. Others return from Mad World – Mathilda adds to the S&M vibe, especially with her one special move that sees her high-heel her way up a player’s back as they lie prone on their hands and knees before gleefully stamping on them.
And then there’s The Blacker Baron, a character who’s drawn from, shall we say, a particularly unsavory worldview. An African American pimp, he’s another character returning from Mad World, and while he’s in possession of what’s arguably the game’s greatest asset – his prime means of offence, the Super Sexy Fists of Fire – it’s not enough to prevent a nasty aftertaste from forming.
Crass characters aren’t the only concern with Anarchy Reigns, however. Platinum Games is typical of other big name developers in Japan in that it’s yet to conquer or even embrace online gaming, and the lack of experience sometimes shows. The chaos threatens to be overbearing while the maps seem easy for players to get lost in, leaving them running in search of the action.
Worse still, it’s a step away from what Platinum has done best. Bayonetta, Mad World and Vanquish were all brilliant at empowering the player, giving them hordes of fodder to unleash a bevy of spetacular moves on. Anarchy Reigns, on the other hand, risks making the player feel powerless as they get lost in the overbearing pandemonium and find themselves on the sore end of a beating.
But there’s enough of Platinum’s special touch evident to remain optimistic. Instead of being decided by kill counts, victory goes to the player with the highest score, with points being deducted for each death. It suggests a combo-focused experience, something that’s at the core of the co-op based Survival mode in which players face off against hordes of enemies.
And what Anarchy Reigns lacks in refinement it makes up for in its level of energy. But here’s hoping that when we get to play the game for ourselves we find some of Platinum’s flair for depth beneath the game’s noise and chaos.
You must be logged in to post a comment.