Anarchy Reigns, Platinum Games' first venture into multiplayer territory, gets the thumbs up from Alex Donaldson. Impressions from gamescom can be found inside.
Platinum Games does not mess around. The team don’t care if their games blow your mind, or look too crazy or complicated – they make what they want to make. After two third-person action games, an RPG and a third person shooter, the nutcases have a new genre to make more mental – online play.
The SEGA rep says it best as we sit down to see Anarchy Reigns at GamesCom. “It’s from Platinum Games. They made the kick-ass Bayonetta. They made the very fast-paced Vanquish. They made the very violent MadWorld – so what they’ve decided to do is make a very violent, fast-paced, kick-ass game called Anarchy Reigns.”
That it is. Anarchy Reigns is an incredibly difficult game to explain on paper, even after a decent amount of time with a four-player, system-linked version of the game’s multiplayer. It’s an incredibly strange melting pot of concepts from traditionally offline genres blended with ideas that populate some of the best online games today – and it’s quite a potent mix.
While most online third person action games involve lots of guns and shooting, Anarchy Reigns is aiming to bring third-person close-quarters combat to online gamers. The demo we played let us choose from a bunch of different characters, each with their own unique weapons, play-style and combos.
In my first match I picked a Ninja-like dude who didn’t look completely dissimilar to Metal Gear Solid’s Grey Fox. He was quick, agile, and had awesome ninja-style throws where he’d whip enemies into a whirlwind. The rest of the picks from my opponents included two folks playing as a Bayonetta-looking woman and a big, burly, bearded man.
The game also features returning cast members from Platinum Games’ popular MadWorld – main character Jack Cayman, Big Bull, Blacker Baron and Mathilda all feature in the game. More character reveals are coming, we’re told, so cameos from other Platinum characters aren’t out of the question.
"They made the kick-ass Bayonetta, the fast-paced Vanquish, the violent MadWorld – so what they’ve decided to do is make a very violent, fast-paced, kick-ass game called Anarchy Reigns."
We only had four, but the multiplayer actually supports up to eight players. Once in, we were placed in a small multi-level 3D arena and simply told to kill each other. On the PS3 pad L1 locked on to enemies while L2 unleashed a special, powerful attack using your weapons. Both R1 and R2 blocked, while Square, Triangle and Circle were Normal Attack, Heavy Attack and Grab respectively. X, of course, was jump.
It’s an interesting concept for an online game – take away the guns and it’s a difficult balance between having combat with depth and just having characters wail on each other until one health bar is depleted. Thankfully, the battles in Anarchy Reigns feel like the former.
I found myself blocking the attacks of my enemies and then returning them in kind with various combos – basic combos like “Normal, Normal, Normal, Heavy” work, but there’s also more rewarding combos to be found by making use of L2 and by mixing up your attacks.
There are some interesting touches to keep things lively, too – time it right when an opponent is knocked down and you can grab them while they’re on the floor, jumping atop them and smashing them into the ground helplessly. In some circumstances, attacks will leave players in a stalemate and the two will have to compete to see who can complete a QTE quickest to see who comes out on top – during this time; they’ve invulnerable to attacks from others.
There’s also rage. I wasn’t able to discern entirely what causes rage to become available, but on occasion your character begins to glow with an ethereal orange energy. Pushing in both analog sticks at this point sends the character into a ‘rage’, the end result being increased attack power and better, longer, easier-to-pull-off combos. I did some of my best damage when in Rage mode, so it’s a powerful tool to have.
The lock on really is vital as the game is very fast-paced – it’s a toggle, so a tap of L1 will lock you onto the enemy you’re looking at and keep you going at them as long as you remain locked on. I had some difficulty switching between enemies on the fly, so that’s one thing that’ll hopefully be tightened up before launch.
The visuals of the game aren’t going to be winning any awards, but the reason why they’re a little less impressive is clear – there’s a lot going on, quickly, online, and at a smooth frame rate. To avoid lag issues the game has to have dropped some graphical bragging rights, but what is lost in raw polygons is made up for somewhat in the visual flair Platinum has taken with the animation and design.
The really interesting thing about Anarchy Reigns happens once a match is over, though. I finished my first match in second place on points – but, somehow, I placed last. The game watches you closely throughout the match and use of a diverse range of combos, kill streaks and other acts of finesse and coolness earns you extra points.
At the end of the match, the additional points were awarded to players for being on top in various aspects of the game – and so players with fewer vanilla kill points ended up getting big enough bonuses for how they played that they overtook my efficient, robot-like killing. It was rewarding originality and stylishness rather than just kills - I had to rethink my approach.
For my second game I picked Garuda, a gigantic Gundam-style mech that transforms into a vehicle instead of running and comes equipped with nasty-looking sharp drills to greatly damage opponents. This time I went in with a hit and run style – picking up on enemies with low health and running in between battling opponents, using my spinning drills to get between them and launch into a combo hitting both of them at once.
The simple hack-and-slash combat was suddenly a lot more complicated and interesting – and at the end of the game I was rewarded with a much higher score and placement. The game had succeeded in making me chase more than just kills, and in an online action game I think that’s something of a revelation.
The game had succeeded in making me chase more than just kills, and in an online action game I think that’s something of a revelation.
What we saw was just one mode – a deathmatch – but there’ll be more available in the final version of the game including Tag Team battles and more objective-based fights. After what SEGA had on show at GamesCom, my interest in Platinum’s entry into the multiplayer theatre is more than piqued.
Anarchy Reigns is set to launch for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in early 2012.