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Anarchy Reigns - Hands-On [E3 2011]

Japanese developers are mostly known for creating engaging worlds that are often crazy or simply have gameplay that is beyond ridiculous.  There are obviously some developers who tend to keep their content in check by not going overboard, but Platinum Games surely isn’t one of them and for that I love the company. Platinum Games may still be a relatively young company in the industry but over the past four years they’ve produced one of the best action games ever made (Bayonetta) and gave us one of the most underrated shooting games of all time in the form of Vanquish.  Platinum Games may not have had a mainstream hit yet, but Anarchy Reigns has the potential to achieve the mainstream appeal that’s been missing from Platinum’s catalogue thus far.

For the past few months we’ve received a ton of info on Anarchy Reigns, or at least the characters that are set to appear in the game.  The few videos we’ve seen for the game look interesting to say the least, but there’s still been an aspect of not truly understanding how the game plays or at least flows.  Well after playing the Anarchy Reigns E3 demo at Sega’s booth I can report that Anarchy Reigns is a good old fashioned brawling game, complete with over-the-top moves and an equal amount of potential frustration to be had.

The Anarchy Reigns demo that was available at E3 was solely for the multiplayer mode and not the single-player campaign. I did see the single-player campaign in action, more on that later, but Sega was just showing the public what sort of multiplayer mayhem gamers can experience in Anarchy Reigns as that seems to be the main draw for the game.  With a slew of characters available in the demo such as Jack, Blacker Baron, Sasha, Zero, Big Bull, Leo, Nikolai, and Mathilda I opted to play as Zero the ninja. With Zero being a slick looking cyber ninja I of course was drawn to him since ninja’s are still cool these days.  Facing against three other players (one playing as Jack and the other two as Sasha) I entered combat in Anarchy Reigns and my overall experience was fun but a bit frustrating.

Jumping into Anarchy Reigns is rather easy since there are two standard attack buttons, one special attack button and a grab button to do some over-the-top moves like an oh so painful suplex (I sadly was on the receiving end of such a thing).  Compared to Bayonetta or even Vanquish, the controls in Anarchy Reigns, at least for Zero,  seemed a bit slower than I expected and that did throw me off a bit.  Zero may be a ninja but he wasn’t exactly as lightning fast as one could be which led me to be on the receiving end of quite a few nasty ice attacks from Sasha or even worst, I was on the receiving end of a chainsaw attack from Jack.

The action of Anarchy Reigns may not feel as lightning fast as it could be or was expected to be, but the pace of the actual battles is rather frantic.  With the action of the demo set in an ocean based oil rig, there basically was no place to hide during battle which led to absolutely no breaks in the action at all. In fact, the only moment I would receive a brief reprieve came from when I would die and was waiting to respawn, which sometimes led to an instant death thus I would have a ten second break.

Playing as Zero did offer a bit of fun but the problem I had with the Anarchy Reigns demo is that things perhaps were a bit too crazy. Obviously with the setting being E3 and me not having the opportunity to play the game for forty-five minutes or more I didn’t have as much as time as I would’ve liked to learn the inner workings of Zero’s combat or even the other characters available in the demo. But what I will say is that in the combat that I did engage in didn’t seem that focus and instead it was just a button smash festival.  Being a gamer that like’s to put my brain at rest when I play games every now and then, I didn’t have a problem not having to think of a combat strategy and merely unleash a twenty-five hit combo on someone. But the combat at times did feel a bit spam heavy which in the case of a multiplayer action game could lead to people growing bored or simply annoyed.  Perhaps better knowing the moves list of Zero my experience with Anarchy Reigns’ multiplayer mode would’ve been better, but I didn’t walk away from the demo station as excited as I was hoping to be.

Anarchy Reigns may be billed as a multiplayer centric action game but there’s a lot more to it than that as Platinum Games is also delivering a single-player mode as well. Shown to me at a behind-closed-doors presentation, the single-player campaign for Anarchy Reigns is an interesting mix between elements of Mad World and the same mayhem that’s found in the multiplayer mode.  Showing off the skills of Jack, I saw a boss battle which featured Zero as the villain. As it was explained during the presentation, certain characters will pop up in the story of Anarchy Reigns as the villain despite that not being their true background per say.  The battle with Zero was interesting since he had several ninja helpers aiding him during the battle but that didn’t seem to be too trouble since Jack had the assistance of Blacker Baron and Mathilda.  Battling against Zero and his minions didn’t look as nearly as hectic as the action did during the multiplayer demo I played, but the demo was cut short so I didn’t witness the entire battle.

As much as we may think that Anarchy Reigns will feature a story that’s a spiritual successor to Mad World both in plot and tone, that won’t be the case at all. Not only was it once again reiterated that Anarchy Reigns uses Mad World nothing more as a character template, it was also brought up that the story told in the sp campaign would mainly be serious. I know it may seem odd that Platinum Games is intent on delivering us a serious story that just happens to feature cyborg men, giant bulls and ice powered women, but Anarchy Reigns did appear to be as serious as it could be in the cutscene I saw.  Featuring Jack as the protagonist (each character has a different story), the cutscene I saw featured the former Mad World protagonist facing against Leo, a fast as hell chap decked in fashionable white attire.  The context of the cutscene was a bit lost on me, Jack and Leo were discussing who assigned the hit on someone, but it was made clear that the tone wasn’t wacky nor was it tongue-in-cheek.  Those who played Mad World will remember that game for having a few moments that were played seriously, but Anarchy Reigns seemingly will be as serious as it can get and won’t waver for a minute.

The ability to be a lone wolf in the multiplayer mode of Anarchy Reigns (which will also include team based efforts) is nice but I’m not sure how the game will perform on a competitive level.  In an era of multiplayer gaming which is mostly centered around shooting stuff I do think that Anarchy Reigns will stick out in some capacity and it could very well gain a strong audience.  But as of now I am still worried about the amount of depth the combat will offer and just how much strategy gamers will be able to use or if the combat will just boil down to seeing who can spam the most damaging move the fastest.

Anarchy Reigns will be available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in January.