Anarchy Reigns

Anarchy Reigns

Might equals right as Platinum bring its unique perspective to the online fighting arena. Can fists of fury catch the eye of a world infatuated with guns and grenades? Prepare for Round 1.

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Even with only four games under its belt, Platinum Games has already established a recognisable flair due to the extreme stylistic flourishes favoured on its console titles. Anarchy Reigns, the studio's latest endeavour and its first foray into the online arena, is no different.

The studio's wares, from Mad World, through Bayonetta and into Vanquish, have been in the spirit of the 90s era of gaming - bizarre, beautiful yet always memorable world design and enemies, frantic action, little exposition - that has become the calling card of the developer and created an affinity with gamers who miss such crazy concepts in these days of realistic warfare.

It's true to of Anarchy Reigns, a massive third-person multiplayer brawl with close-quarters combat and random stage events adding to the madness. Yet Platinum go one step further, and into the reflex-battering action slips in a love letter to the arcade division fraternity of the 90s. This is exactly the sort of game who's attract trailer would have caught your attention upon entering the arcade. You had no idea what was going on, but you were ready to spend a quid to find out.

Anarchy Reigns
Specials will roundhouse anyone in the vicinity.
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And the video footage of the title, shown as part of Sega's presentation, is chaotic. There's a lot happening on the screen. Check out the trailer below to see what we mean.

It's one of many released by Sega, and really only let you know that this is slowly developing into Platinum's own variant of Marvel Vs Capcom (or Fighters MegaMix, for all you old-school Saturn fans) as it throws combatants from its pre-existing franchises together into one almighty scrap. Currently that might seem like exaggeration - the roster thus far is primarily cut from the MadWorld cast - but we're not going to lay bets against seeing other Platinum fighters appear, be they witches or super-soldiers. The play style is too perfect for those characters to not give them a look-in at some point.

But that's a potential future - how about the present? What's concrete? Producer Atsushi Inaba (Viewtiful Joe, God Hand) remains light on details during the course of the presentation, but combining his talk, along with the video footage we witness, and grilling Sega about it, we end up with the following facts.

The game hands like a fast-paced third person adventure, as you duke it out with friends across a number of different arenas. The camera sits just behind your character and slightly to one side, more Gears of War fixed distance than Resident Evil's shoulder-sniffing lens. Combat is reserved to fists or close-quarter weapons - we didn't see anyone with a long ranged attack, the closest being Mathilda's whip for wider distance and the order of the day is to whammy opponents' energy bars down to zero until you're the last one standing. As per MP rule sheet spawning <a>is</i> allowed, but is entirely mode dependant.

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The modes are something that Platinum dipped into briefly. Anarchy Reigns will ship with a dedicated story mode and separate co-op modes. The latter, Platinum explains is very important, as it plays to the characters' different strengths and weaknesses, meaning team choices need to be decided by compatible characters from the roster. Unveiled and demoed as the presentation's finisher was Survival Mode, A.R's own Horde-type battle royale as players team up to take on increasingly harder waves of enemies.

Anarchy Reigns
Jack's chainsaw attack makes a welcome return from MadWorld.
Anarchy ReignsAnarchy Reigns
Mutants flood the lower levels of the city stage - check out the mammoth tentacles in the background.

Each character has speciality attacks - MadWorld's Jack puts his chainsaw to good use, and we see ninja Zero power-slam opponents into the ground - though these are limited in number before a cool-down period is required, mainly to avoid spamming them. The attacks are as much about reflecting the personality of the character as well, each character's bio sheet coming with an explanation of their fighting style. Personal favourite already is Baron (originally Black Baron in MadWorld, but now "blacker and badder" according to Sega) with his pimped-out yellow cape and cane, and wielding his Super Sexy Fists of Fire.

The combat suggests this is but a combo-chaining button masher on first glance, but Platinum has inserted a few little strategies to block against brain-numbness. QTE variants come into play when a brawl between two fighters gets down to the knuckle, blocks, counter-attacks, and countering counters instigated by tapping the correct button prompts as they flash on screen. Its wrestling culture meets kung-fu flick as fists and feet flick in rapid rhythm. Botch the mini-game, and you're on the end of an energy-depleting and potential stun-inducing attack.

You can settle personal scores through item use - Sega aren't discussing the range of items that litter the arena floor, but one shown transports you and the opponent you've used it on into a separate caged arena for a Duel to the Death. Win this and you gain a power-increasing power-up to take back into the fray with you.

We're in near future post apocalyptic territory for the setting, which explains the near-ruined city that forms the arena of the demo. One thing to note as the demo rolls on and the camera cuts to the various characters, is if this place is anything to go by, the arenas in A.R are huge. And we mean absolutely massive - the battle carries through several city streets, up into scaffolding and onto the rooftops above.

Due to the verticality of the gameplay, all combatants have unique launchers that let's them make like the Hulk as they jump off buildings and smash into the streets below (a drop that takes several seconds to complete) crushing health like chocolate bar wrappers for anyone in the immediate vicinity. The environments are partially destructible, and you can use arena-specific objects as weapons; we see one character tossing car tyres like they're frisbees and dunking them over the heads of foes to trap them inside.

Anarchy Reigns
With so many variables on one stage, its more Chaos Theory in effect than full-blown anarchy.

There'll be other threats aside from getting a beating from an opponent. Each map is divided into zones, each with their own particular quirk. Keep street side for example, and hulking mutants will charge in to the nearest melee, while an escape top-side might see attack squads wielding rocket launchers deploy on to the rooftops around you. You can fight back against these foes in typical brawler fashion. But what you can only scrabble to avoid is Anarchy's piece de resistance - the ATEs.

The Attack Trigger Events are the big level-altering set-pieces, occurring at random and cued up with a short cut scene or blared warning. In the one match we see a carpet-bombing run by a squad of fighter jets, and a tsunami that topples a docked battleship before slamming into the lower levels of the arena. There's giant blades that soar in from the sky and dice up fighters unlucky enough to be in their way.

The ATEs range from arena-wide hits and focused barrages against fighters; Sega won't be drawn on whether they can be triggered to attack current match leaders, but a comparison to Mario Kart's race leader-targeting Blue Shell is brought up in conversation. Again, the visual activation cues remind heavily of the madness seen in the likes Midway's arcade games of yesteryear.

Anarchy Reigns
Every stage is rammed with death-dealing threats. Grab and throw - grab and throw!
Anarchy ReignsAnarchy Reigns
Tsunami Bomb (right) - the ATE that makes everyone run to the hills.

The game was originally born out of the idle talk within the studio, of whether it'd be possible to make a traditional fighting game in the multiplayer arena, and what form it would take. Consciously or not, Anarchy Reigns already fits the mould of a fairly recent ancestor: Capcom's rather awesome Dreamcast brawler series Powerstone, which preposed, and utilised, a lot of the same ideas on show here.

Its less of a comment of unoriginality (we doubt Platinum have ever intended to adopt another franchise's ideas as their own - why would they need to when their own ideas are so good?) but more a sign of promise. One of the doubts we have about the game is how that close-quarters combat would work in the multiplayer field, when we're talking open arenas and not one-on-one confined stages. Then we remember Powerstone, one of the more unique titles we've ever seen, and recollect the many joyous hours put into that as we rumbled with friends across danger-filled stages.

If Capcom can make such a bizarre setup work, then so can Platinum. It's track record has proven that so far.


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Anarchy ReignsScore

Anarchy Reigns

REVIEW. Written by Viktor Eriksson

There's a focus on playability, salvaging long-forgotten ideas and outfitting them in new designs. A heritage that recalls smoky arcade halls of old."

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