|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Platinum Games|
|Release: July 3, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Shelby Reiches
Is it a showcase for Platinum Games' growing retinue of action heroes? Yes and no. Known in Japan as "Max Anarchy," Anarchy Reigns features characters from black-white-and-red Wii brawler MadWorld duking it out in online matches, alongside original characters and hairy witch Bayonetta from her eponymous game.
That isn't to say that Anarchy Reigns lacks a single-player component. It has two, actually, each campaign telling the game's story from a different perspective: that of MadWorld protagonist and beefy marauder Jack and, alternately, his antagonist Leo. According to Platinum, those who wish to know the game's true story will have to finish both campaigns, which consist of much of the same sort of action found online, but extended out over levels littered with goons, as well as the occasional bosses. These bosses are taken from the roster of playable characters, including the opposing campaign hero, which will make for dramatic and challenging encounters.
Anarchy Reigns, though, is a multiplayer game above all else. It features eight-player matches with fast-paced action. In its basic deathmatch mode, here called Battle Royal, the focus falls on shifting alliances between players and the inspired use of environmental hazards, both allowing one to take advantage of players already locked in combat with someone else. Whether stabbing an opponent in the back while he's indisposed or breaking apart both players with an "action trigger event" from one of the aforementioned hazards, combat in Battle Royal is every man for himself, except when a certain item sequesters two players in a cage while they duel to the death.
Combat in this mode mixes melee strikes with weapon attacks, the latter of which need to be used sparingly since characters' weapons have a durability meter and can break if used too much too quickly. At the same time, the focus is on doing lots of damage very quickly, since characters can absorb a lot of punishment and regenerate health with time. Once a player has had his health reduced, it's possible for anyone to claim the kill by finishing him off. If these finishing blows can be chained together, a player can rack up tremendous point bonuses.
In addition to one's basic attacks, there are limited-use items that can be picked up, granting powerful abilities both offensive and defensive. Further, damage can be boosted if a player manages to fill the rage meter by dishing out punishment, introducing incentive for one to mix it up liberally rather than hang back and wait for opportunities to present themselves. Players can also utilize special attacks that, once activated, reward the player with a canned beatdown of his opponent.
In the end, though, it's not just about who has the most kills. Matches are decided on a point system and, while getting kills is a huge factor in gaining those points, other elements of play such as long combo strings can provide a post-game boost that elevates a formerly lagging player above his cohorts in short order. That said, the multiplayer in Anarchy Reigns isn't just about competition. Sometimes, people just want to work together.
To that end, Anarchy Reigns features a cooperative multiplayer element, in which players join forces against hordes of robot enemies, combining their skills and abilities to take down their foes in rapid succession. The most immediate comparison is to Gears of War's Horde mode and, while this is a survival mode, the gameplay is distinct enough at a basic level that it doesn't risk becoming just another clone of that most brawny of series.
In fact, avoiding the Gears of War template was a conscious decision. Producer Atsushi Inaba has lamented the proliferation of shooting-based multiplayer games, in which close-in brawling falls to the wayside. As such, though Anarchy Reigns isn't utterly devoid of projectile weapons, the focus is on getting up close and personal, dishing out damage from within spitting distance.
Whom you're using to get up close and personal is also a key decision, since the roster of a dozen features a wide variety of faces, both familiar and new, that run the gamut from a speedy and flashy ninja to the hulking behemoth that is Big Bull (as his name implies, possessed of a large, bull-like body.) Each of these characters features a unique move-set, providing a tremendous amount of variety for eager gamers to exploit as is their will.
Of note, though the focus of Anarchy Reigns is on multiplayer and the cast draws a lot of its number from MadWorld (and the single-player campaign focuses on two of these MadWorld alumni), Anarchy Reigns has been confirmed to take place in a different "universe" than that of MadWorld. Does this mean we're dealing with a different Jack and Leo, or is this more of a Warriors Orochi situation, in which the characters in question have been pulled out of their various realities to compete in battle against one another? Further, what is Bayonetta doing there? It appears we'll find out this summer.
Date: March 29, 2012