We're big fans of Platinum's work, here at Dealspwn. The company behind MadWorld, Infinite Space, Bayonetta and Vanquish have, more often than not, produced decidedly Japanese games that a Western audience can really get behind. The ultra-violence of MadWorld rocked and mocked the almost religiously child-friendly Wii, Infinite Space proved that BioWare weren't the only ones who could pull off a high quality, grand space opera, Bayonetta squared up to Devil May Cry with its glorious combat system...and arguably won, and Vanquish, short though it was, showed that there was still innovation to be found in the shooter market, even if no-one bought it.
Platinum, it would seem, appear to like a bit of a challenge, and this brings us to Anarchy Reigns - a game that's looking to single-handedly bring back the old-school brawler, but with a few modern touches.
An OTT beat-em-up, Anarchy Reigns is set within a post-apocalyptic world that takes many of its cues from MadWorld, hence seeing characters such as Jack and the Black Baron appear in preview trailers. Platinum have been keeping their singleplayer cards quite close to their chest, although it should be noted that the offline story mode will be split into two: a 'dark' narrative following the chainsaw-happy bounty hunter Jack, and a 'light' story that deals with cyborg peacekeeper Leo, who attacks with forearm-mounted positron blades. On top of that, we're told that you'll be able to engage in deathmatches offline, with AI bots replacing human pals if you so wish. You'll be able to play through the singleplayer components to unlock new characters for use in multiplayer, and that's where Platinum really want your attention focused.
Our hands-on at Eurogamer was largely the same as the brief few minutes we'd spent with the game out in Germany last month, but it did allow us to get a feel for the controls and test out several characters.
Leo is all light, fast attacks. You zip about with the left stick, using the face buttons for a combination of light and heavy attacks and throws, augmenting them with the left trigger to deploy slower, but far more powerful, special moves as you unleash your weapons. Experimenting with button combinations yielded a flurry of attacks, with augmented throws resulting in punishing finishers that saw Leo pepper his opponents with lightning fast slashes of his blades. Upon noticing that my power bar was full, raised by stringing together combos (your flair directly contributes to your final score, and on more than one occasion the podium was shuffled just as the timer ceased on account of some players mixing things up more successfully than others), jabbing in both analog sticks bathed Leo in flames, allowing me to dish out some serious damage. By contrast, the Black Baron was far slower, though he packed much more of a punch with his Super Sexy Fists of Fire. His ground-pound move was particularly effective and his spinning whirlwind of fists proved most useful for combo-breaking menacing enemies surrounding me.
There are several things that worry us this early on. The main thing is simply the camera. Presented from a fairly close-up, over the shoulder third-person perspective, your view is fine when you're just taking on one person at a time. But the whole point of Anarchy Reigns is to throw a bunch of people into a confined space and watch them scrap it out. You can lock onto a single player with the left bumper, but that will almost certainly result in you engaging your target, only to find your character literally stabbed in the back. There's so much going on in and around your field of vision that it's quite easy to lose track of things, even in a tiny arena.
Secondly, for a Platinum game, the combat seemed somewhat lacking in responding swiftly to instruction. The lack of threat indication meant that it was all to easy to find yourself sandwiched between two unblockable attacks. Although we didn't have time to fully get to grips with the combat system and study it in detail, it was frustrating to find that there didn't seem to be a huge amount of counter opportunities, if any.
Finally, although the game was pretty enjoyable in the handful of deathmatch games we played, one wonders if it's going to get an online community that can sustain it. You know that when you buy Call of Duty or Halo, getting a game online won't be a problem. But these are relatively untested waters for Platinum, and Vanquish's online options didn't exactly fill us with optimism. That we haven't seen any of the singleplayer components, with Platinum and SEGA heavily touting the online at the former's expense, worries us a little . Will the game be worth the outlay? Will it get too repetitive? What will give players the incentive to keep coming back? These are questions that need answering. Sure, it's fun enough in small doses, but how will that translate to a full £40 new release?
The beat-em-up genre has, traditionally, been a pretty repetitive affair. But part of the allure has been that you've able to punch, kick, smash and scrap your way through hordes of underlings with a friend. Turning that on its head, increasing the variety of characters and the movesets, and making the focus on PvP online combat is a brave move. Even with the expanded list of moves, combat in Anarchy Reigns is something of a gleefully shallow affair rather than a deep and complex system one might expect from the team behind Bayonetta. But it's supposed to be fast and accessible. Our only worry is that it'll lead to boredom fairly quickly, something that Platinum are no doubt hoping that the variety in game modes and playable characters will serve to remedy.
Hopefully we'll get to see a little bit more of it before the game hits shelves in January!
Second Opinion - Carl Phillips
I must admit before I begin; I’m not the biggest enthusiast of the fighting game genre. However, in the interest of trying new games (and because Matt was so damn excitable) I went over the Anarchy Reigns stand to give it a go. After a brief look over the characters, I went with the cybernetically-enhanced Durga.
When the round started, I was initially finding the controls a little tough to get on with as my four other opponents swooped in for what was clearly an easy kill. While the button placement made sense, timing was far more important, and it felt like I had to execute my moves half a second before I wanted them to land to connect. I was also a little disheartened when I was stuck in an unbreakable chain of attacks, with my block button reduced to a badly designed stress ball.
That said, when I did find my stride the combat felt engaging and the action on screen was visually pleasing, with the air vent jumps to propel characters to high areas adding a anime feel to it all. Durga’s fighting style, reminiscent of martial arts, fitted well with the art design and his special moves looked fairly brutal. I ended up using his spinning helicopter kick a fair amount, much to annoyance of everyone else, but its range and ability to deal out some damage made it a wise choice. It also felt satisfying when I managed to take down an opponent who had been hounding me all match, although I will say this; don’t try and run into the middle of two people already fighting, it can end badly.
I can imagine fighting genre fans will enjoy what Platinum Games have done with Anarchy Reigns, and even I enjoyed the multiplayer encounter, but whether there is a lasting appeal remains to be seen.