GAME NAME: Anarchy Reigns
DEVELOPER(S): Platinum Games
RELEASE DATE(S): 11 January 2013
Ah, Platinum Games, we do love you so just lately (and not just because Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta 2 are coming). Anarchy Reigns is a ridiculously over-the-top melee multiplayer game in the vein of Bayonetta and Vanquish. Indeed you may find yourself spotting character lookalikes and assets from previous Platinum Games titles bouncing around inside Anarchy, no least of which is one of the game’s leads, Leo, who is an amalgamation of Bayonetta‘s Luka and Vanquish‘s Sam Gideon. Visually at least.
The game’s single-player campaign is split between the aforementioned Leo and MadWorld‘s Jack Cayman but what is telling is that on first load the game defaults to the multiplayer option (if you’re connected to the internet). The single-player story isn’t fantastic by anyone’s metric, unusually for Platinum, but it doesn’t have to be. Single-player is just a training ground. Go into it expecting much more than ‘kill things until the next mission appears and then follow orders’ and you’re going to be disappointed. What you have are some specific objectives, the occasional animated cut-scene, boss fight and talking-head dialogue section in between learning the ropes. And you’ll need to have your PhD before heading online. Happily the single-player uses maps from the multiplayer side of the game so you’re killing two birds with one stone (learning combat AND playing arenas) while romping along killing grunts by kicking them repeatedly in the face.
Combat is surprisingly simple, at least on the surface. Players have got a light and heavy attack, a grab and jump at their disposal but this can be modified with the L2 button in the case of the light and heavy attacks. Using L2 plus the Square or Triangle attack buttons whips out the special weapons whichever character you happen to be playing as possesses. These attacks are powerful but limited, unless you happen to have the Rampage mode active. Rampage mode is gained by killing loads of enemies and then clicking in both analogue sticks, you’ve seen this before. R2 acts as a block and hitting jump (X) and a direction while holding R1 or R2 acts as your dodge. L1 locks you on to a specific character for some personalised pounding. Players will also occasionally locate items in the world that will be of assistance, like shields, grenades and traps.
Once you’ve been roundly punished by the single-player (and you will be, in places) then it is time for your real education to begin. Combat online cannot be a case of ‘button-mash and hope for the best’. You’re already dead, you just don’t know it. Timing for each type of attack is important, dodging and blocking are a pain in the ass to get right but will serve you well when you manage them. Anarchy Reigns will prove daunting for first time online gamers, possibly causing them to drop the controller and give up but persevering while being pwned from here to next week for a while will confer pointers along with the bloodstained forehead. Once the game’s combat really clicks into place the large battlegrounds become delightful arenas of carnage no matter which of the game modes you select, with the occasional odd event stepping in and irritating everybody. Where did that giant saw blade come from?
Here comes the downside however. Each of the seventeen default playable characters (eighteen if you happen to have Bayonetta) plays pretty much the same way. If you can kick large amounts of gluteus maximus with one character odds are you can replicate the feat with the others, making fighter choice dependent on which skin and/or special weapon you prefer. The camera’s location is also a little tight, almost ensuring that you’ll spend a large amount of time being nuked in the back by someone that you didn’t see until it was too late. Switching the lock-on is finicky as well and its a better idea to disable and then enable it to get it to swap enemies, something which doesn’t always work (especially in the heat of battle).
In all honestly, multiplayer is going to hurt. A lot. But it is worth sticking through the initial tough times in order to come out the other end a Capture the Flag victor, Deathball champion, the Battle Royale leader. Should you buy Anarchy Reigns for the single player? Not a chance. But if you’re keen on some up-close and personal multiplayer that’s first going to pound you into a pulp and then reward you should you prove worthy, Anarchy Reigns is worth your time. Just… maybe take to the multiplayer with a few friends first. Strangers tend to have very little mercy and that’s bad for the ego.