Anarchy Reigns E3 2011 Hands-On Preview -- Try to Reign in the AnarchyBy Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Jun 16, 2011
It should come as no surprise that a game with Anarchy in the title would be confusing. Anarchy Reigns stars Madworld's protagonist Jack Cayman, along with other Madworld alum including: Leo, The Black Baron, and Big Bull, yet the game doesn't take place in the same universe as Platinum's black & white brawler. Even stranger, it's a third person competitive multiplayer hack-n-slash, a genre that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist. It's breaking all the rules, but the jury's still out on if that's a good thing.
The single player campaign appears to be a fairly traditional third-person brawler where you progress through a series of linear missions battling endless waves of enemies. You're given a choice at the start whether to play as Jack or Leo. Each character has their own moves and witnesses different events in the same story. In order to get the full scoop, you'll have to play as both characters. While there are only two characters to choose from initially, you'll later be given the opportunity to ally yourself with other characters, who you can play as in certain missions.
Despite the cartoonish mayhem, producer Atsushi Inaba promises a deep and rich story for the single player campaign, though there's been no announcement what that story may be.
In the hands-off demo I was shown, Jack was aligned with the Black Baron and a third character fighting their way through a derelict Chinatown on their way to a boss named Zero. I was told that once the boss is defeated, they become unlocked in multiplayer. Combat looked competent, but despite having a chainsaw on his arm, Jack's attack are curiously devoid of gore.
We were later shown a mission in Leo's campaign where he encounters Jack. For reasons too complicated and lacking context to grasp, the two face off. This not only makes the story more layered, but can give players new ideas how they should be fighting in multiplayer once their opponent wipes the floor with them in single-player.
The focus of Anarchy Reigns is its unique approach to multiplayer brawling, which I was able to play a five minute round of. I picked the tried and true Jack, and the mode was a standard four-player deathmatch. The map was set aboard an aircraft carrier with an upper and lower platform separating the terrain into two square arenas.
Initially, I could only find one other player, and it felt like a fighting game set in a 3D space. Controls felt smooth, with light and heavy melee attacks, grabs, and more powerful moves you can unleash when your weapon gauge is full. Characters can lock on to one another, making it easier to connect your blows.
Things got messy though as soon as I'd discovered the rest of the level, and all four of us went at it. The camera follows players very closely ala God Hand, which worked fine in that game, but not so well when faced off against other players. A radar shows the locations of your opponents, but it wasn't much help when we were all scrunched together in a violent frenzy. It soon devolved into everyone running up and hitting each other from behind while they were busy fighting someone else. I was reminded of the time a flash mob started a mass pillow fight in my town square.
It's entirely possible this will come together if players learn to play more defensively, but playing a round with other newcomers made me feel like a chicken running with their head cut off. I admire Platinum's audacity to try something new, but the magic I was expecting from their studio after Bayonetta and Vanquish just wasn't there. Hopefully, it's simply a matter of a high learning curve, but it's unique take on the multiplayer arena isn't the most welcoming space to jump into.