E3 2011: Anarchy Reigns hands-on
Living up to its name and Platinum Games’ penchant for the absurd, Anarchy Reigns was easily the most chaotic game I demoed at E3. With no singleplayer available at the show, the demo dropped four players into a single five minute deathmatch.
Seven characters were available to choose from, including the main character Jack from MadWorld. I picked Mathilda, a sleek but punky looking female character decked out in black and purple leather – I generally gravitate towards female characters. My three opponents selected a Jack and two Barons to round out our deathmatch party.
Dumped into the world of Anarchy Reigns, the game controls like many other third-person action games. Light and heavy melee attacks can be strung together to create punishing, over-the-top combos. A lock-on system makes it easy to focus your camera and energy on one specific opponent. Players can block, jump, grapple, and essentially, that covers the basics of gameplay.
Each character brings a special weapon to the fray. Jack had his signature double bladed chainsaw, the Baron packed a pair of ‘Super Sexy Fists of Fire’, while my Mathilda brought a transforming spiked whip into battle, christened the ‘Iron Maiden’. Chaining light and heavy hits into your character’s special weapon seemed to be the most effective and flashy way to kill your opponents. In an interesting move though, accessing your special weapon is done by pressing in one of the left shoulder buttons. Rather than it consisting of one specific attack, the button acts as an attack modifier, allowing you to utilize both light and heavy special moves. Despite this, special versions of each were still slower than their normal counterparts.
Since Anarchy Reigns is a brawler, the arena we fought in was rather small. It appeared there was more to the stage than the small paved area our battle continued to take place in, but it’s unclear why you’d ever want to leave this section of the shipping docks. Perhaps the final build will host larger fights than four player free-for-alls, but given the up-close nature of combat there didn’t seem to be much of any reason to venture away from the action.
As the round started I ran headfirst into battle. Alternating between my light and heavy hits – and the occasional Iron Maiden swing – I found myself quickly in the lead after a few early kills. But, soon after, it seemed my opponents had begun to get a better handle on the game and I found myself falling behind the pack. During an Anarchy Reigns match, the leaderboard is tracked by points rather than kills, so it wasn’t completely clear what the best way to accumulate points was – obviously killing enemies is one of them; one thing was crystal clear, dying subtracts points.
During the five minute deathmatch it was pretty hard to absorb Anarchy Reigns. Like many other titles that have tried to do a multiplayer brawler, the fights seem to reward luck nearly as much as skill. One moment you’ve depleted an opponent’s health, and the next, another player delivers the final blow, stealing your kill. I understand this happens in any deathmatch game, but the personal flair of the in-your-face style of Anarchy Reigns makes it all the more frustrating when your kills are stolen.
Being a Platinum Games release, I’m sure there’s a lot more depth and nuance to their new action title than I found at first blush. If any studio is properly equipped to embrace the inherent madness of a multiplayer brawler, it’s these guys. Anarchy Reigns ships early 2012.