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TVG gets a first look at Platinum Games' next opus...
Anarchy Reigns is something of an oxymoron; a bit like 'Living Dead', or 'Games Journalism', it combines two terms which appear to be mutually incompatible and juxtaposes them to create something new. Some might argue it's a fitting title for a game which takes two apparently disparate gaming staples and fuses them together to create a new genre; with Anarchy Reigns, Platinum Games is combining its expertise in crafting exemplary beat-em-up mechanics with the current trend for online multiplayer combat. In the words of Producer Atsushi Inaba, they wanted to provide the experience of, "grabbing someone in Australia and punching them in the head, even though you're across the other side of the world."
The demonstration we watched saw two Platinum Games reps fighting each other (and a number of online opponents) in the game's multiplayer deathmatch mode. In this timed mode, players battle each other for the highest score, unleashing gratuitous assaults on one another, while violently dispatching the assorted A.I. grunts that litter the levels. Action is fast and fluid, with punishing combos and gruesome execution moves flowing freely across the apocalyptic arenas. The urban map on display was surprisingly large, comprising of several open areas linked together by a network of winding streets; there was evidence of verticality in the design as well, with players occasionally climbing to the top of buildings and slamming into the ground below, creating florid shockwaves as they fell. Characters seem to have a varied range of flashy combos and grabs at their disposal, and can launch into a frenzied button-bashing 'rage mode', in which they unleash rapid flurries of punches and kicks upon their opponents.
"If you compare it to Bayonetta it's probably very different," Inaba-san explained.
"It's essentially a fighting game, so you could compare it to other traditional fighting games; but again, there's more than one enemy, you'll be engaging with many different enemies - some of them might attack you from behind - so it wouldn't be fair for a user to have to master all the intricate systems for special combos," he noted.
"Consequently, we've simplified a lot compared to more traditional fighting games, so it's probably fair to say that it's somewhere in-between those fighting games and the likes of Bayonetta."
Although the combat will appear familiar to fans of Bayonetta and God Hand, it's the visceral, gore-soaked Wii-exclusive MadWorld that Platinum Games is drawing on for the tone and characters of its new title. Alongside chainsaw brandishing protagonist Jack, two further MadWorld characters were revealed at the event: Matilda, who's towering tetsubo transforms into a vicious spiked whip, and Blacker Baron, who returns (in Inaba-san's words) badder, bigger, and blacker than before, using his Super Sexy Fists of Fire to unleash flaming shoryukens and crushing combos. Zero, a dual-katana wielding ninja (complete with Ryu Hayabusa-inspired inverted pile-driver), and Sasha - an ice-maiden with a frosty elemental weapon and a Chun-Li-like lightning kick rage mode - were also on display, with the enormous Jet Hammer flinging Big Bull rounding out the list of nano-technology enhanced characters announced so far.
Inaba-san wouldn't reveal exactly how many playable characters there are in total (SEGA will kill me he said) and remained intriguingly coy when asked whether Platinum Games intends to pull a Smash Bros. and include other characters from it's rich back-catalogue in Anarchy Reigns, such as those from occult fan-favourite Bayonetta.
"Again, um... Can't really comment on it right now... but, it would be fun, if it happens... but um, yeah, we can't say anything about it, unfortunately."
The brawler's apocalyptic setting gives Platinum Games free reign to incorporate all sorts of bonkers set-pieces into the action. Catastrophic 'Action Trigger Events' occasionally unfold during battle; these range from a collapsing bridge that rains cars and debris onto combatants, to a full-on air-strike that reduces nearby buildings to rubble; other levels feature crushing tsunamis and even gigantic tentacled leviathans that crawl out of the sea, rocking whole arenas. As well as being able to pick up cars and other objects to use as projectiles, players can acquire items which create various unusual effects; one such item caused two players to enter into a 'Duel to the Death', whisking them both away to an enclosed circular Tekken-sized arena in a one-on-one fight.
As Anarchy Reigns is very much an attempt to introduce a new genre into the online competitive multiplayer space, we asked Inaba-san what lessons Platinum Games had learnt from the glut of online shooting titles that are currently so popular.
"You will probably understand if you play the game but in terms of game design and main game mechanics, this game is totally different from online TPS games," Inaba-san explained.
"In those games you'll mostly be hiding behind cover, and you'll be shooting at your enemies and have a very good distance between yourself and your opponents, whereas in this game everything happens so fast, everything happens in a rather small confined area, and everything happens in real time," he continued.
"So in terms of game design we haven't sort of learnt directly from those games, but in terms of online games and replay values, we did learn a lot from those shooting games."
In addition to the main competitive multiplayer mode, a co-op survival mode was also revealed, which has players teaming up to take out waves of computer controlled enemies. Each round releases progressively more challenging opponents, from enormous axe-wielding lizard men, to platoons of futuristic soldiers that can summon machine-gun toting reinforcements in the heat of battle.
A single-player story mode is also planned, and although no further details were officially announced, Inaba-san hinted about the possibility of multiplayer elements within it, when asked whether it would include co-op play.
"Story mode is basically a single-player mode, so it'll be just basically you, in front of your TV. But as this is a multiplayer game, and as we have a lot of unique and interesting characters, we were thinking of doing something using this element - although this is going to be single-player primarily - but we'd love to do something using other elements."
Platinum Games is developing a quirky new take on multiplayer online gaming with Anarchy Reigns. With their long history of excellent beat-em-up design, and large back-catalogue of charismatic characters to draw on, it's likely they'll deliver an original and accomplished new title. Whether such a game will convert the legions of online FPS fans they're targeting however, remains to be seen. Clearly there is a tension between accessibility and depth in the design of such a title, and we look forward to going hands-on with Anarchy Reigns in the future to find out whether Platinum Games has got the balance right.
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