Platform: PS3, PS Vita
Release Date: 21/11/12
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review
Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series is held in high regard for a number of reasons. Not only did it successfully merge a wealth of different Nintendo universes together, it also offered a new and inspired gameplay system that many gamers instantly fell in love with.
At first glance, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale looks little more than a Super Smash Bros. clone. Up to four PlayStation characters (and some third-party guests) duke it out across a number of stages, each filled with items to use and hazards to dodge. Everything about it screams “quick and easy cash-in”.
However, under its shiny exterior, PS All-Stars is in fact a surprisingly entertaining experience. Naturally, developer SuperBot Entertainment has looked to its Nintendo rival for inspiration, but there are plenty of unique ideas here to make its title stand out from the competition. The combat system is different—albeit not exactly unique—and much more effort has been put into bringing each Sony (and third-party) franchise together. The end result isn’t quite as refined or as intricate as other fighting games, but if you’re looking for an entertaining party multiplayer game to play on- or offline, then this is at least worth a look-in.
The game’s premise is far from original: a number of PlayStation characters inexplicably stumble upon each other and feel the apparent need to beat each other up. While the game’s arcade mode does little to explain why this is happening (even the individual storylines are incredibly simple), it doesn’t matter too much.
The line-up of characters is somewhat limited, given how many spots are given to third-party characters and, in many ways, it shows that Sony has some way yet to go when it comes to establishing strong franchises to fall back on. Kratos, Nathan Drake and Sackboy are certainly very marketable heroes, but some character inclusions seem a little odd, given how their franchises have now been virtually abandoned.
Thankfully the game environments are a much stronger aspect of the overall presentation. Each stage is a mash-up of two different franchises. For example, the cheeky monkeys from Ape Escape run rampant across Killzone’s Helghan battlefield; Twisted Metal’s Dollface invades Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia; and even Buzz makes an appearance in LittleBigPlanet’s Dreamscape. The games are blended together so well that it almost seems natural to see an interaction between the two. Each stage come complete with hazards for the player to avoid, which only serves to make every battle feel that little bit more chaotic.
PS All-Stars incorporates a combat system where players must build up their All-Star Power (AP) to unleash brutal attacks strong enough to kill their opponents. Each character has three different power levels – the first typically having a short range with the third level being almost impossible to escape. These AP attacks take their cues from each character’s series and are hugely satisfying to pull off.
What makes this system so exciting is that it gives the player a choice. Do you build up your AP until you reach the third level or will you try your luck with three smaller ranged first-level attacks? Unfortunately, there are some severe balance issues that have a considerable impact on this, as well as your overall enjoyment of the game. Certain characters have a massive advantage, be it an overpowered move set (Kratos) or an AP attack that just doesn’t seem right for its respective level. For example, Rachet’s first-level AP attack has an impressive, yet ridiculous range, lasts far longer than it should and is remarkably difficult to dodge.
The standard combat mechanics are plagued by a few issues, too. Unlike most fighting games, there isn’t a generic button layout, and most characters’ move sets–much like their AP attacks–are based around their own abilities. While this attention to detail is worthy of merit, it makes the combat unnecessarily clunky at times. Most moves can only be performed in one or two directions at the most, making things like aerial combat both awkward and limited. It’s still possible to perform decent combos, but even then it just doesn’t feel intricate enough. The other problem is trying to remember every move and knowing that not all characters subscribe to the same control setup. Ranged attacks also seem broken, with characters such as Radec and Jak & Daxter sporting projectile-based moves that fire far too quickly and earn too much AP per hit. As a result, PS All-Stars feels more like a party outing than an in-depth fighting game.
In-game weapons are another feature that could have been better implemented. Picking up items is excruciatingly slow and almost not worth it when you take into account that some of them are nothing more than a hindrance. For example, the Spear of Destiny from God of War is great when it hits, but it’s just so sluggish that by the time you do manage to strike your opponent, they’ll have probably done more damage to you. It’s a bit of a shame as the weapon ideas themselves are pretty inventive.
Nevertheless, the online multiplayer deserves praise. The matchmaking system is quick and efficient at finding opponents and there’s very little lag most of the time. The cross-play feature between the Vita and PS3 versions of the game works flawlessly, and being able to play exactly the same game away from your PS3 system is an excellent bonus, especially given that it’s included free of charge.
While it may not be as refined as other fighting games, PlayStation All-Stars is a valiant attempt at offering a different kind of experience. Arguably, its combat system is nothing special, as it borrows from other games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion, but the three-tiered AP system adds a great deal of strategy to the game and Sony fans will like what’s on offer. It’s just a shame that balance and gameplay issues mar the experience.
- Fast online play that is relatively lag-free
- Cross-play between Vita and PS3 is a major, worthwhile bonus
- Exceptional level design
- Unique gameplay system that offers something different
- Serious balance issues
- Combat feels clunky and unwieldy
- Character roster is limited
- Overly simple compared to other fighting games
Unfortunately, the game is all brought down by its horrendously unbalanced gameplay. Immediately, the limited character roster is narrowed down further if you want to stand a chance against skilled competition. As a party game, therefore, PS All-Stars suffices, but it simply lacks the finesse and polish that other more successful fighting games have, and it becomes both samey and frustrating far too quickly as a result.