There’s a new brawler in town.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Right
+ Great range of characters with more to come
+ Awesome PlayStation branding
+ Complex gameplay should suit genre diehards
+ Fantastic, competitive multiplayer
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Wrong
– Shallow single-player arcade mode
– AP meter can hinder flow of a fight
– Level design can be too chaotic
– Challenge from AI opponents is hit-and-miss
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is not quite the ode to Super Smash Bros. so many expected it to be. No, it’s actually a fighting game on its own accord. It looks a lot like Nintendo’s beloved brawler series, and sometimes it even feels like it, but PlayStation All-Stars is certainly different enough to embed it deeply within its own niche. It’s not perfect, and it certainly never reaches the heights set by that other character brawler, but it’s a welcomed take on the genre for the PlayStation brand.
I think the one thing that sets All-Stars apart from Smash Bros. the most is the complexity of the combat. There are 20 characters to play with, from obscure favourites like Fat Princess to third-party beasts like Big Daddy and first-party favourites like Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Kratos from God of War. These characters all control in different ways and considering the depth to the combat itself, you’ll probably spend most of your first few hours experimenting to find your favourite character. All-Stars invites you to test and try every character at least once, and thankfully the included roster is large and deep off to make this not only thoroughly enjoyable but also especially rewarding.
As far as PlayStation branding goes in this game, developer SuperBot Entertainment has nailed it. There are characters here to appeal any type of PlayStation gamer, whether they’re an indie PSN fanatic or a lover of anything and everything first-party Sony. Throw in some wonderfully designed stages, including some iconic environments from games that aren’t represented in the character lineup, and you have a game that screams “PlayStation!” at every corner.
I found the interactivity of the stages to be distracting at times, and perhaps a little too chaotic. At times All-Stars feels like a fighting game, but then other times I feel it tries to transcend brawler, fighter and platformer, which can make things feel overly complicated. I remember the disappointing Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble, a game that had the promise of a great brawler but was ultimately hampered by crazy level design and an often overemphasized shift to stage interaction. All-Stars also falls into this trap, although certain stages do add to the fighting experiment in a positive way. In some instances, it added to the gruelling grind of a tough battle, but other times it seems to offer too much, to the point where I’ve lost track of my character.
The ability to turn off stage interaction is welcomed, although it suggests to me that perhaps the developer acknowledged the chaotic nature of the some of the designs. Perhaps it felt best to offer an option that honed in on a simple fighting experience? At the very least you’re able to limit the chaos that can take place on a stage, although I would suggest trying to beat up every included character with the feature turned on, just so you at least get to experience the ways in which each PlayStation-inspired stage plays out.
The game’s most controversial addition I feel is the AP (All-Stars Points) system. Rather than using a health meter, the game builds up your meter across three tiers, eventually working up to super powers that can lay down some truly devastating blows. The system works well because it gives the experience a sense of godliness, like as if battles are between angry Gods whose power is determined by the strength of their own execution. Keeping an eye on your meter is one thing, but ensuring you keep track of your enemy’s meter is even more integral in your strive for success. My only gripe with this is that when I found myself playing more experienced players, executing a super move was essentially impossible because they knew when and how I’d attempt to lay down my devastating blow. I couldn’t quite tell if it was my own lack of skill that led to them constantly countering my attacks, or if the system was just made in such a way where they aren’t supposed to be so easily executed. Either way, I feel that, while the system keeps things tactical and engaging, it could at times restrict the flow of a fight.
When it comes to actual combat, its complexities are probably the game’s best and worst aspects. Basic moves are mapped to the face buttons, but using the analog stick in conjunction mixes things up a bit. The end result is a moves list that is truly complicated, perhaps too much so, but especially satisfying when (if) you’re able to pull off a big move. I think one of the best things about this game is that you can play it without really going deep into all of the move sets available, although that would be touching upon only a fraction of what the game has to offer. Characters can be controlled any number of ways because of the complicated system, which is fantastic if you’re a fighting game fan looking for depth. But if you’re not especially appealed by fighting games, I’m not sure All-Stars is quite the “pick up and play” type game Smash Bros. can be.
The game’s single-player arcade mode is shallow but suitably subtle, as the best experience is to be had online in more competitive matches. The AI-controlled characters don’t quite offer as much challenge as a human competitor, and while the stories can be interesting, this mode never really takes off as being something especially memorable. PlayStation fans might be keen to hear about why Fat Princess has an issue with Kratos, but things are hardly explained in such a way that it all becomes part of some detailed story arch. It’s passable, good, but not great, and yet still fun enough to blast through before heading online.
The online multiplayer is where All-Stars really shines. With great cross-play functionality between PS3 and Vita there are a number of options to keeping you playing online with friends. The game’s community aspect is its best trait overall, as leaderboards are wiped clear after a short period to bring everyone back down to the same level. For someone like me that doesn’t normally play fighting games, it felt welcoming that I could come into an online community, absolutely suck for a while, but eventually have the slate wiped clean so that I can better my placing in a new season. I’m not sure how fans of the genre feel about this, but I felt it made the multiplayer experience balanced enough so that both casual and experienced gamers can enjoy it equally.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale does a great job of blending popular PlayStation characters with fun albeit complex fighting mechanics. The single-player arcade mode is shallow but enjoyable, and it acts as a great lead-in to what is a competitive but welcoming online environment. With a great lineup of characters (and more to come via DLC), some superb level design and plenty of depth to please genre diehards, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a worthy entry to the brawler niche.