Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royal Review
SuperBot Entertainment has been crafting over 20 unique fighters for players to battle with since the game was first announced back in April 2012. Since then players and critics have been carefully dissection the beta, the gameplay footage and the arguing over the comparisons to previous fighting games.
It would be easy to simply compare ‘Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royal’ to previous games that it resembles, then list the many differences and/or similarities of those games. That isn’t going to help you decide if you would enjoy the title, nor would give you any idea on how the game plays out.
Some of the playable-characters in this game may project a ‘cartoonish’ sense of a modern-day fighter. That would be underselling the game’s strong fighting mechanics, the individual animation stylings of the characters and strong attention to detail that SuperBot Entertainment has put into this game.
Above all else ‘Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royal’ is a fighting game, and in that genre the title stands-strong. I was worried that Battle-Royal would fall into some common pitfalls that have crippled games of this nature in the past, mainly that you have a few ‘generic-fighters’ in popular skin-costumes.
SuperBot Entertainment crafted each character according to its original design, but also tweaked their abilities and scaled their powers so that gameplay would be fair and still enjoyable regardless of who were fighting or who you had chosen. All of these characters range from the realistic to the fantasy, and bringing in a ‘common law physics dynamic’ and offensive and defensive ability range is a daunting task for a developer. SuperBot Entertainment overcame this obstacle and made a game that really feels like each character was plucked out of their own gaming universe and now must battle in friendly competition. If you have a favorite on the roster, odds are that character will feel completely natural and will seem familiar in this new game. That’s what I really wanted, I did not want to fight just looking like SackBoy, I wanted it feel like Sackboy was really mercilessly wailing on Kratos.
[quote_left]I feel like a prior experience with the characters is really required to fully appreciate their replicated, yet unique, fighting styles.[/quote_left]I feel like a prior experience with the characters is really required to fully appreciate their replicated, yet unique, fighting styles. If you haven’t picked up inFamous for example, you may not notice how well SuperBot captured his attitude, movements and other characteristics while fighting. If you have played the majority of characters in the 20-person character roster, then I think you will enjoy the game more than someone who hasn’t. I’m sure there is a growing list on the internet of all the characters that should have been included on launch day, but the roster is diverse and I feel that is the most important factor on day-one. Without the diversity, you would basically have the exact same matches over and over again, with little to break up the monotony. Sony has already started adding more characters to the line-up with post launch DLC, so adding more fan-favorites is not going to be a problem later on.
No matter what characters were included in the launch-day cast, none of it would helped the game if the fighting-dynamics were not solid. Luckily, Playstation All-Stars delivers a fantastic fighting game, which captures the chaos and fast-paced fighting styles that I had hoped the multiplayer arenas would offer. I really felt like each character had its own fighting persona, equipped with advantages and disadvantages. More realistic fighters like Nathan Drake, moved much like he would in ‘Uncharted’ with a wide-array of combos and melee attacks, where Sackboy brings his animated humor and light-spirited nature to the table.
Just as various and iconic as the fighters are, the arenas that you battle in are also worth mentioning. Plucked from the historical pages of Playstation titles past, where you are fighting is often times a character all on its own. There are currently 14 arenas to fight in and more levels are surely on their way with DLC. You have your classic instances from blockbuster titles, like the cargo-plane from ‘Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception’, which takes on an entirely new persona when being trampled upon by Sly Cooper or Kratos. These levels are interactive with the battle. Background animations and gameplay sets will either help you with your enemies, or hurt you as you move about. These attacks are random and can not be controlled and often times players must quickly move out of the way before being stunned or lose precious All Star Points. It broke up the traditional gameplay and added another layer of surprise or strategy to the title. You don’t have to play with this setting, but I recommend it. It adds a challenge, and yes sometimes you will be stunned even though ‘you totally saw it coming’ but the random attacks add a sense of luck to the game.
I mentioned the All Star Points meter before, this is the keystone of this fighting game and a truly ingenious way to level the playing field for all of the characters. It does this while also offering a new fighting experience to gamers. Forget about a standard health-bar, there is none. In Battle-Royal you are building up your AP Meter with combos and attacks, hoping to unleash the finishing blow of a major attack. You have several major attacks to use per character, each one may require more AP than the other.
In Battle Royal, the true challenge is getting AP faster than your opponents. While you are doing this you are dodging other enemies’ major attacks, regular attacks or the stages AP draining attacks. It’s a great system, one that takes some practice to polish your strategy but one that really keeps things moving. You can’t just block, hide or run-away from a squabble of fighters. If you want AP to win, you have to earn it, but carefully defending yourself against a rival with a similar AP meter may be the difference in deciding who wins and who leaves in a sponge.
Since this is a pretty innovative system, I want to talk about it in more detail so you really get an understanding of the mechanic. The system is not a ‘first to fill an AP meter wins’ scenario. It’s more complicated and more fun than that. As you are smacking around a defenseless Cole, carefully gaining AP, you may notice another fighter is getting dangerously close to finishing their AP meter and may unleash a devastating attack soon. You can interrupt this attack, or even dodge out of its path. As he drains his AP with that foolish attempt on your life, you once again have the upper-hand and can now take out an unsuspecting enemy fighter. The game has a lot of moments that can allow you to get the upper hand, even out the standard (combo hitting, killing mechanics) of other fighters. For example, if another fighter is a balls out combo expert and can fill their character’s meter up 5 times before you can fill it up once, it won’t matter if they can’t hit you. Since you are a master fake-out artist and are able to retaliate this attack, you could get them down on the first try.
The game isn’t multiplayer only and you don’t have to play with strangers, there is a local option if you prefer. Fighting with friends either on LAN or online proved to be the most fun I had with the game. Usually because my friends and I are often times equally matched. The PS Vita and the PS3 cross-play works perfectly. If a friend came over and had his PS Vita, he could either play on the Vita or pick up a PS3 controller, it wouldn’t have made a difference. It is one of the better achievements that Sony had created in the past few months and something that needs to be showcased more often. From jumping into a game with friends, to the smooth gameplay and steady connection, more people should be experiencing how well the PS Vita and PS3 play together online when done correctly.
For the single-player fans you can practice in separate game-trials or game tutorials so you can get better at each fighter’s broad range of melee and ranged attacks. The story-line is basic in nature, you battle through the ranks leading up to a final boss. There isn’t too much to this plot, which I felt Sony should have improved since so many people love these characters they are playing as. When you have some of the best stories in gaming history all mixed together, the outcome should be better than ‘fight to the top’. Jean-Claude Van Damme movies had a bigger plot than that, and this stories still had time to add-in a love-scene and probably bad hip-hop dancing.
Most of the single-player was a disappointment. I know that the game has a strong multiplayer focus but if you add in a single-player or multiplayer campaign into a game then you should make it worth playing. The story of why each player is fighting is told in pictures. Not a cutscene, pictures… like a flashback in a Playstation one game but with a voice-over instead of subtitles. Even the premise of why they are fighting could be better. Smaller rivalries were created in an attempt to drive some sort of story in the game, but to no avail. This was done with either classic duo-characters or by mixing up two odd-couple characters. Either way the story isn’t much of a motivation to continue past your favorite characters.
Everything about Playstation All-Stars Battle is a celebration of Playstation and its fans. For players that have been with Sony since the Playstation 1, it can be somewhat nostalgic to see some of the characters and settings that the game has produced. Fighter fans can enjoy a well built system that rewards strategy, patience, brutality and precision. On the other hand, if you are hoping to jump into a game with just a few of your friends to have a chaotic firestorm of button-pushing and fun competition, that is certainly available. If you have a PS Vita and a PS3, there is no reason you shouldn’t pick up this game. Getting this game for free on the PS Vita if you buy it for PS3 is simply because Sony is rewarding its customer-base and hoping to drive sales. In any other situation you would not be getting such a great deal.