Review: PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale
Which character from the PlayStation universe would you most like to punch in the face? You've got 16 to choose from.
PlayStation All-Stars has been receiving criticism from the moment it was announced. The game bears more than a passing similarity to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros, and some people found it very annoying (or perhaps pointless) that SuperBot Entertainment was daring to make another game in that crossover brawler genre.
Personally, I don't really mind - a fun game is a fun game. And PlayStation All-Stars really is great in exactly the same way that Super Smash Bros. is, but with more complexity.
Instead of Nintendo characters, there's a roster of sixteen classic characters from the history of PlayStation. There are definitely weak points in the roster, and Crash Bandicoot is notably missing, but most of the lineup is solid: Nathan Drake, Kratos, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Big Daddy.
At the heart of it, all you do in All-Stars is pick a character, then fight another character (or three) by freneticly button-mashing. Hitting another opponent doesn't deal damage in the traditional way, but instead helps to build up your 'Super' bar. When your bar gets full, you can unleash a Super move. Using a Super is the only way to get a kill in All-Stars, so it's important not to waste it.
Each character has three levels of Super - a Level 1 Super might be good for a kill or two, but a Level 2 Super makes it much more likely. A Level 3 Super is usually virtually impossible for opponents to avoid, but it takes quite a long time to build up to Level 3.
There are a few different types of game modes. You can play free-for-all or team matches, and you can play either with a time limit or until one team or player gets a certain number of kills. When playing with a time limit, you earn two points for a kill and lose one point if you die, so it's important not just to defeat others, but to avoid being defeated. The highest score at the end of the match wins.
But those are just the basics of the game - in fact, All-Stars gets a lot more complicated than that.
While All-Stars may be a brawler on the surface, underneath its skin you'll find all the intricacies of a fighting game in the vein of Mortal Kombat. Each character has a massive moveset, complete with combos, throws and directional moves. If you want to be any good at All-Stars, especially if you want to be competitive online, you'll need to practice all of these moves with just one or two characters, rather than just rushing into a match. You'll also need to get pretty good at blocking or evading with half a second's notice. (I'm still working on it.)
Fortunately, there's plenty of offline content, so you can practice plenty before you face off against another real person. Arcade Mode is a campaign consisting of eight matches against varied opponents on several different maps. You play through the whole campaign as the same character, but when you get to the end you can choose another and play through again.
Each character has its own little storyline that explains what they're doing there. Cole McGrath, from inFamous, is there to face down what he believes to be evil conduits. Uncharted's Nathan Drake just got a little off-track while searching for treasure. The storylines sometimes make little sense, but the game's not really about story anyway.
Every character faces different opponents and different bosses toward the end. Drake, for example, got to beat up fellow treasure hunter Sly Cooper, while Devil May Cry's Dante faced off against Heavenly Sword's Nariko.
There's only one serious problem I have with Battle Royale: SuperBot kind of screwed up Kratos. The God of War star is by far the most powerful of the bunch, and as a result, just about everyone I encountered online played as him. That makes it very difficult to choose any other character, because you're probably just going to get your butt handed to you by some jerk playing as Kratos anyway. In Arcade mode, I struggled more when fighting him than I did during the final boss battles.
While the game is the same whether you're playing on the PS3 or the Ps Vita, it's a wee bit harder when you're playing on the Vita, because of the smaller screen. Sometimes the camera will zoom out pretty far, making it difficult to figure out which character is yours and what's going on.
Despite those issues, I picked up Battle Royale at about 11am on a Sunday and, except for a couple of one-hour breaks, played until I went to bed at 11 at night. My thumb started hurting at around hour two, and yet I kept going because I was having a blast. Yeah, it's like Super Smash Bros, but when you're unleashing a lightning tornado on Fat Princess, Raiden and PaRappa the Rappa, you won't care.