The highly anticipated and highly criticized brawler from PlayStation has finally dropped. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale started out as a vague dream envisioned by many fans turned into a reality when PlayStation and Superbot Entertainment finally revealed the game in the early part of this year. It was finally happening, a crossover battle of massive proportions, featuring all your favorite PlayStation characters. Soon after the reveal though, PS All-Stars started to receive a mixture of criticism about its similarities to Nintendo’s staple – Smash Bros., and praise from fighting game aficionados and PlayStation fans. Well, now that the full game is finally out, what is the verdict?
I think the first thing we must get out of our minds is this: PlayStation All-Stars is NOT Super Smash Bros. Comparisons should not be made between these games to verify its quality or lack thereof. While Nintendo may have popularized the brawler and crossover genre on a scale we haven’t seen before, one must also realize that brawlers, beat ‘em ups, fighters, and crossover games have existed much longer than that franchise. So let’s take a moment and clear our minds. Like brawlers and crossover games prior, PlayStation All-Stars is its own game and stands on its own merits.
The game doesn’t have too much of a central flowing story although there is a scenario in the single player arcade mode that binds each character. Why would all of these individuals from different games come together? For some it may be curiosity, others – personal gain. In the end, it’s to defeat the mastermind who wants to dominate all, Polygon Man. Each of the twenty characters in this game has a fun situation that rips them straight from their respective games and justifies to a degree why they are fighting each other. These stories are portrayed by a brief opening set of images depicting the characters and a voice over. The ending of each character’s arcade story is similar to the opening, a set of images with a dialogue or monologue from the characters. For example, while playing as Nathan Drake in arcade mode, you will see him in an illustration that is similar to the location at the beginning of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. There you’ll see him sitting down and speaking with Sully about a new treasure that he wants to go find, which in turn puts him on the quest where he ends up fighting all of these different characters. Each arcade story ends with the final boss battle which proves to be a little disappointing and anti-climatic. In fact, you barely fight the boss in the boss battle. These short stories are nothing too special but can have fun moments. I would have rather had short cutscenes with some sort of animation to open and close these arcade modes, but what is currently there is sufficient.
A part of the arcade mode are rivalries. These rivalries pit one character from the roster against the other. Near the end of each character’s respective arcade mode, you will face this rival in a one on one battle that is introduced by a short animation showing the initial confrontation. Most of these rivalries are fun to see but are also very brief. After defeating the rival, there is also mention or closure to the situation, you just move on to the final boss. It leaves one a little in want but it is also easily forgiven due to the content found in the rest of the game.
On the gameplay side of the game, PlayStation All-Stars excels at what it brings to the table. It is not just an all-out brawler, but a fairly deep fighter that can require a lot of invested time to master while remaining not too challenging for newbies to pick up and play. The unique thing about PS All-Stars is that instead of using a health bar like most fighters use, you use “AP” to power up your special moves called “supers” to kill your opponents. Regular attacks do not reduce any health of your opponent, rather it builds up your AP for you to unleash your supers. This may be a new concept for many to grasp at first, but it proves to be a fun and unique addition to the fighter genre that helps PS All-Stars stand out on its own.
The controls in the game are easy to use and quite responsive both on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions. This goes for singleplayer modes, along with online and offline multiplayer. Each character has their own set of unique combos that can be learned in a tutorial and mastered in practice modes that can be customized to your liking. As with most other fighters, learning these combos can be essential to winning, especially when playing in online matches. Although combos do not kill your opponents on their own, the more you are able to land hits with combos, the faster your AP bar will go up and the more chances you will have at using your Supers.
Some characters do feel slightly off-balance and may seem like a bit of an unfair advantage when used, others might feel like they are at a disadvantage. The reality is though, if you can master the moves unique to each character, chances are you can beat anyone. A key to success in this game is learning your character and their moves and using strategy when implementing your Supers. Using this combination, even seemingly overpowered characters can be easily beaten by anyone including those who seem to be at a disadvantage.
Above all, the gameplay is actually fun. As someone who is usually not taken up by fighters save for a few exceptional ones here and there, I can not put PlayStation All-Stars down. I even took the game over to a few friends’ homes, including friends who only own Xbox 360’s and we all had a blast playing together in the various multiplayer modes. We could not put the game down for hours and all had a blast playing together, even those of us who had no idea what we were doing. It proved to be a great pick up and play game. Online multiplayer is also a blast to play with little to no lag or latency issues, even when playing cross-platform with the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. While the charm of overly familiar characters isn’t there, the game offers engaging gameplay that fuels the friendly competition and party setting fun. Yet it’s great in a situation where you’re playing at home online as well.
PlayStation All-Stars may surprise some with its substance. There is a method to the chaos and madness. PS All-Stars is a strategy game wrapped up in a brawler skin. With an initial roster of 20 characters, PlayStation All-Stars offers a variety of game modes from single player to multiplayer modes. There is a ton of content that will keep you playing for a long time. There are a couple of “Solo” modes including the arcade mode and a variety of challenges for each character. Multiplayer consists of quick play games or customizable matches that can involve any combination of matches, 1 on 1, 2 versus 2, 1 versus 3, Free for All, and more. You can take part in ranked matches and fight for the top spot, or just take part in a friendly quick match. Each character has levels that, when increased, unlock a number of items for the game including outfits, intros, music, and more. You can be sure that if you want to unlock everything, you’ll be spending a while playing the games. The great thing about this is that whether you are playing in singleplayer arcade modes or online, your character’s rank carries over and will gain XP. Now, while characters do have levels, this does not increase their power, so nobody will be at a (dis)advantage that way.
There are a lot of positives in this game including great controls, interesting and varying dynamic stage interactions, customization options and unlockables, and more. However, there are also some negatives that could have been improved. At the same time, these negatives can be considered minor gripes that do not really impact the game’s quality overall. These include a final boss fight in arcade modes that was anti-climatic. Character interaction isn’t what some fans might hope for, in fact it’s quite minimal. Some characters that fans may have wanted to see are not present (although they could be added as DLC in the future – possibly), and some other characters seem to be a bit of wasted space such as Good and Evil Cole who are in essence the same with only a few variations in their Supers. What’s more, there are a few balance issues. Other than those few items, this game proves to be a surprisingly good show.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale enters the fighting scene as the new kid on the block, offering a new take on the crossover brawler and it succeeds in just about every fashion. The game can be challenging, rewarding, fun, humorous, exciting, and even cute at times. I’m hoping to see (somewhere down the line) a sequel that improves on the few shortcomings of this game and takes advantage of the ever-growing PlayStation universe – both the old and the new. PS All-Stars is a great game that seasoned gamers who like fighters, casual gamers who just want a good party game, and PlayStation fans will likely find themselves playing quite a bit.