PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Developer: Superbot Entertainment, SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PlayStation Vita (review)
Release Date: 22/11/2012
Price: $59.96 (Available Here)
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale pits twenty characters from the Playstation universe in four player battles to see which character is supreme. A concept as old as video games themselves (well, not really), the crossover genre brings in a new challenger, one worth inserting into your Playstation 3. Solid fighting gameplay that offers hours of content for both the single and multiplayer in all of us is just one ingredient in this excellent game. Fantastic visuals, a soundtrack that is heavenly to the human ears and an excellent roster elevates PS All-Stars to the rank of a must have game.
On the surface, one would mistake PS All-Stars as a clone of another successful 2D fighting crossover series. When one gets into the nitty gritty of the battle system, one would realise that it is a completely different story. Up to four characters duke it out on 2D stages with the aim to defeat their opponents, whether it is a chaotic free for all or a team battle. There is only one way to defeat the opponents: the use of Super Attacks. Building up a character’s power meter, displayed at the bottom of the screen, gains them access to their Super Attacks. There are three levels of Super Attacks and the player can choose wether to use a Level 1 Super or go for the Level 3 Super. Maybe they fancy a Level 2 Super. It brings a competitive strategy to the forefront.
That is what the battle system should and must encourage: proper strategy and a desire to win. The battle system hits those two notes quite sweetly, all in the Super Attack mechanism. It is all about timing and risk and reward. Despite the level, there will be moments where a Level 1 Super can bag the player three kills, equalling to six points in timed matches. Some Level 2 Supers cam bag more than three kills if implemented properly. Sure, there will be times where frustration will sink in, but that’s the name of the game. Get a hit, victory is near. Miss and songs of defeat may be sung. As for the battle itself, expect fast action at its finest. To aid these noble fighters, items are present. Just like the roster and the stages, they represent the various franchises under Sony’s belt. These items all have various effects. Some add a hefty amount of power to the character’s power bar while others can slow or hinder their unfortunate opponents, bagging more power for those gamebreaking (in a good sense) moments.
One of a fighting game’s greatest strengths is the roster, especially when it involves various universes coming together. Sixteen of the twenty characters are from games published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Characters such as Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Cole (inFamous) and Kratos (God of War) did make the cut alongside some of the more cult classics such as Sir Daniel Fortesque (MediEvil) and Parappa (PaRappa The Rapper). The selection is a mix of realistic and the cartoon worlds of Sony, an excellent mix I might add. But, like any crossover roster, it is all subjective. I enjoy this roster and do not mourn for those other characters that made their mark in the Playstation 1 era. It would be nice, but I do not miss them (and I do have the PS1 games for one of these characters).
What makes this roster excellent is that every single character has their own fighting style. That does include the two Coles included. The major complaint about the other franchise was the cloning of their characters just to make up numbers. This does not happen here. In fact, outside of the two Coles (which are one person in inFamous anyway), no franchise has no more than one playable character representing it, even with the DLC characters coming next year. It is refreshing to see that all characters do play differently to each other, meaning not everyone would be good with all characters. This brings varied matches both offline and online, which is more entertaining in the long run.
Just like the readers of this review, I do have my thoughts on what characters should be on this roster. With that said, I am quite satisfied with nineteen of the characters selected. I only say nineteen for I do question the inclusion of one character: Bioshock’s Big Daddy. It is not as much of the character’s style of play, but the background behind his inclusion. There are four third party characters, three of which did come from games that originated on the Playstation line of consoles (despite their appearances). However, Bioshock did not originate on Playstation, but on Xbox 360 and PC. Yes, the relationship between SCE America and Irrational Games has only strengthened over the years, which led to Big Daddy’s inclusion among other things, but wouldn’t another third party character that had a game originated on the Playstation be more deserving? Nonetheless, I still welcome its inclusion as it is a great character to play with.
No fighting game is complete without an Arcade Mode to satisfy the single player hunger. Arcade Mode is basically the traditional arcade experience found in every fighting game. Players select one character and battle through a gauntlet of battles with the other characters, culminating to two important battles: the rival battle and the battle with Polygon Man. Each character has a collection of still images as both the introduction and ending of their arcade mode, with an in-game cutscene explaining how their battle with their chosen rival came about. Both time and kill limit matches are featured in each story. Arcade Mode is great for single players, but the storytelling is a bit shallow. With that said, story in fighting games are not that important, unless it’s Dissidia Final Fantasy.
Single players should note that Arcade Mode is not the only single player offering out there. Superbot has included a challenge mode for all difficulties to conquer. There are two sets of challenges: generic ones and character specific ones, adding more hours of gameplay. It is quite sequential, one can not just dive into any challenge on the list. Then there is a tutorial mode to learn about each character and how they play, as well as the game. Great starting point for those who find the game a little daunting or want a refresher with the battle system. Practice mode is also present, where the player can basically practice with each character. As always, there is offline battling with the AI, which is excellent and satisfying if done with the right Al difficulty.
The multiplayer in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale has to be the Achilles Heel of the game. Well, not the offline, local multiplayer. Playing with friends brings a satisfaction for the victor as the competitive nature of the various modes comes to light. Beating down your friends in a timed or stock match will bring the crowd to the edge of their seats or whatever they are standing on. The problems lie within the online multiplayer. Through my experience, out of the various attempts to get into a match, I was only able to contest in two matches. The poor experience continued as in my first match I was assigned to Kratos, only, on the character selection screen, I had selected Raiden. To my shock, once the match began, I only saw three Kratos players, despite listing four. This is very unacceptable as I should be offered a battle I can play. No character should just disappear. It was not a one off, as my second online game had an invisible Nathan Drake. I could not touch either player but they could touch me. This seems to be a common problem which I hope was fixed in the latest patch. Ironically enough, lag was no issue. Each of these matches did run smoothly. If these problems are fixed, then the online experience will be more than excellent, as multiplayer is where the genre shines. Despite the problems, multiplayer can be fun if one finds the perfect game.
In terms of online offerings however, they present an excellent selection. There is the quick mode where players can just jump in and play a match, if they do connect to one. For those who have a desire to compete off the battlefields, then the ranked matches are for you. There is a leaderboard for each player to conquer if they feel like they are up for the challenge. There are seasons, which usually last for a month or so, it seems. Each time a season is over, the leaderboard resets, perfect for a mew champion to rise from the heap of players present.
Despite the problems that the online multiplayer presents, there was a new way to play against opponents: through Sony’s latest handheld, the Playstation Vita. Cross-play has been heavily promoted by Sony, alongside the Cross-buy promotion. It is here where Superbot hits the sweet spot. No longer do players have to confine to the small space crowded around the console. Crossplay is an excellent alternative to the controller. The performance of gameplay during crossplay is astonishing. Trying it out between my PS3 and Vita, the match did not lag at all. Framerates were steady and gameplay was smooth. The only complaint I do have with crossplay is that it is only done via PSN. In order to crossplay, your Vita player needs to join the PS3 party with a separate PSN account. Not a major issue, but it might have been the only way to pull it off.
Fighting games and customisation go hand in hand like Kevin Butler and Playstation (sorry, sorry). Each character has their own options of customisation, including changing their intro, their victory outro and even victory music. The first tier is achievable after one playthrough of the arcade mode of each character, since they will pass the required rank to unlock them. Each character has a rank that is increased with every fight the player uses them. In a way, this is a great system as it allows the player to test fight each of these characters and find their own rhythm. The ranks also contribute to the player’s online badge. The badge includes a background, titles, icons and even minions from each of the twenty games represented. Who doesn’t want to see Captain Quark dancing after bagging three kills at once?
Visuals & Audio
The visuals of Playstation All Stars Battle Royale are excellent and this is evident as soon as the opening cinematics begin. Being greeted with Ratchet and Jak fighting, the opening does its job by pumping up the fighting ahead. In game, do expect the view to look similar to that other game that will not be mentioned by name. But that is where any similarity ends. The characters models are highly detailed and animations are smooth.
What shines in the visual department has to be the stages. In an interesting idea, each stage is in fact a mash up of two franchises/games, ones that are represented with playable characters and some other titles, such as Locoroco, where the stage is the only representation. Each stage has a gigantic hazard in the background. One of my favourite stages is Hades, the God of War stage. Eventually, the Patapons will invade the underworld and battle the God of the Underworld. It brings a sense of life into these stages, unlike that other game.
With impressive visuals, the perfect companion is an impressive soundtrack. Like the opening cinematic, the excellent track Finale by Frenchman Madeon blasts out of the speakers and provides the mood for a fight. I tip my hat to this talented man, well done. It fits perfectly with the action on screen. One of the reasons I do not skip the opening. The game also features tracks from the games that has a stage. Stowaways provides the classic Uncharted theme as well as some Bioshock inspired music. Franzea, a Locoroco inspired stage, reinvigorates its world with some catchy music. Even Toro’s theme has formed an attachment towards my inner musician.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is a game where one must look upon it and play it with an open mind. Don’t worry about that other game, critique it on its own merit and one would see how solid and fun PS All-Stars really is. The battle system brings in a risk for reward system which demands strategies that require change in the moment. The fighting is not overly unbalance, it is clinical and satisfying. Add in a great offering for the single player and the multiplayer, a roster that actually has variety and no clones, excellent visuals and a collection of music that will impressed the musician within oneself and Playstation All-Stars brings out the best in crossover fighting, despite the online multiplayer problems. It is possible to love PS All-Stars without betraying that other game for it requires a different you. Give it a chance, it is as satisfying, if not more, than any other fighting game on the market. Plus, you get a free Vita version, a sweet deal in any language.