Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is Sony’s first attempt at taking a bite out of the mascot brawler genre. With over 20 characters and 14 stages from a multitude of titles that have appeared on Sony platforms, does All-Stars have a shot of unseating the Smash Bros franchise from it’s throne?
When I started playing All-Stars, one of the first things I had to get over immediately was to not approach this game as if I was playing Smash Bros. If you come into this game expecting Smash Bros, you will be disappointed. However, if you open yourself up to take All-Stars for what it is, you will have a good time.
All-Stars is a fighter where super moves are the name of the game and the only way to get kills. Some people will like this and some people will hate it as admittedly it feels a bit limiting sometimes. Even if you fall off the ledge in a given stage, it will not count as a knockout against you. The objective of each match is to build your super meter in order to perform one of three super moves for each character. Naturally, a character’s level 1 super move is fairly basic while most level 3 super moves take over the entire screen with level 2 supers somewhere in between depending on the character. Each attack a character lands on their opponent builds their super meter and there are over 30 attacks to use per character so there’s definitely variety. Defensively, characters are able to air dodge and dodge roll along with using throws to take away from an opponent’s meter.
All-Stars felt a little bland from a gameplay standpoint but really shined once I dived into multiplayer as the level of strategy involved is quite impressive. In most fighting games, the objective is to attack and dominate your foes but in All-Stars, your aggressive play means nothing if you are not landing your super moves. While I have a beef with the character roster from a nostalgia standpoint (no Crash Bandicoot or Lara Croft mainly), from a gameplay perspective, it’s nicely balanced with characters that will suit a variety of play styles. Not only that, but each time you use a character in any of the game’s modes you will level them up to unlock new costumes, taunts, intros and other animation so there is added incentive to pick characters each time.
As far as gameplay modes go, the single-player menu has some interesting items but it just feels lacking overall. The story mode begins with an opening and wraps up with an ending for each character with the character’s voice over set to still images. There is a rival battle for each character that actually features a cutscene (think Sly Cooper vs. Nathan Drake) but aside from that, the enemy A.I. makes the whole experience feel bland. Even worst, the final boss battle with Polygon Man is a nice nod from a Playstation fan point of view but it’s very disappointing. There are also combat trials and practice modes that help you learn the game but like I said, the real fun is in the multiplayer.
Versus mode offers free for all time battle (see who gets the most kills before time is out), stock battle (each player has a set amount of lives) and reverse stock (see who is the first player to get to a certain amount of kills). All-stars also offers 2v2 tag team fights which are intense and a lot of fun. The online modes play extremely smooth with little noticeable lag. I did have one instance where I had to play a match as an entirely different character from the one I selected but it was a one time thing. Online tag team and Free for all battles give players the opportunity to increase their rankings in a number of ways fostering a fresh competitive environment.
Presentation-wise, All-Stars is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the level design is very imaginative as each stage plays into the cross-over theme very well. Imagine the Metropolis from Ratchet & Clank’s universe being attacked by the Hydra from God of War in the middle of your fight. But on the downside, there’s so much going on in the levels (especially the larger levels) that when the camera pans back, it can be hard to keep track of your character amid the chaos as some characters don’t really standout on a few levels, especially when things get chaotic. Many of the character voices and iconic music is pulled straight from their respective franchises which increases the sense that this game is truly a celebration of all things Playstation.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is not a game that everyone will like because of it’s kill system. Some gamers will find it limiting while others will love the strategic opportunities it opens up in the competitive realm. After warming up to All-Stars, I can say it’s a title that I’d like to see get a sequel but for right now, there’s enough to enjoy as long as your playing human opponents.