Review - PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale


Review - PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
That's a battlin'
Sony Computer Entertainment
SuperBot Entertainment
Release Date:
PS3, PS Vita
Beat 'em up
Age Rating:
Sony’s massively mashed up fighter is finally here, can it live up to the promise of its many franchises?

The rather ridiculously titled PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is in every way an ode to the gaming system, which celebrates its 18th birthday this year. And those who have been following the brand for even a small portion of that time will find 20 superbly realised characters replete with detail, maps which provide further cross over between worlds and a wealth of background material, should you want to delve into it.

But obviously, first and foremost, PSASBR is a fighting game. If that immediately conjures the tactical back and forth of titles like Street Fighter or even the batshit, counter-heavy nuttiness of Dead or Alive then think again – you’re in straight up brawler territory here.

But that doesn’t mean the title lacks depth. Each of the 20 characters has three attack buttons, with the thumbstick acting as a modifier for each. Add in block and evasion movies, plus throws (from any direction via the right stick) and new attacks while in the air and the combinations are far from thrifty.

The main gameplay involves stepping into a series of arenas against up to three other combatants before button-pumping your way to victory. PSASBR flies in the face of fighting convention here by not relying on a regular health or energy bar. Instead, attacks fill a power bar which unleashes a super attack when it tops out. Super attacks are the only way to take out opponents to score points and thus win rounds. They come in three flavours, with the last taking the longest to charge up but often leading to a decisive victory.

The super attack system, coupled with rounds that tend to last just three minutes, force players to be proactively frantic. You need to get in early to fill the power gauge, with some players keeping them in reserve to counter the super attacks of their enemies. Inevitably, the insta-death of super attacks can lead to frustration but evasive action and careful harvesting means there’s often a chance to escape.

You can take on PSASBR in solo games against the AI, complete with short stories for each of the characters that you may find marginally enjoyable. Other solo modes include the ridiculously in-depth tutorial (which includes a guide to the full move set of every character), a practise mode and trials – levels with specific tasks which can also be broken down by character. These modes are essentially a fully fledged school, teaching you everything you need to survive when you bring your favourite characters online.

While the AI does a decent job here, it’s against the wilyness of real life enemies that you’ll ultimately spend most of your time and energy. The Tournament menu lets you jump immediately into a quick match with a bunch of settings you can tweak or in ranked play against some fierce opponents. Naturally, the wide camera angles and ferocious gameplay are also perfect for local multiplayer, and the cross play functionality means one player can even connect using their PS Vita in the same room.
Online, PSASBR is generally flawless. Match-making was a breeze and I only experienced one dropped game, and that was on Vita far from my router. The immediate nature of the mechanics keeps players invested in the fight at all time and the pace of the matches means are never draining.

On the subject of the Vita, I was somewhat shocked to find that that the version on the smaller console is absolutely identical to its big brother. From graphics to the (rather ugly) UI, everything is exactly the same. It’s an indication of just how powerful the Vita is and PSASBR is easily one of the most fully featured titles the console has seen to date, with impressive frame-rates and functionality. That said, given the choice I’d still opt to play on PS3 where possible – the Vita’s 5 inch screen looks great but the sprawl of the levels can make characters hard to see and menu text is often miniscule.

Regardless of which console you play on though, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is always keen to show that its more than a straight forward brawler. Matches earn points which go towards your rank and are used to unlock new items – from icons and mascots to new intro music and costumes. It’s generally cosmetic but the rank system works for each character, meaning there are literally hundreds of items to unlock across the full roster. Whenever you get bored with your intro speech or music, you’ll find that something new has unlocked, giving you a reason to play just a little longer.

It’s all superbly presented (bar those ugly menus) and some serious time and attention has gone into every little detail – ensuring that players will have a reason to come back to the game for many weeks and months to come. Better still, Sony and SuperBot Entertainment have confirmed that two new characters are on the way in early 2013 – Kat from Gravity Rush and Emmett Graves from Starhawk. Both will be as fully featured as their current counterparts and there’s even more good news, they’re going to be entirely free! Expect more, paid for, DLC in 2013.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is first and foremost intent on creating a fun, accessible brawler with some hidden depths. And it succeeds in those efforts, bringing a roster of wonderfully animated and inventively implemented characters into a world filled with detail and supported by gameplay which welcomes button mashers but rewards more considered play – without ever getting too fussy about it.

Commendable stuff but there are a few caveats. Story-lovers should look elsewhere as the arcade mode is pretty measly and purist fight fans may find it a little repetitive. Your mileage with the title may also vary depending on your nostalgia for the characters – some (like little Toro) are a little niche while the use of good and evil clones for Infamous’ Cole McGrath feels like a cheat.

Ultimately, there’s a lot of fun to be had with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and plenty of material to dive into. Whether the frantic online play will still be capturing the attention of PS3 and Vita owners a few months from now remains to be seen.

8 Stars: Recommended
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