Preview: Playstation All-Stars Battle RoyaleBy Jonathan Jenner
This game is Sony’s marquee release for 2012. If it doesn’t do well, they haven’t had a very good year; it’s really that simple.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, then, needs to succeed commercially as well as critically. Thankfully, after a few hours with an almost finalised build of the game, it’s looking like Sony have a hit on their hands.
The premise of All-Stars is one that a lot of gamers will already be familiar with, seeing as it bears a somewhat uncanny resemblance to the Super Smash Bros series. Here, just like in Nintendo’s hugely successful brawler, up to four characters battle it out across stages drawn from a variety of franchises. The action is fast, frantic, and at times so chaotic you can barely keep an eye on your character. So far, so Smash. Yet All-Stars is by no means a carbon copy of Nintendo’s game, with enough style and flair to potentially carve itself a section of the market.
The decision to utilise a new way to win each bout results in an entirely new way to play them too. Instead of hitting everyone around you as much as possible to make them easier to spank off the side of the stage, in All-Stars damaging opponents builds a character’s Special Meter. The Meter is split into three gauges, and equates to three progressively powerful special moves. Each character’s three moves are unique and very faithful to their respective franchises, meaning part of the initial fun of the game comes from simply trying out different characters to see what their special moves look like. If you hit an opponent with one of these special moves, they are instantly killed, only to respawn somewhere else on the stage in a few seconds. The person with the most kills and the least deaths at the end of the round is the winner. Whilst this sounds relatively simple, the mechanic adds a layer of tactical depth to the game that simply isn’t found in Smash Bros. Each match is a dilemma. Do you jump the gun and use your Special Move with only one gauge full, or do you hold out and wait for three full gauges for an almost guaranteed three kills? It often feels like as much of a battle against your nerve as against the other characters on the stage.
The characters are an eclectic bunch, which is arguably part of the game’s appeal. Admittedly, the roster doesn’t pack the oomph of Nintendo’s – it’s hard for any game character to stand up to Mario, Link or Pikachu, let alone all three – but for any Playstation owner it’s something of a dream come true. The crossover of wildly different universes makes each match a spectacle bordering on farce; picture, if you will, Jak and Daxter going toe to toe with Nathan Drake, while Fat Princess lobs cake at the pair of them and Sackboy whizzes around on his jetpack. It’s downright barmy, and each character has a genuinely broad set of moves, which are all nods to their respective franchises and add to the variety. The stages that they battle upon are also affectionately crafted absurdities, with elements from Ratchet and Clank, God of War and PSP classic Patapon all sharing the same stage.
After some good hands-on time with the game, our hope that this game could work has turned into belief. With a varied cast of fighters, gorgeously smooth graphics and a more tactical style of fight, All-Stars has every right to be a success, and a fantastic addition to Sony’s ever growing list of quality first-party titles. Provided it’s marketed well, an awful lot of Playstation fans could be playing this game come Christmas time.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is released on 23.11.12 for PS3 and PS Vita. Pre order it now.