E3 2012: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Hands-On Preview – Sony's Super Smash Shenanigans
Written Sunday, June 17, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
With a back catalogue consisting of dozens of gaming's most iconic characters, it was only a matter of time before Sony mined its PlayStation stable to bring them together for what can only be described as a homage to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. For all intents and purposes, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is just like Super Smash Bros., right down to the multi-tiered stages and double jump you can use to stay on-screen and in the fight. This can only be considered a very good thing. Super Smash Bros. and its Gamecube sequel Super Smash Bros. Melee were both great games, so a Sony version is more than welcome on PS3 and Vita.
Having revealed Uncharted's Nathan Drake and BioShock's Big Daddy during its E3 press conference, Sony's showfloor booth had the latest demo with all eight brawlers currently unveiled for the upcoming brawler all present and correct on the character selection screen. There's God of War's Kratos, PaRappa the Rapper, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Fat Princess, Colonel Radec from Killzone, Sly Raccoon, Nathan Drake and Big Daddy to choose from in this particular build, and we get to sample several of these characters during a few 4-player competitive bouts.
Starting with Kratos, we're able to exploit the Spartan's reach and power with his Blades of Chaos, jumping around as we battle against Big Daddy, Sweet Tooth and Radec, but the latter pair's projectile spewing shotgun and sniper rifle prove quite formidable, leading us to wonder about PS All-Stars' balancing. Based on our hands-on, the characters don't seem all that evenly matched, and when it's hard to determine who's hitting who amid chaotic four player melees, coming out on top seems like luck and arbitrary button-mashing over any real skill.
That's not to say that PlayStation All-Stars isn't still immense fun, because with such pleasingly bold visuals and huge special moves, it's impossible not to crack a smile. We sample two maps during our hands-on, with Hades lurking in the background of the dark Underworld stage bearing his name, smashing the ground with an enormous sword, giving us something to avoid as the battle rages. Moody stormy sky give way to Patapon's little eyeballs as the round timer ticks down, and there's a dynamism and sense of fun inherent in each of PS All-Stars backdrops, with God of War's Hydra popping up during a battle on Ratchet & Clank's Metropolis stage, and the army of Patapon eyeballs in Hades throw tiny spears that you'll need to avoid.
There's similar bombardments to look out for on the Sandover Village stage from Jak & Daxter, as boulders rain down from the sky, while at the bottom of the level, there's one of those nasty fish that used to stop you from swimming out too far in the Jak games (and in Ratchet & Clank too). You'll find a similar amount of life and activity in the LittleBigPlanet themed stage with its on-the-spot Buzz! Quiz that tasks you with jumping onto a button to answer a question correctly, lest you get zapped. All of this additional stuff lends the game a layer of frenetic energy and a few hazards to keep you on your toes in between all the colourful cartoon violence.
You can also pick up items to use as weapons or thrown projectiles, and smash crates to spill energy that helps boost your power bar. Speaking of which, emerging victorious in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale demands racking up 'kills' and the most effective way of doing this is by building up your bar at the bottom of the screen. You're able to build it up to three levels, bringing an element of risk/reward, as you can either choose to slowly build up towards a huge level 3 finisher that'll decimate everyone on screen, or simply pull off level 1 or level 2 attacks to snatch a couple of quick kills.
Beyond your power bar and the three-minute timer at the foot of the screen, there's nothing else in the way of screen furniture in PS All-Stars, so your character has no health bar to speak of. It's all about boosting that power bar and getting as many kills as possible, which makes each three minute match an insane race to accumulate as high a level finisher as you dare. Getting to level 3 is pretty tough, but the payoff is more than worth it. Seeing Sweet Tooth transform into his huge Twisted Metal mech guise and blast everyone on screen with his huge minigun, for example, is simply awesome. Level 2 finishers are pretty badass too, whether it's Big Daddy's raging charge, Drake's crushing column that he knocks over or PaRappa's boombox.
While the Super Smash Bros. comparisons are unavoidable, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is its own game, and with an expansive history of strong and iconic characters to draw from, it's a game that will no doubt inspire many a heated 4-player battle among friends. Eight characters is a fairly paltry selection at present, but we can expect to see plenty of other PlayStation brawlers being announced in the coming months. Ratchet & Clank, Sackboy, Jak & Daxter, Cole McGrath and possibly even Resistance's Chimera or Nathan Hale ought to be shoo-ins for the roster (there's even whispers of Metal Gear's Solid Snake), but more surprises in the same vein as BioShock's Big Daddy would be hugely welcome. The more the merrier.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is enormous fun to play, even with strangers, so we can only imagine the raucous joy that playing with friends will provide. It's the sort of game that'll be in constant rotation on your PS3 and Vita, which makes you wonder why Sony didn't think to do this sooner.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will be coming to PS3 and PS Vita with cross-play in Q4 2012.