PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review
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PlayStation All-Stars is a deeply engaging fighter and love letter to PlayStation fans that ultimately triumphs over shallow single-player content and a few design quirks.
- PlayStation's best, together at last
- Tremendous fun and impressive mechanical depth
- Sophisticated networking
- Inconsistent narrative quality
- Boring presentation
- Disorganized progression system
The moment I ripped open the Christmas wrapping on a Sony PlayStation in 1999 was the moment when I like to imagine that I joined the PlayStation family. I'm grateful for the countless gaming memories and friends made in the years since, but PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is the kind of game I didn't know I needed until now. A competitive gathering of legendary PlayStation characters is an idea I rarely entertained, probably because I doubted it could be very much fun.
I was wrong.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is absurdly fun, endlessly replayable, and a love letter to fans who have grown and matured alongside every character that populates the game's storied cast. Brilliantly realized worlds and polished mechanics bring the celebration to life, and a staggering degree of combat depth and variety rivals this generation's greatest fighters. Where PlayStation All-Stars falters is not in its design or sincerity, but in narrative missteps and presentation blunders that prevent the party from feeling like a cohesive whole. Equal parts charming and cheesy, serious and... well, just plain lame, it's hard to discern just what kind of story PlayStation All-Stars wants to tell (if any at all). Either way, the greatest strength of Sony's finest exclusives is missing here. Still, it's hard to hold these concerns against a game that excels tremendously in every other respect. PlayStation All-Stars isn't a perfect game by any means, but it's damn good at fulfilling its promise to celebrate PlayStation history with a truly impressive cross-franchise brawler.
This premise begins with a mostly awesome cast selected from the last 17-odd years of Sony gaming. Representatives from every era are on hand to duke it out in stages that send up two or more memorable franchises. Impressive as the battlegrounds are to behold, the fighters are the real stars. SuperBot Entertainment absolutely NAILED its portrayal of every member on this diverse roster, and the smiles waiting to be slapped across your face at the sight of your favorites are innumerable. Jak's powerful forward punch, Ratchet's one-two-three Omniwrench combo, the fluidity of Dante's rapid switch between sword, scythe, and guns... these are unmistakably the PlayStation heroes and anti-heroes you love, brought to life with mechanics that bestow an impressive amount of depth upon each. You'll peel back layers of understanding as your playtime racks up, uncovering new combos and approaches for every conceivable situation. How does Raiden fare as an approach master in 2v2 team battles? Can Good Cole carry a one-on-one grudge match? How many kills can Heihachi's Level 2 Super realistically garner, given the stage and mobility of his opponents? Will Spike's Level 3 Super, which clears the stage in one fell swoop, be enough to secure victory?
The aforementioned Supers are what separate PlayStation All-Stars from its obvious competition. Instead of suffering a damage percentage that makes you more susceptible to being knocked off-screen, you'll build up AP for every attack, combo, throw, and item you deploy against your opponents. With enough AP, you can unleash a series of progressively stronger and more extravagant attacks – Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Supers – that are the game's only means of scoring kills off your buddies. For example, Sackboy's Level 1 Super is a simple KO uppercut. Earn enough AP to reach Level 2, and you can drop flaming rocks ripped right out of the Imagisphere on anyone foolish enough to not run the heck away. Sackboy's ultimate attack, his Level 3 Super, traps everyone else inside Prize Bubbles that the corduroy creator is free to pop. The system sounds restrictive on paper, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The tension that arises as your competition moves closer and closer to each Super is palpable, and the strategic applications of each – based on everything from stage design to match type to character involved – are infinite.
Better yet, the core system of Super attacks and AP establish a white-knuckle urgency that will have casual couch potatoes and hardcore fighting enthusiasts alike on the edge of their seats with excitement. Matches between human players aren't often total blowouts, and even the largest lead can be turned in the blink of an eye thanks to timing and intelligent Super deployment. 1v1 matches are especially intense for this reason, ... (continued on next page) ----