Giant Bomb Review

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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review

3
  • PS3
  • VITA

This frantic fighting game just doesn't pack in enough PlayStation flavor to truly earn the title of "All-Star."

PaRappa is one of the older (and better) characters on the roster.

I don't know that I'd call PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale an ambitious game. Its developers surely must have sat down at some point early in development and said "let's make a Smash Bros. game but with Sony characters in it." And that's precisely what they did. It carves out its own fighting style in the margins, but make no mistake--this is a highly derivative game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, though PlayStation All-Stars makes a couple of design decisions that make the whole thing feel a little more awkward than it should. Also, for a game that's supposed to bring together the greatest heroes of the PlayStation platforms, it's missing too many key figures.

Crash Bandicoot. Let's just get it out of the way up front, OK? I'm certainly not privy to whatever backdoor dealings went into securing (or not securing) characters for this game's roster, but if you're making a game that attempts to bring together the classic PlayStation players and you don't have the system's first big mascot, someone has already screwed up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those weirdo Crash Bandicoot fiends or anything, and I'm well aware that Sony doesn't actually control the rights to the Crash Bandicoot property (through a series of mergers and sales, he belongs to Activision these days), but it's an embarrassing omission. While we're at it--and I'm sure those of you at home have already played along by filling out your own dream roster--it's difficult to talk about stand-out characters from the PlayStation era without bringing up Cloud Strife and Lara Croft. These three characters typify the early days of Sony's console business. Even though they aren't Sony characters, they're the characters that brought Sony to the dance and helped make the PlayStation the must-own platform through the back half of the '90s. If you catch me on the right day, I might even go so far as to say that if you can't lock down those three characters for your Sony fighting game, you probably shouldn't make your Sony fighting game.

The roster isn't all bad, though. The Sony-controlled standards from the modern era are present, like Ratchet (with Clank in tow), Jak (with Daxter, natch), Kratos, Nathan Drake, and not one, but two version of Cole from Infamous. That he gets two squares on the select screen instead of a "press triangle to select Evil Cole" treatment says to me that the developers were struggling to fill out that roster, but perhaps I'm projecting. PaRappa is in, and he's maybe the perfect mix of a known character that's still worth getting nostalgic about. You also get a set of also-rans that are too new and underused to feel classic, like Nariko from Heavenly Sword and Col. Radec from Killzone 2. These aren't franchise players, and while it's cool to dig deep, these guys aren't distinguished enough to feel like meaningful inclusions. Instead they feel like warm bodies, there to pad out Sony's end of the roster.

Each background busts apart at a set interval to reveal parts of another game.

The game feels a little heavy on third-party characters, which is entirely sensible. Sony has always enjoyed firm support from third-party developers, and many of the best PS1 and PS2 games don't have SCEA's name on the box. But instead of focusing on the greatest names from PlayStation history (see above!), the inclusions here feel like a bunch of co-marketing deals masquerading as guests in a fighting game. Dante from Devil May Cry is here, but it's the new Dante. Say what you will about that redesign, but of the two Dante designs that are out there, only one of them could safely be referred to as an "All-Star" right now. Raiden from Metal Gear Rising is here. There are two BioShock Infinite-themed backgrounds, and Big Daddy appears on the roster. You know, Big Daddy from BioShock, that huge PlayStation 3 hit... that shipped like a year later than the PC and 360 versions? Instead of leveraging its past, the roster keeps an eye toward future releases. It makes a sizable chunk of the game feel like a series of ads instead of a love letter to the PlayStation brand.

It's a shame that this aspect of PlayStation All-Stars sticks out so much, because once you get past the roster and its lackluster story cutscenes, Battle Royale is a fun little game. It's a chunk of frantic action that blends button mashing with meaningful strategy, even if that strategy comes from a slightly strange set of systems. All-Stars is all about your three-level super meter, and your sole goal is to build that meter up and unleash it at the appropriate times. Landing a super on an opponent is the sole way to kill that opponent and earn points. By default, your overall total at the end of a match is kills versus deaths, with two points earned for earn time you kill an opponent and one subtracted each time you fall to an opposing super. So, in a sense, waling away on another fighter has no direct impact on that fighter. But indirectly, it's key, because while you're landing attacks you're earning more meter and your victim, who's just standing there and taking your attacks, isn't. Throws and a couple of other attacks give you an opportunity to steal some of another player's super meter, too.

This means that the game really comes down to your knowledge of a character's super attacks and how best to land (or avoid) those attacks. So what the game lacks in moment-to-moment monitoring of a damage meter it makes up for in a multitude of "oh snap!" moments when the supers start popping off. Some of these attacks, particularly the low-level ones, feel like they come out of nowhere, so when Parappa runs up behind the other three fighters and busts out a flash kick that kills all three players, it's rad. When Raiden does a breakdancey little spin kick that takes out foes on either side of him before you can figure out what was happening, it's the sort of thing that makes a couch full of players start shouting up a storm. It's chaotic fun. The higher level supers get flashier and are more in line with a character's unique style, so Sly Cooper gets a little sniping sequence that feels like it fell out of one of the Sly Cooper games. Sweet Tooth turns into a giant robot. Kratos goes nuts and starts swinging a sword that kills in one-hit. The bigger attacks are more stylish and pretty interesting, but I always felt like I was doing better when I was slipping into range and busting out my low level supers on unsuspecting players.

The differences between the PS3 and VIta versions are minimal.

For a game that should be bursting at the seams with personality and charm, PlayStation All-Stars sure has some drab, plain menus. Once you're actually inside the game and fighting, things look fine but a little basic. The flashy super combos are certainly over-the-top, but the baseline action looks like a bunch of tiny dudes scurrying around and a bunch of little hit flashes. This ends up being worse on the Vita, since it's a smaller screen to begin with, but even on the PS3 I was picking myself out on-screen by the big player number text that floats above each character's head. All of this action is set on a series of mash-up backgrounds that start out based on one game, but transition into another. These transitions are the same every time, though, so seeing Chop Chop Master Onion's dojo bust apart so a Killzone robot can invade the stage is surprising and cool precisely once. More randomness in the stages would have made this stuff way cooler.

The single-player side of All-Stars is very slim, but a lot of what's there seems to be focused on getting you to understand the game's fighting style and, ideally, train you up to be a better online fighter. The online works great on both the PS3 and Vita, with a ranked mode that's broken up into "seasons," giving players multiple chances to be at the top of a season's leaderboard. And, if you buy the game on the PlayStation 3, you get access to the Vita version for no extra charge. I ended up preferring the default control scheme on the Vita over the PS3, even though the Vita version awkwardly requires you to tap the screen to pick up items during a fight. It's also worth noting that if you know that you only want a portable version of the game, you can get that on its own for $20 less than the console/handheld bundle.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an interesting first attempt at bringing Sony's characters, stages, and items together in the traditional Smash Bros. style, but it fails to carve out enough style of its own along the way. It ends up being an interesting, if occasionally awkward "party" style fighting game that works a little better than you might think. But it also feels like a proof-of-concept that misses too many classic PlayStation figures and moments to truly earn the title "All-Star."

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
126 Comments
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Posted by Eyz

This brawler sounds a bit...mmmh.. not lacking, but definitively rushed.

Oh, well... back to Power Stone it is - for me :P

Posted by MormonWarrior

@Yummylee said:

@MormonWarrior said:

The dude from MediEvil?

This guy? He's in there actually.

@Sauson said:

@MormonWarrior said:

And where the heck is Spyro? Croc? The dude from MediEvil? This game just ain't what it should be. Fortunately, few other companies take as long to come out with sequels as Nintendo so...maybe a future one will be cool?

The guy from MediEvil IS in the game...

Well geez, I stand corrected! The other glaring omissions are...well, glaring. And the core game seems awfully dull from what I played of the beta. I'm gonna pass on this one.

Posted by Cheebahh
If you catch me on the right day, I might even go so far as to say that if you can't lock down those three characters for your Sony fighting game, you probably shouldn't make your Sony fighting game.

Nailed it. How they ever planned on releasing this game without Crash, Cloud or Lara is frankly as laughable as the devs attempts to astro-turf the Internet with their "It's not Super Smash Bros!" mantra.

Posted by dropabombonit

Good review. I was willing to give this game the benefit of the doubt up until release but playing the beta let me see that although a fun fighting game, there was no personality

Edited by gosukiller

I actually like that's alot like SSBM, but where it's different it makes mistakes.

What kind of person thought it was a good idea to make Super-moves the only way to score?! It's literally THE thing keeping me and my SSBM friends away from it.

Having your characters fly out of the level at warp speed with 300% damage is one of the best things about Smash Bros.!

Posted by JesterPC238

@Deathpooky said:

@JesterPC238 said:

It's... Not though...

I mean Jeff didn't particularly love it, fine, that's totally his right. I don't know if you've played it, I don't feel that it is bad, antiseptic or "all business." Yes, there are a lot of Bioshock references in it, but they are all fun, and none of them feel like they hurt the game. Big Daddy is a lot of fun to play as, and mixes in well from a gameplay perspective.

Personally, I like this game a hell of a lot more than Smash Bros. Every Smash character falls into one of three categories for me: Heavy, medium, and light. Aside from the maneuverability of each character they all feel very, very similar. Not to mention the number of clones (Fox/Falco/Wolf, Link/Toon Link, Roy/Marth, Mario/Luigi, Daisy/Peach etc.). All Stars' characters feel much far more differentiated, and the Super System makes the game about fighting, not about zone control.

Look, I'm not saying one or the other is definitely "better," but they are just very different mechanically, and some will still prefer Smash and some will like this more. They are both great.

I've played a few matches, but haven't liked it. For the roster, Sony just has less to work with, and a lot to me seemed shoehorned in to meet their requirements, as opposed to starting with a base of characters you've known for decades. That was the initial appeal of Smash Brothers back on N64. They did good with what they had, but it doesn't pull the heartstrings the way Nintendo's roster did.

Gameplay wise, I just didn't get into it and came away with a lot of complaints:

The second to second fighting isn't as important as getting off your supers correctly, which makes a lot of the game seem unimportant. I have almost no fun with the basic fighting itself, since the damage I'm doing could all be for naught, instead of chipping away on someone's percentage efficiently. It makes it seem a lot more random when death can come out of nowhere, even if there is some strategy there. Smash Brothers was random, but you could plan around it, and out of nowhere deaths only occurred through specific items or once you had some damage on you - here every character has an instakill move they can pull out at almost any time. This all also made me not care about any of the character variation beyond finding a reliable super.

Managing your super meter doesn't work the same way as managing your percentage, though that appears to be what they intended it to be. For instance, there's no fun/strategy of surviving since there's no damage - instead just trying to avoid supers, regardless of how well you've fought. On the flipside, the lack of damage causing guys to fly away takes away a ton of the fun in smacking people around and trying to kill them once they've been heavily damaged. And one guy sucking can "feed" another person's super meter, letting him come after me even if I've played well.

Finally, the third level supers, supposedly the big "fun" part of the game, for the most part all have the feel of the hammer from Smash Bros - an annoying, largely undodgeable effect that will get automatically get some kills. We always turned off the hammer for that reason. I can't see ever using them really, which means the craziest part of the game goes by the wayside.

If you had caught me back during the beta, I'd have agreed 100% with you. If you only play a few matches it feels like a button mashy mess, and THAT'S something worth criticizing. The only reason I stuck with it is because a friend of mine was swearing up and down that there's depth to be found. Play some ranked matches and you start to see how important standard attacks are.

I think of the level 3 supers as being like final smash moves from Brawl. They are fun, kind of nostalgic little nods that are capable of wiping a screen, but the time it takes to charge them up means that it is far more efficient to use the level 2 moves.

They really should have come up with a better way to explain why the systems work the way that they do. There are actually combo tutorials for every character, but it's buried in a menu marked tutorial, which you wouldn't select given that you play a tutorial when you start the game. I only found the advanced lessons because I was having a friend play the tutorial. Something like that warrants criticism, I just really hope that the cynicism surrounding the game from those who haven't "gotten it" doesn't hurt sales so much that Superbot isn't given a shot at a sequel.

Posted by King9999

I stopped reading once I read the paragraph about the missing characters.

Edited by bhhawks78

The funniest thing about all these angry fanboys is that I honestly think the review was too kind.

This game is a fucking joke.

I love my vita and I can't think of a single released game for my vita that I would want to play less than this.

Posted by Hailinel

@whatisdelicious said:

@Hailinel: Yeah well Smash Bros. also has like three different versions of Link, three versions of Fox, two of Captain Falcon, etc.

Just because Smash does something doesn't mean that All-Stars is bound to doing the same thing. Smash makes plenty of mistakes too. That people are getting so incensed over there being two versions of Cole that play appreciably differently, representing a game where you're supposed to end up with radically different versions of the same character by the end of the game, is laughable. Like I said, it's like trying to represent Shepard in one slot.

I'm not saying that they couldn't or shouldn't have forced Cole into one slot. I'm just saying that it's not a big deal, and that people should just cut the game some fucking slack already. Jeff said it himself in his review that everybody is going to obsess over their own dream roster. Well, it's a dream roster, Jeff. By definition, it can't and won't exist, so just judge the game as-is rather than listing all the ways it falls short of your perfect fantasy version of the game.

Ryu and Ken have many of the same moves, but you'd be hard pressed to call them clones at this point. Same goes fro Smash Bros. characters. Characters like Captain Falcon/Gandondorf have similarities certainly, but they're different enough to require different styles of play. And even for all their similarities, they are still different characters. Cole and Evil Cole are still just Cole. Samus and Zero Suit Samus are still just Samus. Zelda and Sheik are both just Zelda.

Online
Edited by bhhawks78

@Cyrisaurus said:

Mention Smash Bros in first sentence - check

Complain about characters not being in that Sony doesn't have control over - check

figured Jeff wouldn't make the same dumb mistakes other reviewers did, but oh well.

It's a really fucking fun game, and in case everyone kinda forgot why they started playing games to begin with, Fun is kind of the most important factor.

FYI Jeff, Sucker Punch requested Good and Evil Cole. They are not palette swaps, they have different move sets.

Rip off all the worst parts of smash bros but not the good parts? Check

Make a game called playstation all stars without getting the right characters signed up before development? Check (fucking lol at Sony for this)

Letting a C tier dev like sucker punch take two character slots because they asked? Fucking lol If they asked for 4 slots should they have had good and evil barry too since they asked so nicely?

Posted by Nightfang
Posted by whatisdelicious

@Hailinel: Cole and Evil Cole have different powers and play differently.

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I think you are spot on with this review Jeff. It's something that deserves to be played but I think there are even deeper omissions than the ones you listed. I just think that it might be something worth revisiting in a few years and iterate on these ideas. If they get that chance, I'm sure they could have their Smash Bros. Brawl. Lest we forget, the original Smash Bros. isn't going to blow anyone away today.

Posted by mister1337

Another Shitty review from Giant Bomb.

Posted by AxleBro

@leejunfan83 said:

Why is Jeff reviewing a game that is of a style that he does not like?

this game didn't need a gb review, you either like this sort of thing or you hate it.

Posted by DarthOrange

I liked the combat a lot more then Jeff did and it really is deeper then he gives it credit for, especially in stock matches. I personally would give this game five stars for bringing new mechanics to the fighting game genre alone but good on Jeff and other reviewers for giving this game mediocre to average scores. Maybe it will make Sony get their head out of their ass and develop a story to go along with the mash-up and maybe put a commercial or two on the TV.  
 
Also, as Jeff stated, they should have gone deeper into the PlayStation history.

Posted by gb09

agree with jeff mostly

crash, cloud, lara, snake - and i'm in.

Posted by OneManX

@Hailinel said:

@OneManX said:

@Hailinel said:

@Yummylee said:

Concerning the two Coles, I think it's really no different from how there's both Mario and Luigi in SSB's. I mean technically they're different characters, but when it comes down to it Luigi is just a taller Mario wearing a different coloured outfit, and the personalities for each variations of Cole are of course drastically different from one another. I imagine each Cole even has his own unique moveset like in the inFAMOUS games themselves?

I'm not trying to defend this game or anything mind you as I have no interest in playing it anyway, but I just wanted to air my thoughts to anyone who perhaps regarded putting in two different Coles a little weird. Of course I won't deny that the roster is still a little weak all the same... A Big Daddy before even Kazuma Kiryu?! Let alone all of the other bigger Playstation omissions? GTFO, Sony U_U

Mario and Luigi are two different characters with their own identities and personalities (however thin they may be). The idea that they are the same as Cole and Evil Cole (the same character, but one is just pissy) doesn't really fly. In Smash Bros. Brawl, Samus and Zero Suit Samus occupy one roster space. There's absolutely no reason that Sony couldn't do the same for Cole.

Sucker Punch doesn't even treat the Coles as the same character, and they play differently outside of one is red and the other is blue. In the footage I've seen, it seems like they did a good job at showing off the differences between the Coles.

As for the game itself, looks alright, doubtful I'll play it, but I can rent it, have some fun for a weekend.

It's ridiculous that they don't, considering that Cole and Evil Cole are just good and evil variations of the same character. No, they're not identical in every way, but can you really blame people raising eyebrows at the way they were included?

I an't agree to both Coles being the same, the game is different, some of the story beats play out different, and they just play different, MAYBE it is too much to ask for a game like this which just needs diversity. But as long as they make the character play differently, then it's kinda hard to complain. From some people who have played more than me, there seems to be more to the 2 Coles, so to write it off at face value, seems odd.

Posted by Nettacki
@DarthOrange said:

Maybe it will make Sony get their head out of their ass and develop a story to go along with the mash-up and maybe put a commercial or two on the TV.  
 

They just made a collaboration with Robot Chicken for a commercial. It's kinda funny.
 
  
Posted by laserbolts

This looks like it would be fun for a night of drinking but I don't see how there is any lasting appeal here. I mean once I see all the highest level supers I think I would be done with the game. Also I love how there is always at least one person in review comments that just makes me so embarrassed. Won't say names but it's pretty clear who it is here.

Edited by beard_of_zeus

I think this review is pretty fair. I got the Vita version for free with the Amazon Vita bundle they had last week, and have been having a fun time with it so far, though, I've only played for a couple days, who knows if it has legs. I wish there was a bit more to the single-player; it's kinda crazy that I find all the challenge/training/combo training type modes to be the most compelling part, more so than the standard arcade ladder. I think it's because I'm still trying to deconstruct the design decisions of the battle system. Online mode is fun and super-smooth, even on the Vita.

My biggest complaints are the kinda crummy roster, in terms of old-school stalwarts (but I acknowledge licensing issues, business deals that would have to be made, etc.) and the super-duper bland menus, both of which Jeff pointed out. Not sure where I stand on the supers = kills system yet; the match type where everyone has a set number of lives makes this battle system seem most compelling. It's cool getting into standoffs and waiting for everyone to strike with their super; now I'm just working to find the depth of the standard moves, short of filling up your super meter.

Just my two cents.

Posted by Tikicobra

Honestly, this game could totally blow and I would still get it just for Sir Daniel.

Posted by Hailinel

@DarthOrange said:

I liked the combat a lot more then Jeff did and it really is deeper then he gives it credit for, especially in stock matches. I personally would give this game five stars for bringing new mechanics to the fighting game genre alone but good on Jeff and other reviewers for giving this game mediocre to average scores. Maybe it will make Sony get their head out of their ass and develop a story to go along with the mash-up and maybe put a commercial or two on the TV.

Also, as Jeff stated, they should have gone deeper into the PlayStation history.

At the very least, they should think harder about what characters to include rather than crap the roster full of third-party characters for the sake of cross-promotion.

Online
Posted by Axelhander

Man I'm super glad we got way more words talking about presentation, UI, and menus than about the mechanics and fighting engine. What an excellent review of this game's true qualities.

Can I assume Smash Bros. Brawl, with its contemptuous tripping and backwards design -- but top notch presentation, UI, and menus (since after all, that's what REALLY matters) -- got a more favorable rating? Checking... Yup. Not just another star, but a generally more favorable tone in the review. WHAT A SHOCK.

Far too many gamers already applaud and defend poor design for stupid reasons, while condemning sound design for the same. It's extraordinarily frustrating to see reviewers -- ideally supposed to be much more thoughtful than the average gamer -- completely forget that games are games and should be judged as such.

Posted by Superkenon

@Cyrisaurus said:

I know, but he should have put the part about fun first. Starting off with negative talk is a poor choice.

To answer your question, I was excited since the day they announced it because I am a huge Playstation fan and always have been. So yeah, knowing that I could play as Jak and Daxter and beat up Nathan Drake was what got me interested, but now that I have it and I'm playing it, my perspective has changed to looking at this like it's a new IP. Because it's a fighting game, most of these characters obviously don't play like the do in their games. So, take Sweet Tooth. Never have you been able to play as Sweet Tooth outside the truck in any Twisted Metal game. Turns out, he makes a really awesome fighting game character, and he's my favorite so far. Raiden is also really fun, and MGR isn't even out yet, so I can't just be saying that because I like his game. That kinda goes for Big Daddy as well, because I've never played a Bioshock game, but they still made him into his own little fighting game character. Jak and Daxter is my favorite PS character, but I'm not forcing myself to play as them in this game because of that.

I love the super system, so if this was just a new game all together with a full roster of made up characters, I'd still enjoy it.

As for the lack of certain characters on the roster, I'm not worried. They have already announced that they are doing DLC, and it's going to be free.

Not to mention, this is SUPERBOT'S FIRST GAME. You gotta give them a chance first. Let them learn to walk before expecting them to run a marathon. I fully expect the next PS All-Stars to have double the roster. They've already got the gameplay down, so they have all the time in the world to work on the rest.

Thanks for the response. The 'new IP' idea is a pretty interesting way to think about it -- and somehow, makes me realize that this game might even appeal to me more if it was a cast of made-up characters. As it is, since the cast is nothing but known quantities -- half of whom I'm rather indifferent towards -- it ends up serving almost as a needless detriment to the product in my eyes. But you may have a point, that this isn't totally unlike exploring a new batch of characters for the first time. Approaching it with that mindset could be useful for us fence-sitters. I could find that the act of playing Jak's fighting game-counterpart is enough to turn my seething apathy towards him (opinions!!!) into a form of appreciation.

Of course, it'd still be better in the first place if the character was something I gave a flip about, haha. Or at least a blank slate. But, to be fair, that's not really a fault of the game's -- I'm just not the intended audience for it... well, not quite. I'm kind of in a funny spot where I want to see this series succeed and grow a more universally appealing selection, but the current game just isn't exciting me enough to want to play it ahead of other things on my plate. Maybe I'll just buy it anyway in a silly show of support? Whooo.

Anyway, I always see it as a good thing to get the negative stuff out of the way first. To me, the review read as, "there's all this stuff I hate, blah blah but I liked it." Compared to, "I liked it, blah blah, but there's all this stuff I hate," I think the former paints the better picture. Airing the grievances early, and all that. But that could just be me. Either way, I like your take of it. Have you considered taking a crack at a user review? I know I'd like to see your perspective expanded upon.

Posted by automatica

This game is bloody fantastic. I had my reservations with some of the systems prior to going in, particularly the scoring system. Having played this game a ton since release, all of my concerns were put to rest -- this game is amazing. Jeff, I have to respectfully disagree with your review here. You bring up some very valid points, but the game is so fantastically fun that they end up being nothing more than minor annoyances. If you're into brawlers, get this game. It might look like a Smash Bro's clone, but dismissing it as such would mean you'd be missing out on one of the best multiplayer brawlers ever made.