‘PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale’ Beta Impressions

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Even with the massive popularity of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, there have been few who have attempted this unique, bombastic style of game with much success. Silly brawlers set in particular universes have followed, but no one has tried to recreate the magic quite like Sony and SuperBot Entertainment.

PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale combines all the best characters, locations and items from Sony’s deep library of games into one, massive fighting game. Kratos, Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper and a slew of other exciting personalities will meet up on November 20 to duke it out like men, but before that release date, we’ve been given a chance to experience the holiday blockbuster through a Vita and PlayStation Plus beta. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, the multiplayer experience will be open to all PSN users October 23.

Yet, for those who’d rather just hear some general impressions now, we here at StickSkills have got you covered. Four of our editors have been kicking the living hell out of each other online over the past week, and along with those beatings comes a group of our impressions of the beat so far.

Note: This game is still in beta, so take our judgement with a grain of salt. Very little of what we played is fully representative of the final game, so these are just our thoughts of the current state of the game.

Christopher Sheridan

I can’t say I love the game, though it did grow on me as I spent more time with it. PlayStation All-Stars is not shy about its status as a pretty shameless Super Smash Bros. clone, as different characters from Sony’s universe come together to beat the stuffing out of each other in various Sony game-themed arenas.

It took a while to get used to the whole idea of attacks not necessarily being damaging, rather just a means to filling a meter to execute the killing Super Attack. As of now, it appears that some of the characters have some severe balancing issues: Kratos and General Radec, for example, can reach all the way across the stage, keeping everyone at bay and maximizing their Super meters. Kratos in particular seems far more likely to interrupt most attacks than someone like Sweet Tooth (who is nonetheless a lot of fun to play as). This may be partly due to his slow speed, but it still doesn’t seem quite right.

The combat itself lacks any sort of heft, and it doesn’t really feel like a bunch of characters are kicking the hell out of each other. Not to nitpick, either, but I really hate how the stages are a mix of at least two different games (like God of War and Patapon). It robs them all of any sort of identity. I’m not sold on the game, but it has potential. I’ll be keeping an eye on it, but if the final product doesn’t fix some of the issues I encountered (including myriad matchmaking and friend invite problems), I won’t be picking it up.

Josiah Renaudin

I almost feel guilty labeling PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale as a Super Smash Bros. clone, but honestly, that’s not the worst tag in the world. There’s a new Call of Duty replica spawned every day, and while obscure titles like Onimusha Blade Warriors and Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble tried their best to emulate the beat-em-up formula that’s worked so well for Nintendo in the past, the character rosters never had the depth to compete. Sony is one of the only companies with the recognizable faces to pull off a conglomeration like this, and for the most part, they pull it off well.

After playing multiple online matches of the recent beta, I can happily say that All-Stars seems to be hitting the mark in most areas. A silly cast of characters, slew of unique items and tight control scheme help remind you of your best moments in Nintendo’s fighter without making you long to just switch games and swing Link’s Master Sword. All-Stars contains its own unique flavor, substituting damage percentages with life-ending Super Moves. The four-player matches become fast-paced races to build up your bar as soon as possible, and while each round begins with a heavy emphasis on offensive activity, the dynamic quickly shifts once a character activates a deadly level-3 attack.

It’s a welcome change to the formula established in Smash Bros., but a chunk of the moment-to-moment drama that’s made that series so enjoyable is lost in Sony’s title. Without ring-outs or a tangible measure of damage sustained on characters, the combat can grow stale until a Super Move spices things up a bit. Some characters pack more punch than others with their standard attacks, but the satisfying thud that accompanies the perfect shot to a wounded opponent in Nintendo’ fighter is absent here.

Being able to experience the game on a Vita is a huge plus, though. All-Stars sacrifices little in its presentation when taken to the small screen, and since both the PlayStation 3 and Vita can interact on the Network, there’s always another three other players online waiting to be challenged. It’s a strong feature in a holiday game with a lot of promise, and while some balancing and network stabilization is still in order, PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale should be an exciting outing for all Sony fans.

Ross Adams

It’s really hard not to compare this game to Smash Bros. At a glance, it looks like Nintendo’s game, and the controls are pretty much the same. I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s a game about mascots fighting each other. Thankfully, it does have certain uniqueness to it, as the levels are mash-ups of different games, though the actual playfields aren’t all that exciting. The special move system adds a nice dynamic, since deciding whether to save up for a level 3 attack or knock out a couple of level 1 moves adds a nice bit of strategy to what is generally a random type of game.

That said, something just feels off about the combat in All-Stars – even when playing as someone like Kratos, I never felt very powerful. The visual feedback is almost non-existent, which isn’t helped by the super-zoomed-out camera or the fairly small scale effects on the moves of most characters. In a game where there’s stuff happening all over the screen and it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself, you really need to give each character a unique visual flair to their moves. I want to hit up and the square button and immediately be able to pinpoint where I am on screen, but that’s just not the case here. In fact, even if you’re staring directly at your character, you might miss the move.

I’d hope these problems are just a symptom of this being a beta, but the game is not that far from release. It’s hard to imagine such fundamental issues would be changed, which leaves me skeptical. I think the concept here is sound, but the execution is severely lacking.

Angelo Valdivia

I love Smash Bros. for all its charm, tight controls and zany battles. PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale doesn’t really have any of that, as far as this beta goes. Characters are unbalanced, and it’s often hard to tell what’s going on (not in the good way that Super Smash Bros. somehow manages to pull off). The beta only offers the husk of a tutorial, teaching you to press square to attack or X to jump, as a single-player mode. There’s no way to practice alone or learn how individual characters work against bots, which makes playing online against real people more of a challenge.

What made the experience worse for me was that the online system – which is supposedly the purpose of this beta – is completely broken, as 4 out of 5 matches would drop out. Worse yet is that when playing against cross-platform Vita users in a regular match, their microphone automatically broadcasts whatever background noise those players have going on. This is because the game doesn’t offer the ability to mute yourself (to do so, you need to hold the PS button and bring up the Vita’s secret audio menu), and if you do this, then it reminds you at the beginning of every match to turn your microphone on. This, my friends, is not intuitive.

I hope the retail release of All-Stars is the complete opposite of what the beta is right now.

What do you think of the beta so far? Do you think this will be a big holiday game? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!

When not writing about all the latest and greatest happenings in the video game industry, you can find Josiah on PSN, XBLA or Steam (Lionheart377). He has a soft spot for classic, turn-based RPGs, but also spends a great deal of time jumping from platform to platform and shooting dudes in the head.