When Sony first announced they’d be making a button-mash brawler, in the vein of Nintendo’s fan-favorite Smash Bros. franchise, reactions were somewhat mixed (though, for the most part, optimistic). Who wouldn’t want to see the simple beat ‘em up gameplay of Nintendo‘s series paired with Sony’s especially diverse character roster?
Yet, plenty of questions remained, most notably: how closely would Sony copy the formula and, assuming they did choose to diversify the play mechanics (not just swap out Nintendo assets), would the changes result in a better (or, at the very least, unique) fighting offering for gamers? We had a chance to go hands-on with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale in a 4-player free-for-all at E3 2012 and, in addition to testing out new characters Nathan Drake and the Big Daddy, we now have answers to a few especially prevalent questions.
While this wasn’t our first hands-on with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, after more time with the title (not to mention a loose-lipped demo rep) we can now address the single-most-debated element of the title – the scoring system.
We detailed the, now, controversial scoring system back in our original All-Stars Battle Royale hands-on preview – i.e. players do not take damage and instead attack enemies to build-up a special move (of which there are three tiers). Unleashing specials (whether level 1, 2, or 3) is the only way to “kill” a player (and, subsequently, score a point) – meaning that, more than any other fighting game on the market, All-Stars Battle Royale is an offensive experience. However, that’s not to say that defensive tactics are entirely wasted – as the “Winning” score is still calculated by subtracting the number of player deaths from their respective kill counts.
The focus on building-up super attacks certainly differentiates PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale from Smash Bros. – and could, once players get used to the mechanics (as well as the character roster), deliver its own brand of chaotic multiplayer mayhem. Normally, we wouldn’t be spending a lot of time comparing an upcoming title to other entries in the respective genre but, given how closely All-Stars Battle Royale (unapologetically) borrows from Smash Bros. it’s useful to point out how the properties vary. At this point, it’s hard to ignore that All-Stars Battle Royale‘s focus on offensive super attacks is less engaging – and significantly limits player strategies when compared to the more robust percentage system in Smash Bros. For months, many gamers had been speculating that the “super attack” gameplay would only be one of a number of options featured in the new title (with the Smash-like percentages appearing in other modes); unfortunately, when asked, the SuperBot Entertainment developers confirmed that, while there will be other mode types, they will all utilize the same core scoring mechanics (i.e no percentages or ring-outs here).
As a result, some of the other Smash-like elements come across as extremely out of place or, at the very least underutilized, in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale – such as environmental obstacles (gears and flame pits, among others). In Smash, these hazards could mean the difference between victory and defeat – as they contribute to a player’s rising “ring-out” percentage. Players must avoid the obstacles and hazards in already chaotic gameplay – to avoid taking further damage. Though, in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, similar hazards appear but, since the characters don’t take damage and other players are solely responsible for kills, the various death traps don’t have a real purpose – and only add to the chaos by knocking on-screen fighters around a bit.
That said, the super attack mechanics are a lot of fun – especially the level 3 variants which feature time-stopping cinematic intros and a much larger damage radius. Players who actually want to win will quickly discover that, even though level 3 attacks are slick, smart-use of level 1 and 2 attacks paint a cleaner path to victory – meaning that there is room for strategizing and honing offensive skills even if defense is nearly always a back seat priority. Obviously an intriguing spectrum of Sony-brand characters (from homicidal maniacs like Sweet Tooth to quirky series icons like PaRappa the Rapper) is also a major draw and, based on our time with the title, there’s enough variety (in terms of attacks and movement) for gamers of all-different playstyles – though, some of them will, no doubt, be more difficult to play as than others.
At this point, the game offers a weird mix of direct riffs on Smash Bros. gameplay – while also ignoring basic elements that made Nintendo’s series an enormous success among gamers. Certain elements that differentiate All-Stars Battle Royale are encouraging and could offer some fun variations on the format. However, others are boldly lifted but with uninspired on-screen purpose.
This isn’t to say that Sony’s brawler is a mis-fire because it is still a lot of fun but it’s going to take getting used to – and may not offer quite the depth that Smash Bros. fans may have been hoping for on the PS3 (and the recently confirmed PS Vita). Of course, SuperBot Entertainment is teasing loads of details (and character reveals) in the coming months – so there is still plenty of information that has yet to be unveiled. Information that could help showcase some of the fresh ideas in the game – not just highlight the areas where the project falls short of its Smash Bros. inspiration.
In the meantime, check out our list of 25 Characters That Need to Be in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale does not yet have a firm release date but expect it sometime in Holiday 2012.