E3 12; PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale preview; much more than just a Smash Bros. clone
When PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was announced, people were quick to dismiss it as just another Smash Bros. clone; after all, it does feature many of PlayStation’s most notable franchise figureheads battling it out in an arena-style fighting game. After going hands-on with the game this past week at E3, we’ve realized that while it may appear similar to Nintendo’s brawler, it’s an entirely different beast.
The E3 build of PlayStation All-Stars featured all eight currently announced characters including Kratos, Sly Cooper, Radec, Sweet Tooth, Fat Princess, PaRappa, and the two newly added characters, Nathan Drake and Big Daddy. There were also four stages to choose from, Metropolis from Ratchet & Clank, Sandover Village from Jak & Daxter, Dreamscape from LittleBigPlanet, and Hades from God of War. Like Smash Bros., the objective is to get the most kills by the end of the match, but how you do so is what sets All-Stars apart.
There are no health bars so simply pummeling your opponents with attacks isn’t going to do them in. Instead, each attack builds up a player’s special meter which they can then use to unleash powerful special attacks which instantly kill any opponent in its path. Collecting glowing orbs littered in the arena also add to your meter. There are three levels to the attacks, each more powerful than the last. Since this is the only way to kill your opponents and earn points, there’s strategy involved in deciding whether to fill the bar quickly and perform a bunch of Level 1 supers or save up and hope that your Level 3 will grant more kills.
We played as Kratos, Sly Cooper, and Sweet Tooth in our testing of the game, and each character had their own unique play style. Kratos has the advantage of using the Blades of Chaos, giving him exception reach with his attacks. Sly on the other hand had more of a stealthy approach to battle. He can briefly go invisible and is more about the quick attacks than heavy damage. Sweet Tooth, though, is all about dealing the pain. He slower but can get in close and easily send opponents flying across the screen.
The strategy that works best so far seems to be using your Level 1 supers at the right moment to score multiple kills. It can take a decent amount of work to build up to Level 3 and by that time, your opponents will have already scored plenty of points. Some characters, like PaRappa, are designed to quickly build meter. One of his moves is a boom box that releases a bunch of orbs. Anyone can collect them, though, so be careful when you use it.
Kill counts are not shown on screen until the match is over so you never really know who is currently in the lead. This may change in the time between now and when All-Stars is released but I enjoyed the mystery of not knowing who is winning until the very end. Then there’s also the thrill of unleashing your final super right as the clock ticks down to zero for those last minute points.
The stages themselves are very dynamic and are always changing. LittleBigPlanet’s Dreamscape stage is constantly being edited a la Media Molecule’s “Play, Create, Share” ideology, and even has Buzz! intervene with PlayStation occasional trivia. While you can’t die by the stages themselves, they can definitely put you in precarious positions. Knowing how to use the stages to your advantage will give you an early lead against your opponents.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is shaping up to be a competent fighter. The character roster is diverse and no one so far seems to completely dominate the battlefield. It will also be released on the PS Vita, complete with cross-platform gameplay so players can take their battles on the go. We’ve already compiled a list of characters who we think should and should not be included in the game. I guess we’ll find out in the coming weeks who made the cut.