PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale isn’t going to win any awards for originality, though I don’t think that’s the point here. Sony at this point in its life seemingly has the cast of characters and the cache to pull this off, so why not? While this provides a decent Smash Bros.-like experience, the devil is in the details, which it misses in a number of key areas.
The cast of 20-something characters does a good job of covering the pantheon of PlayStation’s legacy. Of course, Kratos and Nathan Drake are here, as well as some old standbys such as Parappa the Rapper. However, there are a few notable omissions, such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, both of whom are no longer under Sony’s control. While they do bring in some outside help, such as the Big Daddy from BioShock, Dante from DMC Devil May Cry and Raiden from Metal Gear Solid, it’s not enough to plug the holes. The characters that are here at least are fun to play as and offer different play styles.
When the action begins, it looks a lot like Smash Bros. However, there’s a few distinct differences that differentiate it; arguably for the worst. Points are not scored by knocking people off of the stage. In fact, most stages are closed environments. Instead, you can only score points by landing super moves. In order to do this, you hit people, which gives you points within a super move gauge. You can store up to 3 full bars of super and you’ll get different moves based on the number of bars you spend at once.
There are a lot of things about this system that rub me the wrong way. I really don’t like how this system really marginalizes most of the action until you get a super gauge full. Sure, you need to make contact to build meter, which then lets you score the kill, but you’re never actually inflicting harm on your foes until you’ve got your big move on deck. Also, since only super moves score points, most fights don’t feel very interesting most of the time until people start pulling off supers. I personally prefer the Smash Bros. system where everything counts. Even a stray light attack can win you the game if your opponent is weak enough. Here, it’s all about the big swing, which makes the action feel more monotone than it has to.
In terms of modes, you get an alright assortment. If you want to go at it alone, there’s a standard-issue arcade mode. You can practice your skills in training mode or trial mode, which gives you a number of assorted challenges to complete. Or you can take the game online for ranked or player matches. If you love the core mechanics, online play is going to keep you busy for a long time.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is not a bad game. If you’re starving for a Smash Bros.-style experience and don’t own a Nintendo console, this is probably your best bet. However, I personally find the core combat to be not as interesting and the roster isn’t as epic as it had the potential to be.