Yes, I have played PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, and yes it does indeed play a lot like Super Smash Bros. Now we have got that piece of information out of the way, we can focus on what makes the game it’s own thing, and also why I thought it was a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Of all the PlayStation games on display at Gamescom, from Wonderbook to God of War: Ascension, PS All Stars (as we will call it from now on for the sake of my keyboard!) is both one of the biggest names and also set to hit the soonest. While a fixed release date is still to be confirmed, you can certainly expect to be pummeling Parappa the Rapper after your Christmas dinner. Because of the imminent nature of the release, Sony had possibly more console units set up to play this game than any other title, certainly in terms of individuals playing at any one time, as of course each game was set up for four players. This also meant that the queues for the game were a lot shorter than other titles (Black Ops II – I’m looking at you) and so I went back time and time again over the course of the two days I was at Gamescom to get a good feel for the game and it’s various characters.
Not that it was a trial, as I thoroughly enjoyed every game of PS All Stars I played and as I learned some of the moves and the way the game flowed I certainly improved despite not getting any kills whatsoever! I’m getting ahead of myself here however as I’m sure you all want to know about the different characters and stages I tested out. Firstly I have a soft spot for Cole McGrath (perhaps it’s the shaved head and gruff voice that put me in mind of myself…) so he was my first choice. Predictably his fighting style revolved around a mixture of melee attacks and lightning powers and of all the characters I tried out he was probably the most balanced. The initial stage I played on was the mash-up of Everybody’s Golf and Jak and Daxter; featuring a gorgeous sunny background and a dangerous water wheel.
One thing that struck me straight away was how easy it was to keep track of your character, particularly when compared to the madness of Smash Bros. To me it just had a nicer feel about it, where I felt I was much more in control of my character rather than being flung around like a Nintendo-shaped pinball. If any of you guys haven’t been keeping up to date with the news regarding PS All-Stars, essentially to kill an enemy player you first have to use normal attacks to build up a ‘special meter’ which you then use to attack the other players with. Each special is tied to the character themselves, for example a giant ball of lightning for Cole. Unfortunately I never quite managed to get the hang of these specials, so although I dished out a lot of damage and managed to avoid getting killed myself, I never managed to use a special to kill another player. I’m certain that with practice however most players will be able to master the game and it is a nice departure from the Smash Bros model.
Later on I came back and tried out Kratos, Nathan Drake and Sackboy as well, and every character felt very different to control. Drake and Sackboy couldn’t feel more different, with the former using a lot of guns and ranged play, whilst the latter indulges in plenty of lunging melee and popit-style moves. Random, but fun. I also tried out various stages which all felt distinct and fun, including the Dojo from Parappa, the Hydra section from God of War and finally a mash-up level of Little Big Planet and Buzz! That last one was particularly interesting as it interrupts the fighting to ask the players quiz questions to obtain extra items which was a lovely touch. I’m still not entirely convinced about the idea of mixing together two franchises in each level as I would have preferred each one to stay individual, but in stages like the one described it certainly works well. I also saw other players fighting on the level which is a mash-up of the ‘aeroplane crash’ part of Uncharted 3, with the Zeppelins of the forthcoming Bioshock: Infinite.
Although the majority of consoles were set up with the PS3 version of the game, some units also had Vita consoles attached to them, showing that you could play multiplayer using a mixture of the two systems. Personally I never got to control one of the Vita fighters, I did get a look at the screen and it looked identical to the PS3 version. As you get the Vita game free through the ‘cross-buy’ scheme it certainly seems like a massive bargain.
As I said earlier I found myself returning time and again to PS All-Stars and that wasn’t just because the queues were short. The game is a lot of fun and despite its similarities to a certain other franchise, I would suggest that Sony fans could do a lot worse than pick the game up this holiday. Just go easy on me online until I have worked out my specials…