E3 2012 Preview: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

June 15, 2012

It’s hard to look at PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and not say what’s on everyone’s minds – it’s a Sony version of Super Smash Bros. Speaking with developers at SCEE’s private booth above the floor at E3, he couldn’t deny the comparison, but also pointed out that lots of games have taken after Smash Bros’ lead since the original came out a decade ago. And PlayStation All-Stars has its own spin on the sub-genre, which I got to test out for myself as I demoed the game.

The currently announced character roster includes Sly Raccoon, PaRappa the Rapper, Fat Princess (all from their own titular games), Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal), Kratos (God of War) and Big Daddy (Bioshock). From my chat with the developers, they wouldn’t confirm or deny any suggested upcoming additions to the roster like former mascots Crash Bandicoot or Lara Croft, but did indicate there are still a lot more to be announced, and the inclusion of Big Daddy seems like a big hint that characters from other publishers are definitely possible.

Seeing as he was the most recently announced character, it seemed like a good idea to take Big Daddy for a spin on my first round. He’s a slow character to move around, but powerful and able to land strong hits on his opponents. However, he can activate a short-term speed boost to burst past, just like he was able to charge at the player in Bioshock, which makes getting around a little easier. As you fight, you build up a power meter at the bottom of the screen that can be used for supers. For Big Daddy, his supers were suitably aquatic themed, and other characters I tried had their own unique and nostalgic supers too – such as PaRappa flashing back to the final level from the original PaRappa the Rapper briefly to deliver a rap concert.

Playing PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale really was a lot more fun than I was expecting. As someone who started out loving the Smash Bros franchise, to just being kind of ‘eh’ about its latest incarnation, I was surprised by how much I found Battle Royale a blast to play. The controls are tight, and getting into four-player brawls, duking it out for points (achieved by kills on your opponents) was really addictive. It was a little hard to keep track of who was winning in the demo I played, with no clear counter, but the game still has a fair way to go in development for small issues like that to be sorted.

What really makes PlayStation All-Stars stand out right now is the level design. Drawn from a variety of Sony titles, the levels become just as much an obstacle that you have to deal with as your opponents are, and they’re constantly transforming. For instance, a level which begins in a LittleBigPlanet form starts creating objects around you using that game’s trademark ‘Popit’ menu, but before long it morphs into a stage from Buzz and begins asking trivia questions to the players. Areas on-screen become highlighted, indicating different answers, and players must take a break from fighting to scramble to the correct option.

The God of War level also provides its own challenges, with the famous Hydra battle from the beginning of the first game raging in the background, that actually interferes with the brawl happening between players. As an example, the Hydras regularly send out projectiles that combatants must avoid, turning the four-way battle practically into a five-way one as the players have to deal with the immense foe on top of everything else.

In short, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale looks a lot better than I was expecting. The character roster is a lot of fun, the game itself is a blast to play, and the level design is unique and constantly challenging. With a Vita version and cross-play functionality announced, there’s also more ways to get stuck into the game, and any self respecting Sony fanboy should be checking this one out as it hits later this year.