Review: PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale

Posted by on January 28th, 2013 | 16 Comments | Tags:

PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale is a curiosity. For all intents and purposes, it works. The fighting is smooth and often drizzled in chaotic brilliance, the characters feel faithful to their franchises, and it all performs great online, whether you’re playing on PS3 or Vita. The differences between the two versions are negligible, with each feeling fantastic. However, there’s something missing from PlayStation All Stars, something that means that, as good a foot forward the game may put, it doesn’t quite achieve everything it sets out to prove.

The problem comes with that first word in the game’s title. For a game seemingly about celebrating PlayStation, there’s a bizarre absence of anything and everything PlayStation related. From the menus to the bizarre scarcity of extra content, the game feels at first glance like it is distinctly lacking anything that makes it feel like a love letter to the brand. Upon reaching the final boss, you realise that that love is there, just buried. PlayStation All Stars knows what it needs to do, but seemingly hasn’t been given the means to achieve it. This problem is evident in the character roster, a sea comprised of recognisable names and unfamiliar faces. There are characters who feel thrown in to make up a marketing promise, such as Dante and Raiden, and characters who feel like they snuck in entirely, such as the Big Daddy from Bioshock. You know, the game that came to PS3 a while after the original release? It’s choices like these that sometimes makes All Stars feel like an exercise in third party fellatio, and less like the warm PlayStation filled embrace that it should. The character selection, while plentiful enough, is devoid of the kind of characters you would expect to see in a game such as this. I suppose that’s what happens when some of your most defining characters of generations passed were actually owned by third parties.

Branding aside, however, PlayStation All Stars is still a marvelously fun game to play. The action is fast, and fun enough to withstand longer play sessions. The combat system is deep enough to allow for experimentation, but still easy enough to play and just mash buttons furiously. Sure, you’ll still lose to somebody beating their fist against a controller from time to time, but when you get to know how a character moves and plays, you’ll pull off some rather impressive feats. This is especially true when playing 1 on 1, where the game morphs from a chaotic free for all into a fast and graceful beast, filled with dodging and quick combos. Playing with 4 people is fun enough, but when you find yourself in a duel, the game becomes something entirely different. When you don’t have people locally to play against, the online play is the next best thing. The netcode performs admirably, with very little to no noticeable lag to hamper the action. This is even when playing cross platform on PS3 and Vita, truly an impressive thing. The fighting itself holds a magnificent 60fps throughout, even on the Vita it seems. There are perhaps some minor drops when unleashing one of the visually insane level 3 attacks, but that is the equivalent of a cutscene, so the gameplay is still safe from frame drops there.

In a world post Netherrealm’s fantastic Mortal Kombat reboot, single player modes in fighting games have the potential to be something more than still image filled afterthoughts. Unfortunately, PlayStation All Stars sticks fairly close to what seems to be a sadly accepted norm. All the characters have boilerplate single player campaigns, bookended by short scenes explaining, in a roundabout way, why they have to fight somebody in a 2D cartoon Dojo. There are rival fights towards the end, with build up that feels significantly more interesting to watch, but even then the single player mode isn’t really up to snuff. It’s an interesting diversion, but you’re not going to find yourself wanting to make it through with every single character, regardless of the rivalry cutscenes.

PlayStation All Stars is a fun game let down by its lack of ‘PlayStation’. The fighting is great, the online is smooth, and the game works well on both PS3 and Vita, but at the end of it there’s just not enough here to satisfy those who buy it to experience fan service of the highest order. Polygon Man is all well and good, but when he’s the centrepiece of your nostalgia wave, it may well be worth re-evaluating what people love about your brand in the first place. There’s so much more to PlayStation than a failed advertising mascot, and PlayStation All Stars knows this. It’s just a pity that it couldn’t find a better way to express it.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

General Info

  • It feels distinctly lacking in 'PlayStation'
  • Lackluster menus and presentation
  • Disappointing single player

  • Nice review, already bought it on the PSN :). It’s a nice deal with the cross-buy feature. PS: The price on PSN US is $39.99

    • Chris

      Thanks, fixed that

  • You guys are STILL going on about the characters? One character that doesn’t belong and you harp on about it forever.Dante and Raiden ARE PLAYSTATION CHARACTER no matter how much you deny it. Nintendo squeezed in Sonic and Snake who are not Nintendo characters and NO ONE went ballistic. NO ONE. They just drop in Big Daddy and suddenly it is not PlayStation enough. Everyone else is a PlayStation character.Heihachi is a PlayStation character and no one seems to remember that he debuted on the PS1 or that Raiden did.. Why don’t people attack Nintendo for doing things like this? Why is it Sony that has to take the lumps? Does that mean Nintendo’s game isn’t Nintendo enough because they added Sonic?

    • KosmoCrisis

      This is a site that talks about PlayStation, not Nintendo. Everyone deserves an opinion. PSASBR was my favorite disc-based game of 2012, and I happened to enjoy the single player. My favorite characters are Heihachi and Dante, but my uber fave is Nariko, she’s hot.

    • Eric G

      Wait, Raiden debuted on the PS1? That must’ve been a suped up system you had, there, cause my PS2 had all cylinders firing to produce those MGS2 graphics.

      Also, I think Ben’s point is not just that they have a bunch of subSony characters in the game, but that those characters take the places of what could be considered Sony’s REAL mascots (i.e. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, FF characters, etc.). Nintendo’s game featured Nintendo mascots that almost everyone could recognize. The same can’t be said for Nariko, Spike, Radek, Fat Princess, or the dude from Medieval. I’m really enjoying the game, but when I had three friends over to play it, NONE of them knew who half of the characters were. These are people with whom I’ve been gaming my entire life, on every console that has released since N64. It sucks that Sony’s mascots are third-party properties, because I for one would rather have Crash than Drake any day of the week.

    • Oh right that excuse again. i am sorry but despite the egotism of Nintendo people EVERYONE doesn’t know who many of Smash Brothers characters are either. If you ask any modern Nintendo person they don’t know who Captain Falcon, Marth, ROB, Ness,Wolf Ice Climbers, Pit or Mr Game and Watch are either. However their are many PlayStation veterans who know who exactly who Sir Dan,Spike and Parapper are.And Nariko,Radec and Fat Princess have the advantage of being more modern and therefore better known then the people I just named.You see you keep saying that you have friends who don’t know who certain people are in PASBR but I also have friends that don’t know who people are in SSB either. If you ask any random gamer who Radec is they would more likely have an answer more then if you asked them who Marth or Ice Climbers are. It’s no different. Nintendo veterans remember the characters in Smash Brothers and PlayStation veterans remember exactly who the characters in PASBR are. The only difference is that Nintendo gets away with it and Sony get the flak as usual. How come no one asked Nintendo why they couldn’t get Mega Man, Simon Belmont, Fire Brand and Maximo instead of the clones, secondary and obscure ones characters they used? But no we have to instead listen to people harp on about why they didn’t get Crash. Why didn’t people attack Nintendo for using characters that weren’t Nintendo? You still don’t get the fact that unlike Nintendo who owns most of what they have and can use it anyway they want it is different for PASBR that has to basically ask every developer to use their stuff. It not the same. Crash does not belong to Sony and they can’t dictate what Activision can do or when they can give him to them .But forget it.Just keep on making the excuses for Nintendo.That is all people are good for and why they get away with the crap they do.They can get away with all the crap they do and people just smile and nod.They make characters that are clones and play exactly the same as each other in SSB and everyone goes ballistic because they made a Good and Evil Cole. Nintendo good, Sony bad.

    • Eric G

      I stopped when you compared “modern Nintendo” people to “PlayStation veterans.” Argument invalid.

    • Eric G

      And I’m not sure why you’re taking and making this argument so personal. I’ve been writing for this site for many years and have been a Sony fan for as long as I can remember. Nobody here is disagreeing with you, I was attempting to clarify what Ben wrote (correctly, I hope). PSASBR crusader over here, watch out!

    • Releasing PSASBR without Crash is like releasing Smash without Mario.

    • KosmoCrisis

      I completely disagree. Its easy to considering Crash is not owned by Sony any longer and neither is Spyro. Let’s not forget that PSASBR has PlayStation’s very first real mascot ever! And both of Japan’s long running mascots are in the game as well. If your analogy is to be believed, then that is exactly what they did and I don’t think there are any major holes in the catalog of characters that can’t be filled with a little DLC splooge.

    • Eric G

      Without any knowledge of developers and publishers and who owns what, when, and why – from a fan/gamer’s perspective – Crash Bandicoot was the PlayStation’s mascot for a long while. I know who Toro is, but I guarantee more than half of the American people who have owned every PlayStation system have no idea who that cat is.

  • I feel about the same. I had some pretty high expectations for this one. Not being able to secure Crash and Spyro was a huge blow in my eyes. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why there’s no playable Chimera. While I love Bioshock, Big Daddy, and his lumbering play style, I’d give him, or many of the others, up in a heartbeat if it meant prying a character or two from Activision’s cold grasp.

    I’ve had a lot of fun with it, but I can’t help but wonder what could have been. Hopefully they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot too bad and can use a sequel or DLC to right some wrongs.

    • KosmoCrisis

      Lots of characters are planned for DLC. I think there is a ton of symmetry between the current cast of uniques characters. There are way too many “All-Stars” to release all at once for the game to have upheld such a high standard of quality as is not typical of modern games.

    • I certainly hope so, but I’m a bit concerned given the predominantly mediocre reviews, lackluster sales, and layoffs.

    • KosmoCrisis

      “Predominantly mediocre”, that’s completely untrue. The most respectable websites gave it a 9/10; SixthAxis, PushSquare, Destruction. I played the heck out of it and gave it a glowing review and my coveted GotY. IGN is the most respectable site in the world and they gave it a 9/10.

      Layoffs are nothing new in the gaming industry. Listen to the latest IGN podcast where their speak on the topic in expert detail. Those guys are wonderful. Epic Mickey 2 and the Darksiders studio closures are tragedies. Work force reductions are normalcy post launch.

    • Okay, ‘predominantly mediocre’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but for all the 9s, there were also quite a few 7s, from respectable sites. I’m not a huge proponent for Metacritic, but the average reviews fall in the mid to high 70s. Plus, the albatross that is Super Smash Brothers was destined to weigh PSASBR down a bit.

      While layoffs aren’t necessarily always bad, they’re never good. Business aside, I’d love to have those bodies working on a Chimera, Finn from Sorcery, and Wander, or working out deals for legendary third party characters like Crash, Spyro and Rayman.

      At the end of the day, I want more content for the game, just as you do, even if I didn’t like the overall package quite as much. Roster aside, I’d also give the core game a 9. But I just can’t get past the exclusion of a few of my beloved, deserving ‘All-Stars.’ I understand that it is just the business side of the game industry getting in the way, but it’s a legitimate complaint, and hopefully one they can eliminate in the coming months.