For a game seemingly about celebrating PlayStation, there's a bizarre absence of anything and everything PlayStation related.
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.
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Developer:Bluepoint Games, Superbot Entertainment
Release Date:November 2012
Players:1-4 (Local OR Online)