One thing PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale is not lacking is star power. Sony's foray into the fighting genre boasts a who's who from the world of PlayStation -- everyone from God of War protagonist Kratos to Little Big Planet's loveable lead Sackboy. But does the core fighting mechanics make this more than just a love letter to everything PlayStation?
The first thing veterans to fighting games will notice is a lack of a health meter in Battle Royale. The goal in each scrum is not to drain your opponent's health but to gain enough action points to pull off three levels of super attacks. Once you've accumulated enough points to trigger one of these attacks, you are then granted the ability to kill your foes. The player with the most kills at the end of a battle is the victor.
There's a level of strategy in regards to the super attacks. A Level 1 attack is a limited one-move kill so you better be in range of enemies to use it. A Level 2 attack grants you a little more time to rack up kills. A Level 3 gives you the longest duration but also takes the most time to accumulate the necessary AP. So do you go for the quick fix with the lower-level attacks or do you save up for the coup de gras? It's an interesting design choice but ultimately, I would rather have had a traditional health meter, which would provide more tension when you're clinging to your last bars of life.
The developers have done a tremendous job differentiating each character's move set. Nathan Drake (Uncharted series) uses more guns and grenades during his offensive attacks while Kratos, who fits perfectly in a fighting game, uses his Blades of Chaos. Though most of the roster is filled with PlayStation-exclusive stars, there are characters like Big Daddy (Bioshock) and Dante (Devil May Cry). But the roster is diverse enough to provide a wide range of varying fighting styles.
Battle Royale sports the modes you'd expect in standard fighter -- solo play, tournament and versus. In solo play, you have the option to take each of the 20 characters through the arcade mode, which offers a brief narrative while you compete in different battles ranging from one-on-one to team-based game modes.
All of this culminates in a clash with your character's nemesis and a final boss. The mode is very entertaining, but the developers missed out on a chance to make these characters come to life in a setting we've never seen them in. The story sequences offer little dialogue and your reward for beating the boss battle is still shots of your character accompanied by a monologue. It would have been interesting to see more verbal give-and-take between these stars.
There is also practice and tutorial modes that help you get your feet wet, especially for those who are new to the genre. The tutorials bring you along slowly, first breaking down the basic move set and then gradually adding layers until you are asked to perform a number of advanced button combinations to pull off some of the more complicated attacks. Practice mode offers you an unlimited amount of time to hone your skill against AI-controlled adversaries. You can choose your foe, arena and a wide range of preset AI options to recreate certain scenarios.
The action at its core is frenetic. Up to four players can compete at once with the scuffles frantically moving from one area of the arena to another. The breakneck speed sometimes makes it difficult to keep up with your character on the screen, especially during a four-player free-for-all match. Couple this with the dynamic arenas, which each pay an ode to the individual stars, and it can be a challenge to differentiate the action.
But with all that's occurring, the frame rate never dips -- even on the PlayStation Vita. Purchasing the PS3 version of Battle Royale automatically gives you the Vita version for free, allowing you to continue your progress on the go. The developers have done a tremendous job optimizing the title for the Vita. The Vita handles all the aforementioned action without a hiccup, and I found that I enjoyed playing the handheld version just as much if not more than the full-fledged counterpart.
The online feature set is solid. Versus mode allows you to compete online against friends or the AI. You can also hop on through quick matches, which provide another casual experience. If you want a more competitive feel, there are two tournament modes -- from casual to serious. Having the ability to hop online with the Vita while others are on their PS3s is another possibility. I didn't have any problems connecting via the PS3 or the Vita, and there were few instances of lag.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is enjoyable but had the potential to be so much more. With a beefed up story mode and the inclusion of a health meter, I think this title would have appealed more to casual and hardcore fans alike. The game keeps up with all the action with aplomb, never dipping in frame rate even on the Vita.
Speaking of the handheld, I played this title more on the Vita because I think the bite-sized action of fighting games is perfect for this platform. If you plan on purchasing Battle Royale, picking up the PS3 version, which comes with a Vita download, is the way to go. Hopefully, Sony plans to make this a franchise. With some minor tweaks, it has the potential to be a crossover hit. Battle Royale is available now exclusively for the PS3 and PS Vita.