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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale review: Deep, strategic, but not very exciting

Sony's brawler is fundamentally solid but lacking pizzazz

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Creating characters with larger, distinct move-sets however adds a layer of complexity that might make it a little less approachable. While Smash Bros had a uniform control scheme applicable to each and every character, All-Stars is dependent on mastering unique combo strings. There's fun to be had in hammering out the basic square, square, square combo and peppering in the occasional special moves, but a player that takes the time to learn a character will make short work of everyone else.

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Thankfully, it's never as demanding as the likes of Street Fighter IV or Marvel Vs. Capcom. The majority of attacks are a simple matter of hitting a direction and the special attack button, then figuring out the best point in a flurry to drop it in.

TRIMMING THE TRIMMINGS

Unfortunately, the core mechanics are wrapped in a rather bland package. With the exception of the stages, which mash together two franchises to create colourful, visually dynamic backdrops, there is not enough overall visual flair or attention to detail.

The user interface, in particular, is made up of painfully unimaginative static lists which appear to have been either made last minute or forgotten about.

Mortal Kombat's title screen has Scorpion delivering a brutal uppercut to Sub-Zero's chin in slow motion. Smash Bros' involves picking up and dropping coins to select items. In Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 scrolling down a list is like flicking through a comic book.

Complaining about menus might seem like nitpicking, but All-Stars' basic text, crude drop-down menus and lifeless art doesn't inspire excitement.

The same lack of care can be found in the game's customisation options and unlocks. Icons and backgrounds for profile cards can be earned by ranking a character up, but for the most part these are low-quality cropped versions of pictures you can easily find on Google Images. It would have been nice to get some original artwork, or at least have the included images framed better.

But most disappointing of All-Stars' faults is the severe lack of gameplay modes on offer and the unimaginative nature of those that are available. there's little more than local and online multiplayer (our online experience was largely trouble free, but this could change once players flood the servers after release), a tutorial suite and little else.

Next to Smash Bros' multitude of mode variants, mini-games, the trophy vault, the sticker collection, the music unlock system, snapshot features and level builder, All-Stars feels light on things to do.

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity is how All-Stars' characters aren't celebrated enough. In Arcade Mode, instead of making an attempt at creating any sort of engaging fiction or laying out a multi-dimensional universe where all these characters can exist together, the game plays through a roulette of one battle after another until the game ends on a few screens accompanied by a voice-over.

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Story is probably the last thing most look for in a fighting game, but next to Smash Bros' meaty Adventure and Subspace Emissary modes, All-Stars feels like a game that lacks a cohesive personality and universe.

It's worth noting that PS3 copies of All-Stars include a bonus Vita version for free. While it's just as content-light as its console counterpart, the game feels better suited to the handheld. Since it doesn't demand exaggerated directional pad motions or lengthy combo inputs, All-Stars is the most comfortable fighting game to play on the PS Vita. The interface is also a bit more bearable on the handheld owing to the fact that it's packed in tighter and can be quickly navigated using the touch screen.

Battle Royale does enough to get by, but does so without the heart and the charm that makes Nintendo's games such a joy to play. Though clinical, it's not exciting, but generally it works. The lack of enthusiasm put into everything else, however, makes it a rather dull package.

The dev team responsible for All-Stars may be infuriated that their hard work has been compared to Smash Bros each step of the way, but this comes down to the very genesis of Sony's game. The PlayStation executives wanted their own version of Nintendo's money-spinner - something that could capture its many joys. The irony is that, in the end, not enough ideas were stolen.

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The verdict

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is mechanically sound, but lacking in personality and polish

  • Distinct characters
  • Core gameplay is strategic and fun
  • Lots of corners cut in presentation
  • Not enough alternative modes
  • Arcade mode is a squandered opportunity
6.8
Format
PlayStation 3
Developer
Sony
Publisher
Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre
Beat 'em Up

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