PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale drew a large crowd of curious onlookers and players eager to get a hands-on at this year’s New York Comic Con. Sony offered many demo stations equipped for four player brawls, including some displaying PlayStation 3 and Vita Crossplay functionality. This was my first opportunity to play the game since E3 and as it gets ever closer to release I wanted to know just how the game was taking shape. Certain demo stations allowed you to choose from all 20 announced launch characters so I couldn’t wait to jump into the fray once more.
My first session was a four-man free for all on the PlayStation 3. I chose everyone’s favorite lombax, Ratchet, and competed against Kratos, Sly Cooper, and Good Cole on a level that seemed to be a mash up between Killzone and Sly Cooper. Ratchet relies on many weapons for his attacks - he has a ray gun that can fire a burst of three shots, a grenade he can lob at enemies, and of course his trusty oversized wrench. I started off strong, cornering Cole with unyielding gunfire and grenades but a poorly timed execution of Ratchet’s Super Move left me vulnerable to a thrashing that ultimately led to my death. In this free for all mode, eliminating an opponent earned you two points towards your score whereas dying subtracted one.
The level constantly required the fighters to travel upward or risk taking damage or possible self elimination. That particular game ended in a loss but that was only the first of many sessions I took part in over the three days of Comic Con. Landing attacks and combos will increase your AP until you earn enough to pull off a Super Move. There are three levels, each more devastating than the last, and landing one is the only way to eliminate an opponent. Given that I was playing with a three minute time limit, you have to make a decision whether to pull off a level 1 super to score some quick points or whether to hold out until you can execute a devastating level three and score many kills at once.
Next, I took the Vita version for a test drive in a fight against three CPU controlled opponents. This time I chose Toro, a well recognized PlayStation mascot from Japan, who makes his debut to western audiences courtesy of PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale. This time the fight took place in Grand Master Chop’s dojo from Parrappa the Rappa. Toro is small, agile, but not too powerful. His fighting style has a martial arts focus but there are also some very wacky moves in his arsenal. The dojo is a much more confined space to fight in which definitely played to some character's strengths more than others.
Others characters I got to play as included Nathan Drake, Dante, and Heihachi. Drake has a very rough and tumble set of moves at his disposal. He can kick barrels that magically appeared out of nowhere and hide behind cover to shoot anyone in the line of fire. He also has a surprising special move where he pushes over a column that is long enough to hit multiple opponents if you time it right. Dante is a very agile gunslinger/swordfighter with the capacity to decimate foes with extended combos. One of his special moves gives him his trademark white hair and much more devastating attacks. Heihachi is incredible, which comes as no surprise given his origin as a fighting game character. He comes off as very balanced, with the right amount of speed and power to perform well in a variety of environments
PlayStation All Stars on the Vita is mostly unchanged from the console version. The Vita controls are largely the same as the console version, the only major difference being that you can swipe the rear touch pad to taunt or perform your Special Move. The presentation is not particularly eye-catching in either version, but the character select screen is noticeably more lifeless on Vita. One of the biggest draws about the game is the interaction between both versions of the game. When I tried out Crossplay I was impressed by how I fared competitively. Playing on Vita, I could either look on the television or the handheld screen, which seemed to synch up without any noticeable delay. Playing with this setup actually yielded my most decisive victories (though I think that was merely a coincidence).
There were things I liked and didn’t like about PlayStation All Stars; I enjoyed the brilliant mash up of levels but overall felt the game would benefit if the gameplay was sped up a little so it didn’t feel so sluggish. Yet the more I played the more I kept coming back for another round. I became invested in trying to decipher the different fighter’s styles and experimenting with new strategies and weapons. In the end, I played PlayStation All Stars more than any other game at this year’s Comic-Con and I think there is something to that. You don’t have to take my word for it; PS3 and Vita owners can try it out for themselves through a public beta.