More Than a Copy
Newcomer Superbot Entertainment dips into the Playstation pantheon and delivers a brawler with a familiar look, but a feel all its own with Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale
Published: April 27, 2012
Now, limiting kills to supers only might sound radical, but it actually opens the game up to a tremendous degree. For one, the fact that getting knocked off a screen edge can't kill you, means that staying at the edges of the screen and controlling space with long range attacks is actually completely viable. For instance, Killzone's Colonel Radec is the kind of character that simply couldn't compete in Smash due to his need to stay far away from opponents. His vast array of sniper rifle, machine gun and grenade launcher attacks are deadly at range, but up close, he's nearly defenseless. With such strong keep away play being introduced, it only made sense to create characters who are skilled at rushing down projectile based characters. Sly Cooper fills that role perfectly. Instead of blocking when you hold L1 he turns invisible, allowing him to prowl the battlefield unnoticed. During another one of his moves he disguises himself as a barrel and moves around. While in this state, he is totally immune to projectiles, allowing him to close in on projectile spammers safely. Once he's a bit closer, he can use his teleport move to instantly appear behind them, where he has access to special backstab attacks that leech AP from his target.
This brings me to another way in which the game benefits from its “super only” kill system. Building, managing and using your AP levels effectively becomes the the focal point of the every match. Any experienced fighting game player will tell you that resource management is an important element in competitive play. Choosing how and when to use your AP is a strategic choice, and your success depends on you choosing wisely. Other games of this kind tend to de-emphasize decision making and focus instead on pure twitch reflexes, which can be a turn off to players of any skill level. The importance of AP also gives special AP generating moves like Parappa's boombox, and AP stealing items like the Spear of Destiny a uniquely vital role in combat.
The Spear of Destiny is one of many items that can be picked up and used by players. At the competitive level, items had to be banned from Smash due to them adding too much of a random factor to the game and creating unearned match turning opportunities. While talking to Paul Edwards, Battle Royale's lead combat designer, he talked at length about how the team tried to make items less flashy and more purposeful.
“Where our item system differs from 'Smash's is that we designed each of our items around a specific role within the combat system and it wasn't just a unique thing to showcase an IP...the gravity shield is a good example where you just want to be able to set up an opportunity for a super, or get a positional advantage without having to worry about blocking, dodging or rolling. So if that gravity shield is out, and that spear of destiny is out, and you've already got super, you don't need anymore AP. So you grab that gravity shield, run right into the middle of the combat ball, and just pop your super and kill everybody.”
From my own experience, I definitely felt that the items were useful but not at all overpowering. Again, due to the fact that only supers can net kills, simply grabbing an item and firing away won't get you a bunch of easy points. The result is that items end up limited to supporting roles rather than becoming a primary offensive threat, which is exactly how it should be.
But even moving away from the technical side of things, Battle Royale is simply a blast to play, and entirely accessible. Whether you're doing long chain combos with Kratos, raining lead down on your foes with Sweet Tooth's level 3, or butt stomping fools with Fat Princess, the game is instantly entertaining. It's having a hydra from God of War wreaking havoc while you do battle in Metropolis, or needing to answer Buzz! trivia questions in the middle of a match on the ever shifting Little Big Planet Dreamscape. It's madness for sure, but controlled madness. The kind that makes enough sense that anyone can follow it, but is just crazy enough for 4 strangers sitting on a couch together to get hype about.
SuperBot Entertainment seems to be doing everything right with this one so far. They're one of several smaller crews to have been born from the perennially excellent Sony Santa Monica team, and count numerous fight heads among their ranks, not the least of whom is Street Fighter legend Ed Ma. I spent some time with the team after the presentation and just picked their brains about the different characters. These guys really know their stuff where fighting games are concerned, and as a result, their game looks to be the genuine article at this point. It has enough star power to pull in a wide audience, it's easy enough to learn to get players hooked, and it brings enough depth and hype to make a splash on the tournament circuit. All in all, I'm looking forward to big things from Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale when it makes its debut on PS3 this holiday season.
Battle Royale for EVO 2013!!!
Vince Ingenito is fiending to gun fools down with Colonel Radec, but in the meantime he'll settle for writing reviews and previews for Total Playstation, and rambling on Twitter as @WK_VGAMS.