Beware of Kratos!
When the basis of your video game is "pitting a slew of familiar characters against one another in a 4-player free-for-all brawl", the comparisons to Nintendo's immensely popular and long running Super Smash Bros. series are inevitable. Instead of detailing all of the ways PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale sets itself apart (which I am sure plenty of other previews will do), it is important to cover how the game actually plays.
As is the case with any fighting game, balance is key. After extensive playtime with Battle Royale, I can't say the game offers much of that, but hopefully it'll be resolved by the time it launches. To comprehend the balance problem, it is imperative to understand some of the game's basics.
Like Super Smash Bros., you must knock your opponents off the stage in order to score points (you lose points if you get knocked off). Unlike Super Smash Bros., however, you cannot knock your opponents off of the stage at any time. Each character in Battle Royale is given a bar next to their icon. Cause damage to a foe, or collect glowing orbs that scatter across the stage, and your bar fills. Once that bar is completely full, you may activate a special attack with the right trigger. Any enemy hit by that attack is sent flying off the stage.
Level 1 attacks are short-ranged and unreliable (e.g. Parappa will execute a small flash kick). Instead of using up your filled bar, you can continue to build your meter toward more powerful level 2 and level 3 attacks. The former provide wider range and more reliable attacks (e.g. Uncharted's Drake will cause a pillar to crumble, and anyone it hits will be crushed). However, level 3 attacks practically guarantee that every other opponent is knocked off the stage (e.g. Tekken's Heihachi straps foes to a rocket and launches it into space, providing three instant knockouts).
This is where PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is currently lacking. Most characters' level 3 attacks pretty much only have enough time to knock out the other three fighters once (for example, when Heihachi's rocket attack finishes, his special attack bar depletes and resets to zero). This is the case for most characters. The ridiculous exception? Kratos. His level 3 power increases his size for a temporary but lengthy amount of time, and anyone he attacks during it will be one-shot KO'd. The problem? Kratos's super state lasts long enough for other players to respawn a couple of times, so instead of only earning 3 kills max, Kratos can conceivably rack up 8-9 kills with a single full level 3 bar (I have managed this several times).
This is a glaring issue that needs to be addressed before the game releases. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is built on a solid foundation of entertaining gameplay and can certainly be fun in the right circumstances (especially when you have a whole group to play with locally), but if it hopes to have longevity or a persisting community in the competitive scene, adjustments have to be made. Of course, we'll keep you updated!
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