Sony has collected what currently stands at twenty characters from its large stable of exclusive IPs for PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, offering PlayStation 3 owners the chance to take control of their favorite heroes and villains, and pit them against the protagonists of other series in one giant, chaotic rumble. Choose your favorite character, start a match, and almost immediately everything seems to feel right. Moves are easy to remember and learn, stages come alive with PlayStation lore, and whaling on your friends or the computer is an undeniable blast. But the moment the match ends and a winner is called, you may start to feel like something was slightly ... off. Clicking back into the menus for other game modes certainly doesn't seem to help. As entertaining as PlayStation All-Stars's frantic mayhem can be, the fun that begins with every match always seems to end with the score tally.
It's evident from even a brief playthrough of PlayStation All-Stars's roster that each combatant was designed with the source material in mind, not just modeled after someone's generic idea for a fighter, then gussied up with a familiar skin. Every All-Star invited truly feels like they've traveled from their respective games to this one, with a unique feel, strategy, and moveset that's loyal to their pedigree. Uncharted's Drake has the ability to create and take cover behind a chest-high wall, while Kratos' Blades of Chaos feel almost directly lifted from God of War. Considering that the design priorities obviously fell to perfecting the experience of each individual character, it's a wonder that most of the actual fighting feels so balanced and natural when these movesets collide. But they do. Marvelously.
PlayStation All-Stars's sharp free-for-all action completely carries the experience with excellent pacing, balance, and the tactical opportunities it presents. If you've played any other brawlers this all should feel pretty familiar - all, that is, but the game's victory condition, which is likely to be the source of most contention among fighter fans used to a more traditional system. As fun as the shooting, punching, throwing, and stabbing can be, none of it inflicts any damage. There are no healthbars to be found, just the gain and loss of something called "AP," a power currency that builds with each successful hit you're able to land. With enough AP, characters can unleash one of three tiers of "supers," and the more AP spent, the stronger the move. Supers are as roster-varied as general attacks, but as the only method to actually score, they wield far more influence over which characters find the most success.
While it's true that there's some balance to be found between a character's AP generation and the strength of their victory-swaying supers, it's generally not enough to outweigh the raw scoring power of those wielding the most devastating attacks. Some characters, such as Dante and Evil Cole, transform into indestructible reapers at the third level, capable of decimating all opponents on the stage multiple times each before the move ends. Compare that to the best super Ape Escape's Spike can muster, which simply auto kills his opponents once. It's easy to start feeling outgunned depending on whom you're controlling when equivocal play can lead to, well, less than equivocal results. Yes, characters like Spike are supposedly built with other advantages to balance that out, but often the scales just don't seem to level out as evenly as intended.