Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In The Shadows Of Giants: The PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Multiplayer Beta - Part III

This is the third installment in a series of articles about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and its ongoing multiplayer beta. This part will focus on two of the characters, Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess.

If Kratos and Colonel Radec represent the overpowered end of the character balance spectrum of available fighters in the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale multiplayer beta, then Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess are definitely on the underpowered end. The biggest problem with both of these characters is that they're just slow with nothing to make up for it.

Kratos's Blades of Athena alone have excellent reach, but he also has a number of other tools to keep him formidable even to the quicker characters like Parappa the Rapper and Sly Cooper; and while Radec is a pretty slow character himself, since his main strategy is to be on the other side of the stage as everybody else, it kind of doesn't matter all that much.

But Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess are both close-range heavy hitters without a whole lot of options for outpacing their opponents, who are either faster or can attack them from a distance. Or both, in Kratos's case.

And that's before you consider how terrible their supers are.

I probably had the least luck using Sweet Tooth out of any character. He has some interesting tools at his disposal, like the ability to breath fire, throw molotov cocktails, and a really powerful shotgun, but they're all so limited that I just never got the hang of any of it and never had much fun playing as him.

Take his shotgun as an example. It's a really devastating weapon when it connects, able to send a player flying to the other side of the stage or knock them flat on the ground, but you have to be so close to use it that it's almost worthless. To put it in practical terms, the range of Sweet Tooth's shotgun is shorter than the range of Kratos's Blades of Athena, meaning that Sweet Tooth is always going to lose that matchup. That said, I've definitely gotten caught by other Sweet Tooth players in a loop where they'll knock me down and keep jumping over me from side to side, shooting me down again every time I get up. It was pretty easy to get out of once I realized what was going on, but it definitely caught me off-guard.

He also has a machete that's decent for doing a little up close damage, and he can throw it forward in a high upward arc that's good in theory for hitting players on platforms above you, but I found that my targets were never quite in the right position. Mind you, even if they were, it's really not that powerful of an attack anyway, and you'd be better off throwing his molotov cocktail. It goes out in the same arc, but even if you miss, it'll leave fire on the ground for a few seconds that can still damage other players.

Really, it seemed like Sweet Tooth was better suited as a support character in 2v2 team matches. I'd play as Kratos and take most of the heat while my housemate, playing as Sweet Tooth, would use the breathing room to start up his attacks that have a bit of a windup, like the fire breath, or to plant proximity mines while other players were distracted.

In fact, proximity mines are probably Sweet Tooth's most useful tool. He can throw them down while he's jumping to get players below him, plant them when other players aren't looking then lure those players over them, use them to launch other players up in the air then attack them while they're helpless, or protect a teammate like Radec that needs space to work.

But All-Stars is all about supers. And in that respect, Sweet Tooth comes up short.

Sweet Tooth's level one super has him rush forward, grab an enemy, strap a bomb to him, then kick him away to explode in mid-air. If you time it just right though, you can kick that player into a group of other players and take them all out. It's rare, but satisfying. Given the low cost, it's probably his best super.

His level two is his worst, easily. Sweet Tooth will plant himself on the ground and fire a slow-moving nuke that he controls. You can take out multiple players with it, but given how slow it is, it's way too easy for other players to see it coming and move out of the ridiculously small blast radius.

All-Stars is all about supers. And in that respect,
Sweet Tooth comes up short.

It's another example of why Sweet Tooth is better on a team than on his own. While I played as Parappa the Rapper, I locked up both members of the other team in a long combo just as my housemate fired off Sweet Tooth's nuke and took them both out. The nuke would be way better if there was some visual indication of how big the blast radius actually is, but there isn't, so I generally just saved up for his level three super.

As with everyone else, Sweet Tooth's level three is his most devastating. He'll transform into the giant Mecha Tooth from this year's Twisted Metal and lay waste to everyone around him using his machine guns. It's pretty cool, but he's really slow in it and it can be hard to maneuver if you need to get in a different position to take out a hiding player. He can also stomp and crush players that try to stay by Mecha Tooth's feet and avoid his guns.

It's a pretty good level three, but the lack of maneuverability and the total ineffectiveness of his level two super are pretty big marks against him as a character — if you realize that you just don't have enough time to get a level three before the match ends, you'll have to fire off his level two, and it's just not worth it. It's all-or-nothing.

Fat Princess isn't much better. She's slow, which makes sense, but she doesn't really make up for it elsewhere.

Her square attacks all revolve around using a wand to smack other players around. They're light attacks that are pretty good for combos, but as was the problem with Kratos, it's too easy to be holding a direction when pressing the square button, which has her dash forward as she smacks with the wand. It's a great way to miss your opponent completely and get punished for it.

I found her triangle attacks to be a little more useful in general. She can pirouette, hitting nearby opponents a few times as she spins, then transition immediately into a butt stomp to send them flying. Her butt stomp has pretty good splash damage, letting you attack a cluster of players from above, and her belly bump attack is especially great in the air as she thrusts forward and knocks into her opponents.

But her circle attacks are her absolute worst. Each calls out one of her minions to either dash forward and slice with his sword, shoot fireballs, or plant a bomb. The slice move almost never worked for me, or if it did, it didn't have much of an effect; the fireballs were similarly ineffective since most players are fast enough to dodge around them easily; and the bomb just seemed like a less useful version of Sweet Tooth's proximity mine.

I felt like I was always struggling to build my super meter as Fat Princess because I was constantly getting bullied by other players. I saw a couple players having more luck than me, but by and large, Fat Princess was consistently one of the lowest scoring characters in my time with the beta. I'd blame part of that on her supers.







By and large, Fat Princess was consistently one of the lowest scoring characters in my time with the beta.







In theory, Fat Princess has a pretty great lineup of supers. With her level one, she throws out a piece of cake in front of her and rushes forward to devour it, killing anyone in her way. It should work the same way as Kratos's, which I could use to pretty reliably get two or three kills with, but for whatever reason, I could only ever seem to get one or two with Fat Princess's cake throw. Maybe it's because she's slower or doesn't have the range of his level one super, but whatever the reason, I just couldn't seem to connect as easily.

Her level two super spawns a big chicken that Fat Princess rides around, dashing and killing, dashing and killing. It's a lot like Parappa the Rapper's level two super where he rides a skateboard and kills players with it, only it's slower and therefore, a lot less useful. I rarely got more than two kills with it because other players could easily just get around me to the other side of the stage, and I just never seemed to have enough time to follow them before the super would wear off.

Unlike most characters' level three supers in the beta, Fat Princess's doesn't require any player input at all. Her minions fill the screen, throwing fireballs and bombs everywhere. You can die multiple times during it, making it pretty good at racking up kills, but it's not impossible to dodge, either. It certainly doesn't compare to Radec or Sly's, but it's a fun super on either side.

All of Fat Princess's supers have the potential to be pretty great with a few tweaks and make her a much more dangerous character, but right now, it's hard enough even to build up to her supers that it almost doesn't even matter that they all could use a couple tweaks to make them better.


What struck me most about Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess is how awkward they both felt to use. Kratos has a fantastic set of moves that feel organic and make him a really fun character to play. Even Radec's moves feel like they work together well (when he isn't spamming the sniper rifle over and over). But Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess, on the other hand, feel like they just have a random smattering of moves that don't particularly lead into each other easily and make playing as them clumsy and stilted.

Going up against overpowered characters like Kratos and Radec highlighted for me just how underpowered Sweet Tooth and Fat Princess really are. Neither is well-equipped to deal with either Kratos's speed and reach or Radec's range and power. There's not a whole lot a Sweet Tooth or Fat Princess player can do to move in on a sniping Radec, and it'll waste far too much time trying to chase him around.

Neither character has good enough supers to make up for their weaknesses elsewhere. With a little tweaking though, both characters' supers could be great and keep them competitive, but as they are in the beta, they're the two weakest characters for me and the ones I had the least fun playing as.

For the next installment, I'll examine Parappa the Rapper and Sly Cooper.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will be released on November 20 for PlayStation 3.

        

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