Insomniac Games has been a driving force for the PlayStation 3, as the developer has pumped out a game almost every year for the platform. This year, they've even managed to put two games to market and it's seen Ratchet & Clank appear in a rather different form. We're used to either Ratchet or Clank appearing as a solitary unit, battling their nemesis, the evil Dr. Nefarious. But this time around in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, there's an emphasis on co-op, and Dr. Nefarious even comes along for the ride as a mutual ally.
You're probably wondering how the heck this happens. After all, Dr. Nefarious hates Ratchet, Clank and Qwark (the fourth member of the quartet) with a passion. Well, in typical Nefarious style, his evil scheme backfires. He lures Quark into a trap by inviting him to receive the "Intergalactic Tool of Justice Award", but it backfires when his evil Z'Grute monster turns against him. He's forced to join Ratchet, Clank and Qwark to defeat the Z'Grute and after doing so, they're all beamed up by a mysterious drone.
From here, they go on a hunt to stop Ephemeris, who has gone around collecting the universe's most dangerous beings, and they end up visiting different worlds, fighting various bosses along the way.
Compared to typical Ratchet & Clank storylines, this one feels a little bit bare. Cutscenes aren't all that frequent and there isn't much dialogue when they do surface. The characters also lack a bit of personality when just walking around and fighting too. The little quips are still there, but they get repeated quite a lot, so they lose the initial charm they had.
The biggest change in All 4 One is that the game now features four-player co-operative action. This is available both offline and online and it makes a massive difference to how the experience pans out, for better and for worse.
A lot of the puzzle elements now revolve around the co-operative action and this is also the case in the single-player offering. You may have to move yourselves into certain positions in order to connect electricity conduits, pull switches at the same time or even throw each other over canyons. It all feels very fluid as it doesn't create a break in the action - it just feels like a connected experience alongside the rest of the gameplay.
To Insomniac's credit, their handling of the single-player campaign also works pretty well. If you are playing alone, you will have an AI buddy, but he's only present when necessary. At all other times, it will disappear into a backpack allowing you to just do your own thing. There are still some issues when fighting, as it has a tendency to be a bit suicidal. This can lead to annoying game over screens and it can be a bit frustrating. The best solution is to just find someone else to play with, or hop online. The AI is definitely no substitute for playing alongside a good friend.There are other consequences of the new, streamlined approach. The first would be that weapons are no longer upgraded by usage, they're instead upgraded by simply spending bolts. It's a bit disappointing, but it does help to make the action a bit smoother. In previous games, you'd have to spend time using a crap weapon in order to level it up and that could annoy allies who're relying on you to progress. Now, you can just spend bolts to upgrade it.
The game also features a fixed camera, which gets a bit annoying from a platforming perspective. It's now harder to find secrets and it can make some jumps a bit annoying to judge, but it's a necessary evil given the nature of the game.
Both of these things go against the core staples of the franchise, but it's not all bad. The new co-operative vibe allows for the overload system to exist. If two or more people are shooting at the same target, with the same weapon, their weapons super charge and shoot much faster. Once they've been in combination for long enough, they will then cause an overload which makes a massive explosion. It makes a huge difference to how the game is played and you do really need to work together in order to progress with ease.
It does highlight some issues though, as if overload isn't used, ammunition can run out quite quickly. And this points to some issues with the array of weapons. The assortment is decent, but once you've run out of ammo on the Combuster, choices become a bit restricted. This becomes even more apparent you're forced to fight enemies at range. Some of the more unique weapons are cool, but they run out of ammo so quickly that it's hardly worth switching over.
They all look great though, as does the rest of the game. It typically runs at a solid framerate, although there are some slight instances of slowdown when the action gets rather hectic. It's just a shame it feels as though some corners have been cut. The levels don't feel as vibrant as they normally would and the in-game voice clips are often repeated numerous times. Clank said "stay away from my pal" more times than anyone cares to remember.
As you go through the game, you will have the option to replay any level from the past. It's a nice little feature, and it's great if you want to just jump in for a quick play session. The online and co-operative element also helps to give the game a longer lifespan, because playing it with one, two or three other people makes the experience very different.
Insomniac Games has tried something a bit different with the latest Ratchet & Clank experience and while there is some good to be found, it does feel as though it was rushed out of the door a bit. Quite a lot of the changes have been made in order to make the game much more streamlined, playing on the instant-gratification that's needed for co-operative games, but because of it, a lot of the franchise' core values were tossed aside. Not the best Ratchet game you will ever play, but it's still a good bit of fun to play with a few friends.
|The transition over to co-operative play is quite smooth.|
|It's great to play as Qwark and Nefarious.|
|Overloading is pretty cool.|
|Feels a bit too rushed.|
|The story doesn't have the same charm.|
|Weapons feel a bit unbalanced.|