Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Insomniac have had a very busy 2011. Between the release of the excellent Resistance 3 and the development of their upcoming action game Overstrike, the Californian developers somehow found the time to put together Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, a 4-player co-op platforming game. Almost like an afterthought and, unfortunately, it shows at times.
Though All 4 One at its core is still an action platformer, the game is very different from the previous games. You can still thread through the campaign on your own (aided by three AI compagnons), but the game begs to be played with friends, both online or on your couch. To keep things manageable, Insomniac have opted for fixed camera angles in stead of a freely controllable camera. It’s impossible for any player to move out of the viewable area on their own. This causes players to bunch together at all times, but it obviously also limits your freedom. If you want to explore hidden paths, you’ll first have to summon the other players to you.
The story is a little light, even to Ratchet & Clank standards. Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark (who in a bizarre turn of events made it to galactic president) and Dr. Nefarious, the robotic supervillain from Up Your Arsenal and A Crack in Time, team up to fight a common enemy, the Creature Collector, and thwart his unmistakenly evil plans. The series’ storylines have never been more than a handy way to bring the games’ protagonists to all kinds of colourful planets, but All 4 One’s plot makes even less sense than usual, with one curveball plot twist after another.
Thankfully, the basic game mechanics are rock solid. Jumping and running around is fluent as ever and once again, Ratchet & co have a wide range of exotic firearms at their disposal, from the trusted wrench and blasters, over electric whips (kinky!) to a ‘frost cannon’ and the ‘critter strike’, which can turn hapless foes into pigs, T-rexes or sheep. The ammount of available weapons has been toned a little compared to other Ratchet games, but there are still more than enough to dispatch foes in dozens of innovative ways. Unfortunately though, that’s not the only change All 4 One underwent. Insomniac’s famous weapon levelling system has inexplicably been ditched in favour of three purchaseable upgrades per gun. Instead of experimenting with all your different tools, you’ll often limit yourself to your upgraded ones, at least until you’ve saved enough bolts to improve the others.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One’s biggest flaw is the quirky targetting system. There’s only an automatic lock-on to shoot monsters and robots and no manual aim. Somehow, however, the lock-on always manages to pick the wrong targets. This is especially annoying because weapons are boosted when two or more players fire at the same baddy. This isn’t insurmountable against the game’s cannon fodder, but it makes the many bossfights extra challenging, because those only go down with concentrated fire.
But the game offers so much more than simple jumping and shooting. Whether it’s puzzles that require cooperation, the familiar rail grinding and snowboarding interludes or the new 2D jetpack levels, you won’t be bored anytime soon. The best optional quests are the critter obstacle courses. These require you to work together in order to guide a cute little alien through a dangerous maze in one piece. If you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with a piece of the überpowerful RYNO VI suit, the most powerful piece of kit in the entire game.
Technically, All 4 One holds its own. The game isn’t as beautiful as A Crack in Time, Quest for Booty or Tools of Destruction though. This was clearly done to keep the game playable online, but it leaves solo and co-op players with a lesser-looking game. The levels are smaller, textures aren’t as detailed and the special effects aren’t as impressive as before. It still looks pretty, though, and the framerate is solid. The voice-overs of the curious quartet are still top-notch, as was to be expected. The enjoyable quarrels between wannabe-president Qwark and the disloyal Nefarious are especially memorable. It’s just a pity the characters’ in-game taglines are repeated too often.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One has turned out to be a very solid product, with definitely more advantages than downsides. The game never frustrates and offers a lot of variety, but it ultimately pales in comparison to the other titles in Insomniac’s amazing portfolio. It lacks that little bit of magic to be an essential purchase.