Ratchet & Clank: All 4 OneESRB:
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Players: 1-4 (Cooperative Play)
Play as Ratchet, Clank, Capt. Quark and Dr. Nefarious
HD video output: 480p/720p
2.5GB required hard drive space
Trophies & leaderboards support
Requires online pass for online play
Following 2009’s impressive A Crack In Time, the Ratchet & Clank series is back with a new twist. PlayStation Move Heroes notwithstanding, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One brings cooperative play to the franchise for the first time. Not just is it part of the game, it is the main focus. So how does this decidedly different approach to the Ratchet & Clank franchise fare?
Different from the typical point of view in a Ratchet & Clank game, All 4 One is played from a fixed perspective. I am sure this is done to facilitate the four player coop on a single screen. It isn’t a bad thing, just an observation. It’s a little like Gauntlet, but instead of being a top down the view is a bit more isometric. This allows for camera angles to be a little more dramatic and capture actions that might be going on in the environment outside the field of play. It certainly adds a sense of scale to things in each of the environments you play through.
This point of view scales depending on how close or far the players are from one another. This is to be expected, but it actually hurts the amount of detail that you can see on characters. Ratchet & Clank games are known for their Pixar-like visuals, although my opinion is that they’ve got a ways to go to hit that benchmark, and as necessary as it is for this game, the viewpoint doesn’t show off the details as well as previous games. Characters have an NHL/NFL-like coloured circle around their feet to help identification. This is helpful when there are a lot of players, enemies, and action on screen at one time.
I wish more games would apply the amount of polish that Insomniac does to their presentation. As always, the voice acting in All 4 One is top notch using the characters that you’ve come to love in the series. Their tone of voice is great and helps lend a hand to the comedic side of things and there is plenty of funny dialogue. I don’t think they could have cast Captain Quark any more perfect than they did. The musical score is both dramatic and fun. It has a big sounding quality that I would expect from a film, not just a video game. It is really well done and is a great complement to the gameplay.
I am going to start this review with a big thank you to Insomniac for an intro video that makes at least the first third of the 2.5GB required install to the hard drive much more palatable. I hope more developers take this idea and run with it. All 4 One is set following A Crack In Time and spins a decent backstory that brings control of Doctor Nefarious into the hands of the player for the first time. A plot by Dr. Nefarious goes awry and as a group, Ratchet, Clank, Captain Quark and Dr. Nefarious must work together to escape their captors and return home.
While the game touts four player cooperative play, you can play alone or with any number of friends, either locally or online. Unlike PlayStation Move Heroes, there’s no support for the Move peripheral here. It’s entirely Dualshock 3. Players can drop in and out of games at anytime. This is always a welcome feature in any type of co-op game and the ability to do so is much appreciated.
Over-the-top weaponry, a mainstay of the franchise, continues here, but perhaps not to the extent of previous games. With cooperative play, you can combine attacks from similar weapons to create super attacks. It is as simple as using the same gun as your partner and aiming at the same bad guy. The rest of the work is done for you as your attacks charge up and ultimately cause greater damage. Just like previous games, you collect bolts during gameplay that can be used to buy new weapons and upgrades at specific shops throughout the game. This is where the cooperative play can become competitive. Everyone undoubtedly has that friend that will just go after the bolts.
The controls have a typical platforming feel to them. You can’t control where you look so movement is simply mapped to the L stick. The R stick is used for selecting your weapons that are arranged in a dial format. You have a basic melee attack, a throwing melee attack (good for those explosive crates) and ranged attacks for when you want to use your ranged weapons. Controls are tight and responsive, save for a sticky sprint button that is mapped to L3. It takes a really deliberate press, more than just a click, to toggle the sprint ability on and off at will.
All 4 One is a good game, and the more I think about it, I think it is a very fun game. There are a few issues that keep All 4 One from going over the top and being a truly great game though. In a cooperative game like this, with four different characters, I would have liked to see more diversity between how each character played. Unfortunately they each play pretty much the same as no one character can run faster or jump higher than another. There is no really big reason to choose one character over the other as they are that similiar. As well, I might be getting nitpicky about continuity here, but all of the cut scenes feature all four playable characters, but if you’re playing alone you play simply with one other AI character. When you reach the cut scenes suddenly everyone is present. Not a deal breaker, but it just threw me off a little bit.
Ultimately the gameplay isn’t entirely complex and this makes for an easy learning curve that can appeal to all skills of player. The action is part platformer, part action shooter. There’s plenty of variety in what you do which keeps things fresh and the player engaged.
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