Ratchet & Clank are one of the hardest working partnerships within gaming, with All 4 One being their tenth game in nine years. This has ensured that Insomniac’s lovable duo have quite the following of fanatical fans – fanatical fans who may not be best pleased at the direction this particular game has taken.
But once they get over the inevitable feelings of betrayal and actually try the game out, they may well be surprised to find that this game, which is blatantly aimed at the younger audience, contains enough of the classic Ratchet & Clank humour, decent visuals and the over-the-top weaponry that we have all come to love, to keep even a hardened fan entertained for a good time.
This time around it is all about the co-op gameplay, and not just for two players. Four player action is the name of the game, in a similar vein to the recently released Disney Universe. The story stands that the evil Dr. Nefarious is about to unleash his most recent plan on our heroes, when a new bad guy known as The Collector makes his move and it comes down to Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark and Dr. Nefarious to put a stop to this and find out what the hell is going on.
Playing alone with AI companions is all well and good, but the game really shines when played with other real-world players using the simple drop-in/drop-out mechanic that is becoming more and more popular. Following other similar games, All 4 One uses a fixed camera perspective which is not always the easiest to work with. This perspective limits movement depending where the other players are on the screen and can cause some frustrations. However, this method has been used before in other games and, in many ways, can be considered part of the fun.
So the player will find themselves running, jumping and shooting a huge number of enemies and the occasional impressive boss with a bunch of friends in a somewhat chaotic way. Although there is a choice of four different characters to play as, with the exception of a couple of different weapons, they all play exactly the same. The game is fairly linear in its layout, not leaving much by way of exploration for the player. But this doesn’t detract from the fun, as beyond the gameplay there are plenty of laugh out load moments for the player to enjoy. The story trundles along from one comical situation to another, and in between the dialogue between the characters keeps the mirth flowing.
Of course, one of the mainstays of the Ratchet & Clank series are the weapons. Offering players a plethora of different ways to dispatch their foes, with some being simply bizarre. The Critter Strike weapon stands out as one of the more bizarre, turning enemies into a variety of different, slightly less menacing animals, such as sheep. The fan favorite, trash talking battle droid Mr Zurkon also makes a return, complete with laughable one-liners designed to strike fear into his enemies. Other weapons include such as the Warmonger, a multi-rocket launching weapon of devastation, and the Arc Lasher electronic whip.
Not only do all of these different weapons have different effects on the enemies, but a lot of the fun is in finding ways for them to work together within the group. The players can increase their firepower if they all use the same weapon, which applies some kind of multiplying effect making for some satisfyingly explosive situations. In fact, all of the weapons in the game are incredibly satisfying and although players may have a favorite before too long, they will likely still find themselves switching through the weapons just to enjoy the variety of different effects.
Insomniac also know how to make a game look good. All 4 One is perhaps not quite up to the standard that the fans would expect, but for most gamers it still manages to look pretty damn good. The characters are all well recreated, looking and acting as you would expect, and the environments through which they travel are all bright and colourful. The game has the overriding Ratchet & Clank cartoony looks which will appeal to all age groups.
Which, I think, is what the game is all about. Insomniac have created a Ratchet & Clank game that will appeal to all age groups. With the inclusion of the fun, relatively easy going co-op gameplay, this is a game that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together, something which is becoming more and more important in today’s games. All 4 One is certainly not an epic platforming adventure, but more an alternative party game that eschews the standard depthless mini-game mayhem for something a bit more substantial.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One may not be the game that fans of the series were waiting for, but the frantic co-op action, familiar humour and outlandish weapons still make this game damn good fun to play.