- Format: PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Insomniac Games
- Players: 1-4 (online or offline)
- Site: http://www.ratchetandclank.com/en_GB/index.htm
Ratchet and Clank have never quite made it as the mascots for Sony’s consoles, but the platforming dynamic duo have always appeared in some pretty decent games over the years. This new entry in the franchise is the first to incorporate a four player co-operative mode into the gameplay, with both online and offline being supported. So have Insomniac Games managed to make it work, or are our mechanic and his mechanical friend taking a dangerous step too far?
The game takes place after the duo’s last adventure A Crack in Time, and sees the main characters of Ratchet and Clank joined by the big, bumbling Captain Qwark – who has been unbelievably chosen as Galactic President – and the series’ main villain Doctor Nefarious. At the start of the game Doctor Nefarious attempts to destroy Ratchet and Clank and Captain Qwark by releasing the monstrous Z’Grute upon them. Needless to say this backfires and the monster turns against him, which forces the four characters to join forces, much to their disdain. After defeating the Z’Grute a huge spaceship called Ephemeris, the Creature Collector, appears on the scene and captures the Z’Grute along with our four heroes. It is then up to our team to escape from the spaceship, and find and defeat whoever is behind their abduction.
The main crux of the game is the new four player co-op mode, and players can join online or offline, and can drop in or out of the action when they want. This all works really well, and is very smooth in execution even when there is a lot going on onscreen. The game definitely benefits from this mode, and it can be a lot of fun with three friends. Playing on your own gives you an AI companion who can join in with the combat, revive you and help solve puzzles. This generally works well, although there were a few times that our robotic friend got stuck on the scenery, or just stood there looking over a platform, like a suicidal Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. This caused the camera to get stuck, and we plunged to our doom on several occasions, which was quite frustrating.
Ratchet and Clank’s games have always been packed with comedy moments, and All 4 One is again very funny in places, with the dimwitted Captain Quark being the source of many a joke. The tension between the team of former enemies is also a great source of humour, which lasts throughout the whole game. However some jokes do get re-used a tad too much, which smacks of a lack of inspiration. Along with the writing the graphics are very impressive, with some quite stunning alien landscapes and spaceships that are well designed. The animation is also top notch, and some of the character models have taken obvious inspiration from the Pixar stable of creations.
The main gameplay mechanic is still shooting, and the game again gives you a fantastical armoury of weapons to unleash on your unsuspecting foes. You start off with the Combuster, which only fires single blasts; but you also get to upgrade this weapon with more ammo and power, before the Elite upgrade turns it into a killing machine that Arnie would be proud of. As you progress more weapons become available like the Critter Strike, which turns enemies into harmless pig-like creatures, or the missile launching Warmonger. The hilarious Mr Zurkon, your attack droid, once again makes an appearance with his sarcastic quips, along with the amusing Dopplebanger which Ratchet uses to draw enemy fire.
To upgrade your arsenal you need to buy upgrades from the various weapon upgrade points dotted throughout the game. You do this by collecting bolts, which are the game’s currency, that you gain from defeating enemies and shooting some objects. We have to say the combat doesn’t feel very satisfying. The auto-aiming tends to pick the wrong enemy to target, which can get quite annoying in the heat of battle, and you don’t have the option of manually selecting a target which previous games in the franchise utilised. Selecting your weapon is also a pain, as the right analogue stick is used to choose your weapon by pushing the stick in the direction of the firearm you wish to use. However there were a few times where we selected the wrong weapon thanks to the stick moving at the last second, and it just feels quite cumbersome compared to methods used in other shooters.
Ratchet and Clank All 4 One is an interesting experiment that doesn’t quite come off. The combat is hampered by the new unreliable auto-lock feature, and the main boss battles can become very boring as you chip away at a massive health bar which, especially with the last boss, can go on for far too long. However there is a lot of variety in the levels that stops things getting too repetitive, with vehicle sections, platforming and puzzles helping break things up nicely. In particular there is a section that involves you flying with a jet pack through a perilous level filled with spinning blades, and a level where you get to control a giant robot, which along with the Sonic inspired rail surfing sections are all extremely entertaining. The new co-op mode certainly adds to the fun, and if some of the combat and camera problems had been ironed out, then All 4 One could’ve been a cracking game. As it stands though it’s simply a good one.