Review: Ratchet And Clank: All 4 One
Everybody's favourite Lombax is back in Ratchet And Clank: All 4 One and this time he's brought some friends along for the ride. Is it a case of the more the merrier or three's a crowd?
- Worth The Time?Definitely not, espcially considering the drawn out length of the game
- Things LovedVisuals are still a treat, gunplay is still fun with a variety of weapons and humour is still on par. The dynamic amongst the four misfits is also pretty well conceived even if the whole co-op mechanic feels cheaply done.
- Things HatedThe controls are often clunky, overall game has been downgraded to a juvenile degree, co-op elements get repetitive, camera is often in a poor position, numerous bugs, the game is about 5 hours too long and every level feels sickeningly drawn out.
- RecommendationPut simply, this game isn't even worth finishing because it drags every level out more than should be possible. Rent it if you must and play it for no more than a few hours.
- Name: Ratchet And Clank: All 4 One
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: 2-4
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Insomniac Games
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R529 - R599.99
- Reviewed On: PS3
Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time was deemed by many as the closest a game has come to a Pixar movie. That’s high praise for a series that has always been developed with kids in mind and with the ethos of being as fun as possible. However, Ratchet and Clank has always been about more than that. The games always offer a good spread of gameplay variety with some interesting characters, a good amount of above-average humour and a story that, at the very least, makes sense. Above and beyond this, Ratchet games have always had fantastic visuals thanks to a quirky art style, some great character and level design and a healthy bit of polish.
These can all be summed up as that endearing quality that Ratchet and Clank games have always had as a direct result of the effort that Insomniac puts into the games. The games have that Pixar appeal in that they are perfect for the target market of young kids but can be appreciated just as much by older gamers. I picked up Ratchet and Clank: Future Tools of Destruction back when I first got my PS3 and there have been few games since that I replayed more times. It is really just that good, it’s plain and simple, good fun. With some kickass weapons thrown in but we’ll get back to that a bit later.
In essence, everything that I’ve mentioned above about the series, everything that makes Ratchet and Clank games so damn good and unbelievably entertaining is absent from All 4 One. There are still glimpses of what made the series great but it’s buried under a seething mountain of poor game design and failed mechanics. Let me say right now that while there are some redeeming qualities to All 4 One’s co-op, I despise the system employed here and believe that it is one of the game’s major trappings.
So Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One picks up the story several years after A Crack in Time and sees Ratchet and Clank contemplating retirement and going back to a simple life. Captain Qwark is now President and Dr Nefarious is out of the picture. Through a series of events, the four are captured by a mysterious ship called the Ephemeris which is later discovered to be collecting the most dangerous creatures in the universe. This motley group then takes it upon themselves to put an end to this by stopping the ship and enigmatic new villain known only as The Master, who happens to be controlling the entire operation.
The whole game takes place on planet Magnus, which should immediately be setting off warning bells since Ratchet games have also had players hopping around from planet to planet. Rest assured, the planet has been designed with a healthy variety of locales ranging from arctic to urban, docks, forest and even rock platforms suspended in mid-air. There are a total of 9 locations with around 4 or 5 levels each. This may sound alright but the levels tend to become repetitive and while you don’t necessarily backtrack, each location’s levels begin to feel generic after you pass the second level.
The entire game feels like it should be half as short and despite a rather well conceived story and pretty good ending, you’ll grow tired of having to do the same thing in every level over and over again. Just when you think that some respite might be offered by a new locale, the monotony sets in all over again. That is not to say that the game is devoid of any gameplay variety but it tends to employ the same set of gameplay elements to break up that monotony and certainly has nowhere near the same level of variety as previous games in the series. All 4 One clocks in at about 10-12 hours which is pretty long for a game of its kind and given what you have to work with in All 4 One, it should really be about two-thirds shorter and might have done better as a game on PSN.
The gameplay is decently fun but marred by the same few co-op mechanics spammed throughout the game. The controls have never been fluid and instinctive but All 4 One goes out of its way to make them clunky and almost cumbersome, especially since the right analogue is used to quick-select weapons and it can be a pain to navigate through the weapons menu in this fashion. In combat the controls are fine but they feel too obtuse during the puzzle-solving sections.
There’s an adequate spread of enemies with various attacks that need to be dealt with in various ways but there are very few types of gameplay to break up the running and gunning sections and most of them are just the same few co-op puzzles although there are some agreeable sequences involving jetpacks, jet skis, turrets and grind rails respectively.
What isn’t in any kind of shortage is the armoury available to players. This has always been a highlight of Ratchet and Clank games and for all its flaws, All 4 One doesn’t disappoint. Besides your usual assortment of weapons there are some real standouts such as Mr Zurkon which is no stranger to the series but is still awesome because it is basically a little robot that acts as your own personal bodyguard. Then there are other, more over-the-top, arms such as the Critterstrike which turns enemies into pigs, the flamethrower and freeze-ray. Each weapon is upgradeable, as in previous games and this is perhaps the only element of the game which is better than in previous games. Unfortunately, there are quite a few duds amongst the selection which really serve no meaningful purpose, they’re generally not even good for a laugh as with weapons such as the Groovinator in previous games.
There’s also the option to upgrade armour and there are little critters all over the planet which can be collected. Collect enough critters and you can play a critter mini-game. Each time you do this, you’ll unlock another piece of the Ryno armour, the game’s ultimate in battle-ready fashion.
Now we get to the co-op, the whole point of this game and one of the many things that brings it way down. There are good facets of it such as that simultaneously attacking enemies with the same weapon disposes of them quicker and can result in an Overload Attack, which is basically a finisher move. There’s also an interesting feel to it not only because of the character dynamic that Insomniac has created, but also the fact that you’re both fighting alongside and against your pals. You’ll be competing against each other for bolts and glory with a score that gets tallied up at the end of each level.
There are even some character-specific weapons such as the Doppelbanger for Ratchet and Cloaker for Dr Nefarious. The two are very different weapons (I’ll let you deduce from the names what they do) but each character only has one truly unique weapon. All the other character-specific weapons may look different but they do much the same thing.
The worst part about the co-op is the lack of variety. Despite their quirky personalities, each character plays very much the same with the same weapons, same moves and the same upgrades. There are only a few types of co-op mechanics that Insomniac seems to have been able to come up with yet they are mercilessly copy-pasted all over planet Magnus and tend to get not only repetitive but also boring. I’d seen all there was to the co-op after an hour and the rest was all just more of the same but in different environments.
Due to the multiplayer nature of the game, you can practically never die and there is effectively no difficulty curve but that’s not the worst of it. You are stuck with a fixed-position camera which is more often than not in the worst position possible.
As usual, the game looks pretty amazing with the visual style really standing out, especially in the hyper-realism that everyone seems to be gearing for these days. Its vibrant bright-palette and unusual yet diverse character design is excellently realised and the game looks very good. However, it tends to lag a bit and textures are sometimes a bit rough when you get too close in.
Some common issues that have cropped up are that the sound suddenly cuts out, the camera gets stuck and the weapons vendor shows a false bolt-credit value making it impossible to purchase upgrades.
Insomniac is usually a by-word for quality but this is really a hit-and-miss for the developer that did such wonderful things with Resistance 3 earlier this year. Ironically, Resistance 3 was way too short – maybe now we know where that extra time went.
As a whole, All 4 One feels watered down. The pure Ratchet and Clank experience being diluted by mediocrity and an apparent lack of effort or focus. It’s as if every issue was simply brushed aside by saying, “The co-op will distract them so that they won’t even notice that.” That didn’t really work out too well. There’s less gameplay variety, no differentiation amongst the four characters and each section has the same levels copy-pasted repeatedly. The weapons should even have more variety given that we’re dealing with four characters not just one anymore.
At times you’ll glimpse bits and pieces of what used to make Ratchet and Clank a great series but is feels so much more juvenile and watered-down. The whole experience is lacking and the series’ trademark charm can only carry this title so far before it stumbles and drowns in its own pool of less than mediocre crap.