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November 13, 2011
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/10/2011SonySonyInsomniac Games1-22-4
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is a PS3 exclusive.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Ratchet and Clank games, but after the slight misstep that was Playstation Move Heroes I wasn’t over the moon that Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One was deviating from the structure so wonderfully set up by the other games in the series. Multiplayer is all well and good, but if it affects the core gameplay negatively I’m happy to go without. Besides, Ratchet hasn’t needed anything more than awesome upgradeable guns, tons of enemies and a side order of humour to be fun in the past, so why mess with that formula? For better or worse the change has been made; how does multiplayer Ratchet stack up against other games in the series? Read on...

The game begins with a cut-scene for a program titled “Search for a Super-villain”, discussing the status of Dr. Nefarious who is currently on the loose. Two surprising snippets are revealed in this cut-scene, firstly Ratchet and Clank are now borderline retired, and secondly Captain Qwark is now the galactic president! The next scene shows Ratchet and Clank accompanying Qwark on his was to receive the “Intergalactic Tool of Justice” award. To the surprise of none but Qwark himself, the award is a sham, set up by Dr. Nefarious so that he can get rid of Qwark once and for all. Alas, as tends to happen Nefarious’s plans go awry and he, Qwark, Ratchet and Clank must team up to save the city from a rampaging Z’grute monster.

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All 4 One's visuals are pretty decent.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you boot up the game is that there is no option to start a new game or to continue one. Instead you choose whether you want to play an online or offline game and then select the level and chapter you wish to start from. Initially in an offline game only the first level is available, but if you join an online game you can join in on any level. If you join a game on the last level, all of the previous levels become playable offline, even though you haven’t played through them yet.

Once you’ve set up your own game or selected one you wish to join you choose your character; Ratchet, Clank, Qwark or Nefarious. In terms of skills and weapons there is nothing between them, each have melee attacks, can throw their melee weapon and the same guns are available for purchase for each of them from vendors in the game. This means you should pick the character you like the most because the biggest difference between them is what they say during play, and some (Nefarious and Qwark for mine) are clearly funnier than the others.

As mentioned earlier there is no option to continue a game you’ve started, but your character’s progress is saved instead. This means that any weapons you’ve unlocked, or bolts you’ve earned are available for that character in any online or offline game. This leads to interesting scenarios during online play where the people joining your game can be significantly more powerful than you are (especially if they’ve unlocked the Ryno suit – more on that later). It’s definitely helpful to have powerful friends helping you out, but there is a competitive element to play, and having more powerful weapons give them a decided advantage in a couple of key areas (namely killing enemies and collecting bolts).

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Passing through some moody forests.
As you’d expect in a multiplayer-oriented game, the gameplay is slightly different than other the Ratchet and Clank games. There are two big changes; the camera is fixed and targeting is handled automatically. Having a fixed camera was probably the smart move from a design perspective, as it means all four characters are restricted to the same screen and cannot wander too far afield. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work well as your view is often obstructed in the tighter areas making it extremely difficult to see, let alone dodge bullets, and in the bigger areas it’s difficult to judge your position correctly, resulting in many a plunge to your death.

Making targeting automatic also makes sense at a design level because you can’t pan the camera around to specifically target the enemy you want. However the automatic targeting doesn’t work well, choosing targets almost at random and definitely not the one you want more often than not. Even running toward your enemy, or standing right next to them will not always result in targeting them. The net result of these two design choices is that shooting, which has always been a strong point for the series, is notably less fun this time around.

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Everybody JUMP!
Players can drop in an out of online games at their leisure, and while there is a bit of a delay while the game loads in new players, the process is mostly smooth. I must say I was surprised at how much fun multiplayer action is in All 4 One, over playing offline. If you play offline you’re accompanied by an AI partner and they’re fine as partners, but other humans make for more fun. This is a credit to the design team who came up with a number of imaginative ways to make players work together. From buttons that need to be jumped on in sequence, to gaps that are too big to jump alone, to mini-puzzles with multiple moving parts that require diligent co-operation to solve, All 4 One does a great job of keeping everyone in the game.

Co-operative play earns you points which contribute to bonuses you earn at the end of a level. You’re graded in four categories; bolts earned, enemies killed, critters caught and co-op point scored. There’s a bolt bonus for the leader in each category as well as a bonus for the overall winner. This adds competition to just about every action you make during a level, especially if you’re playing against friends.

The last key component of the multiplayer game is earning parts to the Ryno suit which is, as always in the Ratchet games, the most powerful weapon available. The first part of the equation is saving enough critters to gain access to secret labs found throughout the game. Once in the lab your objective is to complete the path to freedom for a critter trapped in the lab. Doing this is as easy as completing mini-challenges such as jumping on buttons in sequence, getting power to dormant circuits and traversing large gaps. Each task in the labs requires co-operation to complete, and getting the critter to safety rewards everyone with a Ryno suit part.

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R&C: All 4 One is a 4-player (online) game.
Some of the issues in All 4 One have already been covered – the fixed camera and auto-targeting are far from perfect, resulting in less enticing gunplay than previous games in the series. Further to this, the guns aren’t as much fun this time around, nor can they be upgraded as far. Vendors will let you upgrade the ammo and power of each weapon, as well as making it ‘elite’ (more powerful), but this is much less fun than the previous games where the weapons upgraded through use.

Fights against bigger enemies as well as bosses are also dull, requiring you to deplete your arsenal a couple of times before they finally die. The Ryno suit can sort them out a bit quicker but you’re unlikely to earn that on your first playthrough. The last boss in particular is a frightful bore to fight, requiring non-stop shooting for fifteen or more minutes. On the positive side though, All 4 One has plenty of variety so you’re not always shooting. There are rail-grinding sections, a cool jet-pack sequence, you steer a raft and taxi using switches and your weight respectively, there’s a water-skiing section among others. This variety is much-needed and All 4 One is better for it.

Visually the game can’t compete with previous titles in the series, with blurry textures, a lack of detail in objects as well as some of the bigger enemies, and slightly blurred outlines to characters. Cut-scenes too are a step behind other Ratchet games. It’s not all doom and gloom though – the world is bright an colourful, enemy-design is great and they all look charming as well as evil, and each of the characters moves fluidly around levels. Things can get a bit busy, especially during multiplayer, making it impossible to see bullets coming for you, but that’s inconvenient rather than frustrating. There is plenty of variety in levels; you’ll fight in a city, underground, on water, mountains and on top of buildings making each level entertaining to watch.

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Peeing out of a gun? What the?!
The sound is one area where All 4 One excels. The music provides the perfect accompaniment to the slapstick action, and the voice-acting is impressive. Unlike many other games the script is very funny, and thanks to that and the voice-acting you’ll grow to love whichever misfit you take control of. Nefarious’s constant use of the word ‘squishee’ to refer to any non-mechanical life-form cracked me up, and even Qwark, who can be frustrating in small doses, is funnier than he is annoying here. Simple things like the special defense force being away at a ‘Single and Hating It’ convention are enough to make you smile while you play.

Overall Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One does more right than it does wrong and it’s an entertaining way to bring multiplayer gaming to the series. There are some missteps – the fixed camera and auto-targeting aren’t great, the gunplay gets repetitive, and the weapon upgrading system is less fun than usual. Luckily there is variety between levels so you’ll rarely get too bored, co-operative play is both required and encouraged throughout the game, and the slapstick comedy between characters adds to the enjoyment. All 4 One isn’t perfect but it’s worth checking out if you’ve ever wanted to play Ratchet and Clank with friends.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSBright and colourful, with plenty of variety between levels. Not as polished as other Ratchet and Clank games though.
SOUNDConsistently excellent from the music that adds to the visual comedy, to the voice-acting which is sure to generate some laughs.
GAMEPLAYShooting is where the series has always excelled, but it’s not so fun this time around. There’s variety here though, which helps keep your enjoyment up.
VALUEThe story takes 8-10 hours to work through, and it’s likely you’ll play through more than once. There are heaps of skill points to earn for completionists.
OVERALLNot quite as enjoyable as its predecessors, All 4 One is still an entertaining game that’s a lot of fun with friends.

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