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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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