Monday, December 05, 2011

Review: Ratchet & Clank - All 4 One

As a fan of the Ratchet & Clank franchise, I was excited to get my hands on All 4 One but there’s an old saying - if ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and sadly in gaming, change isn’t always for the best. Unlike the previous action/adventure Ratchet & Clank platformer titles, which were mostly single-player-only games, All 4 One, the tenth instalment in the series, focuses on a four-player cooperative multiplayer mode, which offers online as well as offline multiplayer.

Players can each take the role of one of four main characters - Ratchet, the game’s bobcat-looking hero; Clank, Ratchet’s loyal robot sidekick; Qwark, the galactic’s cowardly president; and Doctor Nefarious, who usually is the game's antagonist looking to take over the galaxy rather than save it.

The game takes place after the events of A Crack in Time, when one of Nefarious’ plans to destroy Ratchet, Clank and Captain Qwark backfires, and all four of them are captured and kidnapped by a machine known as the Creature Collector. All playable characters are then forced to cooperate and work together to escape back home, which in the case of the always-evil Nefarious, is a little farfetched.

What I found instantly disappointing is that the game focuses on the multi-player co-op and less imagination is placed on the storyline. Although the game does allow up to four players to go online and play through two sections of the game: which fans will be happy to know still entertain with vibrant, colourful landscapes and the explosive action that you would expect from a Ratchet & Clank game; much of the magic seems to have been lost and it feels like All 4 One is a step backwards in the series.

One big annoyance is the new fixed-camera angle in the game which makes you feel less in control when in combat. Also when playing with others, the camera can be so restricted that you cannot see enemies shooting you.

The automatic aiming system also means you do not have direct control over where you shoot in battles making it at times very easy to defeat enemies and less satisfying than in the previous adventures.

The puzzles meanwhile, although well designed, are too simplistic and offer no real concentration or test. Unlike the other games in the series, the levels in All 4 One are also linear and you are restricted to play through the game in a set way.

The good news is that there is still an amazing array of fun and imaginative weaponry to collect throughout the game, including new weapons like the Plasma Bomb Launcher, Frost Cannon and Warmonger, along with older favourites like the Combuster and Mr Zurkon. There is also a handy vacuum that can suck up and shoot out both objects and enemies, which can help save ammo, while a jet pack you’re given in the game does offer a lot of entertainment.

The disappointing part of the weaponry is the new upgrade system. Players now pay for upgrades with the bolts collected throughout the game rather than weapons powering-up automatically with the more you fire a gun, which means you tend to use only a selected number of the weapons on offer.

I wouldn’t say the game does a disservice to the Ratchet & Clank series and if you are a hardcore fan and enjoy co-op platforming then All 4 One is definitely worth a try as there is fun to be had, especially if you get some mates involved.

All 4 One also keeps the good sense of humour represented in the rest of the series, which is good to see.

However, with its easy puzzles and more child-friendly tone, I cannot see much longevity in the game and it just acts as a short-term fix until Insomniac Games’ next instalment.