It can at times be hard to imagine that the Ratchet & Clank franchise would still be relevant nine years after its initial release. The franchise came out as one of a trio of amazing platformer series (Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper the other two) and it would been hard to predict how much legs the series really had. Well it’s now nearing the end of 2011 and Ratchet & Clank are back in their first ever cooperative focused adventure in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. Does the transition go well or should Insomniac go back to their roots?
The transition to a cooperative experience in a Ratchet & Clank game is kind of an interesting one. They have done so much to further the series both graphically and in gameplay departments that you did wonder what would be next but never did I guess they would go this route. So does the change pay off?
Much of the core of a Ratchet & Clank game is in All 4 One. You have a quirky story, bright colored environments, and a mix of both action and platforming. However the depth of all of these areas has been trimmed a bit to make room for 2-4 on screen players. In All 4 One you have the ability to play as Ratchet & Clank as well as Qwark, and Dr. Nefarious. For my review I played the game through with my wife and also played a few levels by myself to see how that worked. Let me just point out the obvious that this game has been made to be played cooperatively and although it works to play solo that is not the preferred method.
To allow for cooperative play, developer Insomnniac put the camera out of the players control and made it fixed. This can cause some minor issues at times depending on where you and your 1-3 friends are in relation to you. When playing with my wife (a notorious perfectionist) she would often times be breaking boxes collecting bolts as I was eagerly off further down the level trying to push us forward. This in no ways breaks the experience but can put a strain on a fixed camera.
At times All 4 One felt a little stripped down in comparison to its predecessors. There were obvious design and gameplay choices that the developers made in order to allow for cooperative play. The good news however is that All 4 One makes for some incredible cooperative play. Whether you’re shooting off bad guys, working together to solve puzzles, or literally trying different methods to take down bosses there is a lot of cooperative fun to be had. One of Insomniacs biggest triumphs in All 4 One is the pacing which keeps you interested from the start to end of a level. Never are you doing just one thing but instead the developers keeping you guessing around each turn. It has been years since I have played a couch cooperative experience and All 4 One does make a big case for why this can still be relevant in 2011.
The biggest area that All 4 One struggled was in the visuals. The past PS3 Ratchet & Clank titles have been downright incredible in this area. The colors in All 4 One seem to be a bit more drab and detail is really missing in the experience. It’s not a gigantic step backwards but for anyone that played Tools for Destruction or A Crack In Time will immediately see this games shortcomings. On the positive side the frame rate does keep up very nicely with all of the crazy action that happens on screen when playing cooperatively.
Where All 4 One really shines is the way in which it blends the feel of a Ratchet & Clank game and mends into an excellent cooperative experience. There were some levels that literally had my wife and I laughing hysterically and yelling frantically trying to make it to the next part of the level. Insomniac hit a beautiful note at around the half point of the game that helped push us to the finish line with a smile on our faces. The action is fast and furious and at times a bit overwhelming but they did such a great job of pacing in the game that just when you thought you had enough you were moving on to something else.
Although head to head All 4 One can’t compete with its predecessors, what it can do is give gamers a new way to experience the franchise. All 4 One is a tightly packaged experience and one that may not look as good as previous Ratchet & Clank games but it’s still a pure blast to play and for that reason alone is worth checking out.