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Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Hands On Preview

Can a co-op based Ratchet and Clank game deliver? We take a spin on the online beta to find out.

I’ve been enjoying the Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One online beta since it was released to the public earlier this week. I have to admit that when I heard that that the next Ratchet and Clank game, a favorite series of mine, was going to be a co-op focused affair I was skeptical. It’s easy to see how the game mechanics would fit into a frantic multiplayer experience, but will that be enough to support an entire game?

The answer? Possibly.

The beta consists of two levels for you and up to three friends (personal or otherwise) to romp through. These are theoretically representative of the first two levels of the actual game, though it’s hard to say for certain as all story relevant cutscenes have been removed for the purposes of the beta.

You can choose any level you would like, but I’d recommend doing them in order for your first play through. The first level to tackle, Luminopolis, follows our gang of unlikely allies chasing down a monstrous, light devouring Z’Grute. For all intents and purposes, this is your basic tutorial stage to learn the ropes. The game will display prompts of basic button commands to guide you through the various obstacles along the way. It’s not much of a challenge, but it certainly is fun and you’ll soon discover that Ratchet & Clank’s trademark humor is in good form and if this is any indicator of the final product, All 4 One may end up being the most hilarious entry in the series to date.

The second level, N.E.S.T., takes place on the planet Magnus after Ratchet and the gang are presumably kidnapped for reasons unknown. Having mastered the basic play mechanics in Luminopolis, this level concentrates less on individual skills and more on scenarios that require you to work as a team. Admittedly, this can be a bit frustrating to those playing with random strangers, but once you’ve worked out a strategy even completing small tasks in tandem becomes quite satisfying.

Weapons are expectantly limited as I’m sure that the guys at Insomniac don’t want to show their hand. The basic blaster and rockets are here, but you won’t see hide or hair of the Sheepinator or other fantastically odd weaponry. This is easily forgiven though as we all know that when it comes time they will deliver in spades. The purpose of this beta was really to show off the multiplayer aspects of the title, since that’s what so many of us have been worrying about and it does that well.

For the most part the controls have remained as they have been in other games in the series with one rather large exception. The weapon wheel is no longer activated by pressing the triangle button – which now is used for a swing line -- it is instead activated via the right analog stick. This in itself is not much of an issue, but for those that are used to the camera being controlled in this fashion will find that they will accidentally switch between weapons as they attempt to toggle the uncontrollable camera.

This brings me to the biggest issue I have with the beta: the camera. Instead of individual players having their own view of the action, the entire group shares a single camera angle. I’m sure that this is an attempt to keep members from proceeding or wandering off without others, but it causes more issues than it solves. Platforming bits can become unnecessarily difficult when the screen pulls your character suddenly in a different direction and there are more than a few times when the action suffers from awkward angle. This isn’t so much an issue when you’re playing by yourself -- yes, you can play by yourself -- or with just one other person, but when you’re playing with a full group it can get a little crowded at times. Individual viewpoints would do wonders for this game, but it’s not something that I see Insomniac fixing in time for the game’s launch.

Shoddy camera work aside, Insomniac has really piqued my interest in a title that I had some serious doubts about. It will be interesting to see if this co-op driven gameplay will be able to support a full length, story driven experience. We’ll know for sure when All 4 One is released on October 18.



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