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Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Review


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On 10/21/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

All 4 One, and one for dull.
RECOMMENDATION:

Until it hits the bargain bins, even fans should skip this one. It's just not that interesting of a game experience, even with a group of friends.

It's been a long nine days since we started running our Ratchet & Clank recap feature, but it has served as a great refresher on all of the games in the series. Having played them all individually over a number of years, it was easy to miss many of the trends the series has exhibited over time. For one, roughly half of the games in the series are actually side quests that only exhibit some of the traits of the core titles. Two, Insomniac is and has always been willing to utilize the series as a testing ground for all sorts of different ideas. All 4 One, being a co-operative four player title, is their latest test. The title sacrifices much of what makes the core series great in an effort to appeal to those looking for a co-op experience with friends. Like Ratchet: Deadlocked (Insomniac's other testing ground), All 4 One both succeeds and fails in different ways, but doesn't even begin to approach the bar set by A Crack in Time.

In this go round, Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, and Nefarious are made unlikely allies after being kidnapped by the Creature Collector when Nefarious tries to corner the heroes. The quartet must work together to escape the clutches of the Creature Collector and return home.

Despite being a co-operative game, there's very little done to truly make it an experience where players must work together. Two tools allow players to perform the vast majority of co-operative work necessary to progress through the stages. The first is a vacuum gun that can be used to shoot a player to a distant or high up platform. The second is the swingshot, which is employed here as a means of reaching your teammate after they've been fired from your vacuum gun. At other points, players will need to play catch using the vacuum guns with relevant items used to open up passage to the next segment of the level. Unfortunately, that encompasses the full scope of co-operative play in the game.

Unless of course you want to count the shooting segments. Now, as a solo player, your weapons feel mostly inadequate all the time, unless you employ the help of a teammate. If multiple teammates fire on an enemy in tandem, a gauge rises continuously until its explosive conclusion, which deals an immense amount of damage to the enemy, often resulting in its death. While this will force team communication, it doesn't always result in smooth team play.

All these iterations later, targeting is still an issue. While actually locking on an enemy (finally) works, trying to hit a particular enemy with your teammate(s) is not always fruitful. Because ammo isn't collected along the way, but instead refilled at stations, wasting it on the wrong enemy is always frustrating. This system also makes you feel near powerless at all times, rather than the walking tank you typically are in a Ratchet & Clank game.

This is one of the many changes to the character of the game that makes All 4 One a lackluster experience. More importantly, All 4 One strips all of the layers of depth that past games have added in order to accommodate the multiple concurrent players. When it comes down to it, the Ratchet & Clank formula just doesn't fit into such a game experience well.

Most of the time players will find themselves shooting endless waves of enemies with their standard Combuster. It has the most ammo and when paired with another player's, is extremely effective at quickly taking down enemies. Some of the other weaponry is truly only meant for a select few enemies and won't be trotted out unless players desire quicker passage or conservation of Combuster ammo. In the instances where you do need to access another weapon or gadget to progress, you're forced to use the new weapon wheels, which are horribly cumbersome. For whatever reason, it's unbelievably unintuitive to select a different weapon from the wheel and being that it no longer pauses the action to pull up the wheel, it can be quite dangerous while you fuddle with the controls. Of course, if players can communicate and all bring up their wheels at the same time, the action will pause and remain so until everyone has made their selection, providing for unlimited time to struggle with the controls.

When not battling enemies, executing the singular co-operative technique described above will probably be required or general simplistic platforming, which is hindered by the now completely automatic camera. While it does a decent enough job during intense shooting segments, when out exploring an area, it does a poor job of deviating from a particular track to show you important things - like the cliff you're about to walk off of.

This wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't encourage you to grab all of the bolts available in the world. It further provokes this with a meaningless competition between the active players. Collecting the most stuff, like bolts and critters (I'll get to these in a minute), or killing the most enemies will net a single player the “win” in a given level. I call it meaningless because it only results in a few extra bolts and nothing more. Worse, there's no clear end point to any given level and they can come at any time. There's also no real reason to pit players against each other anyhow, because it will result in inevitable problems when one can upgrade their weaponry and the others cannot. This will hinder progress for everyone and make the game less enjoyable.

At times, some of the platforming can be pretty interesting, and using the swingshot to attach to players is also a good bit of fun. There's a few instances where you get to use a jet pack and those segments can be fun too, but typically all of these differentiating sequences overstay their welcome. Halfway through you'll swear it's over and then it drags... and drags... and then drags some more.

And this is pretty indicative of the overall experience. It just drags. It's mostly uninteresting and unchanging. The things you do in the first hour of the experience are the same things you'll do in every hour of the game. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the typical Ratchet & Clank experience.

The game does show some promise at times though. The aforementioned critters you collect are crucial to unlocking the perennial R.Y.N.O. equipment. A certain number of critters are required to gain entrance to a specific puzzle that will require teamwork to complete. Players will have to activate switches or toss each other to and fro to set up a path for the critters to walk in order to reach the finish line. Successful completion of the puzzle with result in a new piece of R.Y.N.O. equipment. It's sad that these segments were relegated to an infrequent side mission for an optional weapon. They should've been brought into the main game to give it some break from the tireless monotony.

While a minor upgrade, the rail sliding segments have been made more interesting this time around. In order to accommodate the additional players who will also grind the rails, they've been physically expanded in size. With the added real estate, Insomniac has changed up what you do when grinding. You now must avoid impediments while grinding and can move around left and right at will. It just brings a bit of variety to a tired mechanic and makes it fun again.

The game does feature some seamless online play, but the experience at the time of writing is still in beta and can be error prone. While I encountered no issues, fellow staff members have, which has resulted in loss of an entire level's progress. The addition of the online pass system makes these types of errors inexcusable as it's now a monetized component of the experience and should work flawlessly.

Online problems aside, All 4 One does still carry the character of the series, but removes many of its staples that don't fit into the four player co-operative design. The worlds are gorgeous and there are plenty of instances of witty dialog and subversive humor, as has always been associated with the series. These are welcome and expected features that help make the experience feel a bit more familiar.

However, when push comes to shove, the Ratchet & Clank formula just doesn't fit into the four player co-op experience. It feels forced here and more an effort of Sony matching up to the industry trends sparked by New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It's not completely devoid of fun, but it is full of missed opportunity. The repetitive experience will only be tolerable in short bursts and once it's completed its unlikely it will ever elicit a second playthrough.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

10/21/2011 at 01:12 PM

Honestly, I thought it was going to be a lower score!

Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/21/2011 at 02:46 PM

I still think it deserves a lower score. I've never played a game that was devoid of fun at multiplayer. Generally, the idea I've always seen executed was something along the lines of "terrible game + extra players = fun." That's just how co-op works. You bring someone else into the living room with you, and things become more fun.

This game breaks that rule. Adding extra players doesn't increase the fun. My time playing the game with Chris was nothing anywhere close to sensational, and it actually felt very similar to my time playing single player later on. The only difference? I didn't have to rush to break open the hundreds of hundreds of boxes all over the stages to get more bolts.

As far as I can collect, it looks like players are randomly booted from online sometimes, which is what seems to have happened to me. I was playing alone in a game I was hosting, in case any other PixlBit staff popped online and wanted to play. Twice, I was booted out, losing major chunks of progress.

Anyway, like I said, it's rare to find a game where there isn't any extra fun added in playing together, especially in the same room, but R&C All4One manages to do just that. I'd personally give it something like 2 stars, maybe more if it improved any from where I left off, but that's just me.

Nick DiMola Director

10/21/2011 at 02:55 PM

I think I'm a bit more forgiving of it because Chessa and I did have fun, albeit in small bursts. Plus, knowing and loving the characters helps make them a bit more tolerable here.

To quote our review policy for a 3 star game: "This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most."

That really reflects exactly how I feel about the game.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/21/2011 at 09:46 PM

"Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience."

In my book, it resembles this more. The lack of a real, genuine feeling of co-op or even counter-op tactics with multiplayer shows that there were some good ideas there. The variety of guns that all kind of don't work well, and the ineffective, difficult weapon wheel are good ideas, but the execution is poor. And of course, the glitches I've experienced? Poor execution.

I'd say it's fair to agree to disagree. I would imagine it does help to be familiar with the Ratchet & Clank series, and knowing the characters and world, being introduced to them as intended, would probably help me better value the events and characters in the game, as well. One thing is for sure: We both were disappointed by this game, and were really hoping it would be a lot more for a few basic reasons.

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