Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One (PS3)
In the world of video games few developers achieve success over a long period of time however Insomiac Games is one of the few who have managed this. Not only have they managed to stand the test of time though, they have actually done so while developing multiple successful gaming franchises, beginning with Spyro The Dragon in 1998 and more recently releasing the third Resistance game. Sandwiched between the first few Spyro games and the first Resistance was Ratchet and Clank on the PlayStation 2, a game which has averaged 88% on Metacritic and with the games which have followed scores have remained high.
Now Insomniac are back with the latest in the Ratchet and Clank series, All 4 One which brings with it a focus on co-op play with up to four players taking control of some key characters from past games.
The core gameplay in All 4 One is platform based with a fixed camera and as the game begins we start with an option to choose which character we play with. Online and offline modes are available and as noted above this title is very much about co-op with players able to drop in and out as required.
As the game takes place after A Crack in Time
it will come as no surprise to those familiar with the series that the two playable characters in addition to Ratchet and Clank are Captain (President) Qwark and Doctor Nefarious. Each plays in a similar way however the main story very much focuses around Ratchet who has more dialogue than the others as the story progresses.
Speaking of the story, at the start of this game we find that Nefarious is back and plans to finish off Ratchet, Clank and Qwark once and for all... unfortunately though his plan goes awry and our four characters become trapped by The Creature Collector and must work together in order to escape.
Control of the characters is via the standard left stick to move, X to jump (twice to go higher) and R1 to shoot. Various other button combinations activate more complex commands such as holding L1 and R1 to lock and shoot. We can select the weapon in use with the right stick, triangle uses our slingshot and circle is assigned to special use, the Vac-U which allows us to collect creatures or suck/blow various characters and items to assist in basic puzzle solving.
Other than advancing the story through game progression the other key elements to All 4 One are the need to collect bolts as we progress, these are the games currency and allow us to buy new weapons or add-ons and as is the norm in recent games we gain trophies for performing different tasks. Use the plasma weapon to take out multiple groups of robots in quick succession for example and a trophy comes our way.
Graphics and Audio
Overall Insomniac have the graphical tone of the latest Ratchet and Clank game spot on. The game is very much built around bright environments and large, sprawling levels. The view distance is good with no significant pop-up and often there is plenty going on at distance which gives the impression of a busy world going on around us. The real success in the game is however the cut scenes which offer a level of animation which is very impressive.
Sound wise the voice acting is good, especially from Jim Ward who voices Quark, and the game very much benefits from the quality on-going commentary from various NPCs as the game progresses.
In creating a game which has a heavy focus on online (and offline) co-op Insomniac games were very much in danger of alienating a large part of their core audience for this franchise. Thankfully though the decision wasn't taken to go co-op only and it is perfectly possible to play through the game in single player mode though choosing Ratchet is recommended as the script is very much written around him (and Clank who is controlled by the console as a co-op character when gaming alone). The only time we are dragged out of the single player feel is in the cut scenes where the other two characters appear, as if they have been playing along with us, to progress the plot.
It is these cut scenes which are one of the best aspects of the game as the quality of voice acting, script and animation is at its best during these. A younger audience will no doubt appreciate these sections, especially as we get little glimpses of Disney and Pixar esq characters along the way. That said there is still plenty of humour for older players too and most of this comes in the form of the commentary throughout the levels for example the newscasters who voice over the opening level or our robotic trainer in the early stages of the Creature Collectors complex.
While looking and sounding great All 4 One is a very simple game to pick up and play and the difficulty curve pretty much spot. Helpful on-screen icons give us an idea of the actions required, again a nod to help younger gamers, and there are plenty of save points along the way.
Not everything is perfect though as it is fair to say that the game is a little on the easy side, something which will disappoint seasoned R+C players. There are also a few bugs still to be worked out, one of which lost us an hour's worth of gameplay due to exiting during a cut-scene rather than letting it play out, and the camera method doesn't quite feel natural... as if we should have more control over it such as the ability to twist the view around.
In making a co-op heavy game Insomniac have had to make the game as accessible as possible for novice gamers. The result is an enjoyable platformer which plays out very much as an interactive cartoon. High quality cut scenes will appeal to younger gamers and the more subtle humour is there for adults. 83%