Review: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One (PS3)

Title: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (13.7 GB)
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Publisher: Insomniac Games
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The Blu-ray disc version was used for this review.

The Ratchet and Clank franchise has been a staple of gaming for me throughout the life-cycle of the PlayStation 2 and well into the PlayStation 3.  Time and again Insomniac Games has developed stories and environments that have consistently challenged me while, at the same time, kept me smiling all the while.  Over the years the characters have reserved a special place in my heart and I always get a warm feeling inside when I begin hearing faint rumblings of yet another adventure on the horizon.

With 2009”s A Crack in Time gamers were given the opportunity to wrap their heads around some incredibly interesting time-bending puzzles on top of the expected – and well established – solid 3rd person shooting and platforming mechanics.  While R & C have always been know and loved for their interesting and over-the-top weapon selection, A Crack in Time was able to mix things up even further and propel the series to the top of my most beloved gaming memories.

When rumors began to surface about Insomniac changing the game yet again with the potential of 4-player co-op my mind began to race.  How would they pull this off?  Would it be some sort of additional gameplay, ala horde mode?  Would the gaming be relegated to online only or would it accommodate for 4-player couch co-op?  How accessible would it be for newcomers to the Ratchet and Clank universe?  Most importantly, would it be fun?

After getting my hands on the early beta I was intrigued, yet strangely hesitant as even more questions surfaced.  Getting my hands on the finished product . . . well . . . that’s an entirely different story.

Gameplay:
After a brief introductory story-setting cut-scene that explains how Qwark has – somehow, inconceivably – obtained the status of President, we’re dropped right into the action of saving the Universe yet again. Right up front we’re given the opportunity to select one of 4 playable characters: Ratchet, Clank, Dr. Nefarious or Qwark.

The story is broken into unlockable locations – and segments within those locations – that allow for a nice opportunity to save the game and change characters without being forced to start the entire game over from the beginning.  This game design also provides for a nice opportunity for a drop-in/drop-out co-op type experience.  However, the level of experience gained by one character is not carried over to the others so you’re better offer playing through the entire game with the same character.  In addition, not all weapons are available for purchase by all of the same characters.  For example, Dr. Nefarious can make claim to the Cloaker – allowing him to turn invisible and move behind enemy lines for a Nefarious-like sneak attack.  For this reason alone All 4 One has a tremendously high replay value in that you’ll want to experience each character’s abilities.

For the first time in Ratchet and Clank history (that I know of) you have the ability to heal your partners when needed.  It makes for a great way to extend some of the more precarious boss battles before being wiped out.  However, if all players go down for the count at roughly the same time it will prompt starting things over from the last save point.  Thankfully, All 4 One is nicely stocked with save points so you’re never forced to replay too much of the previous level.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ratchet and Clank game without a formidable arsenal and All 4 One does not disappoint.  Back are the standard weapons of mass destruction as well as the ability to upgrade their overall power.  As was previously mentioned, each character you select also has their own unique set of weapons and gadgets to choose from.  On top of all that, All 4 One adds the Vac-U 4000 – the most notable improvement and the very reason why co-op works so well.  It is a multipurpose gadget that does exactly what it says – it sucks.  It sucks up bolts, critters and even other players.  The latter is the most important in that you can then launch them to predetermined landing points across gaps and onto otherwise unreachable platforms.  It is also the means by which co-op players are healed.  It works incredibly well and is a welcome addition to an already established set of Ratchet and Clank gameplay mechanics.

Visuals:
The Ratchet and Clank games have always been known for top quality visuals and All 4 One lives up to expectations.  Still, what I noticed almost immediately following the intro cut-scene was that the usually vibrant in-game colors came across as somewhat washed-out, saturated and less intense as what we’ve all come to love and know.  After bumping up the brightness levels within the game options I realized that there was no change and accepted it as a fact of how the game was developed.  Perhaps it was due to the consistent wide-screen view and further away camera angle which allowed for a full perspective of the action.  Either way this is a very (VERY) minor criticism of All 4 One’s visuals.

Where the colors may not have been up to par the option to play the game in 3D displays a quality that has yet to be matched by any other 3D game I’ve played.  Based on previous 3D gaming experiences with the likes of Killzone 3, Resistance 3, SOCOM 4 and Motorstorm Apocalypse, Ratchet and Clank All 4 One is the definitive sample of what 3D gaming should be like.  To say it is impressive is truly an understatement.  It is more than a gimmick and is probably the first 3D game that has truly enhanced my overall experience.  If at all possible, All 4 One should be played entirely with this setting on.


Audio:
There doesn’t seem to be anything new in terms of audio representation for All 4 One . . .  but that’s a good thing.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  Back are all the same voice actors that I have come to love over the years.  Where prior titles were limited with those great interactive moments between our 4 main characters, All 4 One allows for the opportunity to have that great banter between them from start to finish.

As a part of my review for A Crack in Time I commented on how much I enjoyed Qwark’s appearance but how sad I was to see him leave the game so soon.  Now, I have the opportunity to enjoy the entire game with him as my chosen playable character; and with it comes all of his laugh-out-loud comments.

It’s here that All 4 One continues to shine.  Because the 4 protagonists are so varied in personality we get to experience them as much or as little as we would like.  It’s reminiscent of the success of Seinfeld for all those many years.  The show was nothing short of ensemble perfection.  Individually, the characters were fun to watch but, as a group, it was incredible.  The same can be said about this latest Ratchet and Clank adventure.  The writing and voice-overs are a real treat.

Online/Multiplayer:
Where the single player campaign matches you up with a more than competent AI partner, playing the game in an actual co-op mode is really when All 4 One is at its best.  Because I was playing an advanced copy of the game the online co-op was not much of an option for me.  Instead, I spent several fun-filled 3D hours with my 12-year-old son – working together and, occasionally, against one another.

At the end of each segment the scores are tallied up for each player based on the number of bolts collected, critters acquired, number of kills and how well you played co-op.  The “winner” of each segment is awarded the distinguished honor before moving on to the next chapter of the game.

Because weapons and upgrades are purchased based on the available number of bolts collected from each chapter it behooves each player to gather the most amount by any means necessary – whether that’s by sharing nicely or stabbing your partner in the back.  Although playing “dirty” can be good fun (paybacks truly are a bitch) it may effect your final ranking as it lowers your overall co-op accomplishments.  It’s a finely-tuned double-edged sword and the developers at Insomniac Games made certain to always keep this in the back of your mind as you play.

I felt my time spent playing couch co-op . . . er . . .  cooperatively provided for a deeper sense of accomplishment.  Whether swinging from each others electric tether or “overloading” the bigger enemies (agreeing on the same weapon against the same target to bring ‘em down quicker and harder – the end result is an incredible slow-mo 3D HD bonanza), All 4 One has taken the concept of co-op to an entirely new level.  Gone are the days that simply reviving a downed partner is the basis for good co-op.  No, my friends.  Insomniac Games has raised that bar – finally – to a level that should make all fans of true co-op games grin and giggle like little children.

Conclusion:
I’ve written a good number of reviews since my time with PS Nation began and I can honestly say that this has been the easiest of them all to write.  Ratchet and Clank All 4 One is a no-brainer!  It is a family-friendly game in a world filled with Mature-rated titles.  The gameplay is solid and fun as a single player and is absolutely brilliant when you start adding more players into the mix.  The characters’ comments can be laugh out loud and the addition of 3D is downright staggering.  Even though I was mildly surprised by the slightly downgraded in-game colors this game is just shy of perfect.  Buy this game for yourself and play it with your friends and family – you won’t be disappointed.

Score:
9.0

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Written by Bill Braun

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  • Raj S.M.

    Great review buddy :)
    That whole end-of-level review thing sounds pretty good, especially when playing with kids; they’d constantly be striving to get more and more bolts. I like when co-op games also have competitive element like that, mixes things up well.
    I hope it doesn’t suffer in sales because of Batman, although I suspect it will. I’m sure it will get the critical reception it deserves though.
    Anyway, just another one to add to the list for me – I think I’m running out of paper at this point. So many games, so little time…

  • Anonymous

    I had to read this but didn’t want to because I was a bit worried about the result. Your intro scared me because it’s written like one of those melancholy “remember the good ole’ days? well it’s past its prime”.  In fact the whole review seemed to have this undertone of disappointment.  I was happy to see an A grading at the end but the review never built to it (in tone) so the A seems less shiny.  I mean with an A game the review should be screaming “buy it!”  Now don’t get me wrong, I do plan on buying (tonight in fact) I just wanted to give some friendly observations.  And I’m hella glad to see this website getting so much content now.  Cudos!!

    • Anonymous

      I appreciate the feedback and will keep it in mind for future reviews.  I guess I thought I was pretty positive and upbeat about the game without trying to sound overly gushing and in love with it.  I was trying to remain objective about the game even though I truly did love it.

      Thanks again!

      • Anonymous

        It’s a game review by a gamer.  You don’t need to be objective at all.  Gush all you want, be excited to tell us about the latest game you love :)  Thanks for taking the time to respond as well!

  • http://twitter.com/devilzrule27 Cory Bartell

    How’s the story in the game? From what I’ve been hearing it’s kind of an afterthought, which makes me sad. The Ratchet series has always had a fun quirky story. I’ll still eventually pick this up but probably in the bargain bin down the road unlike the other R&C games which were day one purchases. 

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately the story was mostly an afterthought but the co-op gameplay was so strong in my opinion that I didn’t really care all that much.

      • http://twitter.com/devilzrule27 Cory Bartell

        Oh well. I’ll still get it eventually. None of my friends on PSN are Ratchet fans and the one person close to where I live who would play has went away to college so I would be playing this game by myself. And without a good story I could see myself getting bored quickly. 

        Also I hope this isn’t the end of the R&C series by Insomniac but with them going multiplatform I fear this may be what they are going out with. Hell I’d take more downloadable games like Quest for Booty from them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pau-Pablo/100000383207724 Pau Pablo

          Great review, I was a bit worried that the gameplay was modified to “fit” the multiplayer mode but I’m glad that the gameplay is as fun as any previous Ratchet and Clank (or better).
          Let me know if you want to play co-op online (emiru69) on the ps3

  • Anonymous

    I knew it was going to get an A. Probably one of the best game franchises that I have ever played.

  • Rey Barrera

    I freakin LOVE this game.  I played it with my fiance and son last night.  We had such a blast.  Co-op works so well and encourages insane hilarity, and then you have the friendly competition.  The last time I had fun in a co-op game like this was the OLD Zelda Four Swords on Game Cube.

    • Anonymous

      I will say that the more players on screen the more chaotic things become and the harder it is for me to keep track of everything.  I’ve had a chance to play the online co-op up to 4 players and it was crazy there was so much going on at once.  I think, for me, the sweet spot has been 2 players.  Although, I haven’t had a chance to try just 3 yet.

    • http://techmansworld.blogspot.com/ncr Michael Hazell

      I agree. This game is amazing.