Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One Co-Op Review

11/2/2011 at 10:00 AM

We dig into the nuts and bolts of co-op play.

I’ve only casually played the past Ratchet and Clank games, so I’m a person coming into Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One with an almost clean slate. To be honest, even after it was announced to have a four player co-op mode, I never planned on picking up the game. Once the beta was released I was more than pleasantly surprised at what made up the nuts and bolts of this Ratchet and Clank title.

Obviously the big focus in All 4 One is the co-op play. Ratchet and Clank are joined by Quark, who has somehow been elected President of the Galaxy. Picture "The Tick" from the old cartoons, and you'll get the idea.  Also joining the duo is their long time nemesis, Dr. Nefarious. How these four join forces I’ll leave for you to discover for yourself, but there’s plenty of great banter between the characters both during gameplay and in the cutscenes. I definitely got a few chuckles out of the Quark’s narcissistic quips.

The great thing about these characters is that they all play completely different. Ratchet seems to be the most balanced of the four, while Clank is smaller and more agile. Quark is your slow and strong character and Nefarious, while playing a bit like Ratchet, has his own nuances. Each character contains their own upgrade path, so whatever weapons you unlock with that character are usable both online and off. Each character also has access to their own unique weapon or two. Playing online and offline is virtually identical, though online adds in a scoring system for a bit of competition at the end of sections. What Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One does really well is seamlessly blend the local and online play, so really, there’s no need to play offline.

All 4 One isn’t just an online co-op game, local players can pick up a controller at anytime and join in on the action. Sadly, one of the downfalls of the game becomes immediately noticeable when a player joins is the camera - you’ll find players fighting the edges of the screen to pick up items or kill enemies. It’s minor, but immediately noticeable if you’ve played a lot of single player. If you’re stuck going solo, the AI will join you as one other character, helping you navigate the environment and solve puzzles which often require two. Perhaps this is where Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One shines the most - just how co-op it truly is.

The Ratchet and Clank games have always been about platforming elements, and now with the addition of co-op players, there are sections that require teamwork to complete. Whether it’s sucking up a friend in a vacuum and launching him to another platform, or swinging across a map by latching onto each other in Tarzan style jungle maneuvers, teamwork is often required to progress. While these are simple examples of the puzzles presented, there are others that require players to do things like pass elements around to open doors or weigh down objects to reach new heights.

The other area in which the Ratchet and Clank games have always focused is on the shooting and zany weapons. While these make a return in All 4 One, they’ve also got an added twist - co-op shooting. Every weapon when can be combined with other players using the same weapon on the same target to increase it’s power causing it to ramp up for some devastation. Even the default pew pew blaster becomes a brutal weapon as more and more players cause it’s fire rate to rapidly increase and finally end with a satisfying explosion. Each of your weapons are unlocked at buy stations and are purchased with the nuts and bolts you collect. Unlocking a new weapon is exciting, not only for seeing what kind of havoc you can wreak, but for getting to see a slick little stylized instructional video on how to use it. Seriously, it shouldn’t be this entertaining to watch a video on how to use a gun to turn enemies into cuddly creatures.

I should also mention that most of this game is incredibly beautiful. Bright, colorful environments transcend gaming mainstays like “lava level” or “desert level.” Everything is creatively done, whether you’re in a world where gravity has created giant floating islands like something out of Avatar, or when you’re fighting your way through a futuristic city - everything is extremely eye catching and crisp. All 4 One also does a decent job of breaking up the action, mixing in things like SHMUP inspired jetpack sections as well as rail riding action sequences where you’ll need to dodge and jump while grinding like a skater.

The highlight for me is the combat. Whether you’re utilizing guns to take down enemies or using a character’s melee abilities, the combat is fast and fun. Combat culminates at several boss battles. While most are straight forward, some are a bit frustrating and lengthy.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One isn’t a very difficult game - the only way to lose if for all of the players to die at the same time. If you fall of a ledge you’ll respawn in a few seconds, and if you get knocked out, another player can suck you up in a vacuum for a revive. That said, I still felt the game was challenging at times and it managed to do that without too many cheap deaths, save for a boss battle or two.

We did run into some technical issues with the game, connection drops, lock-ups, and other random weird things happened. Such is the nature of an online game I suppose, but with a “beta” in place before launch, you would have hoped these things didn’t occur - especially since we played almost the entire time hosting online or joining online games.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One sets a new standard for co-op platformers. It really showcases team work well, is extremely approachable for both local and online co-op players, and is entertaining for both the younger kids and adults alike. Despite a few nagging issues I found myself engrossed in the game for some pretty lengthy sessions - and that’s something a lot of games have hard time doing today.