PlayStation Plus Members (and a few lucky members on our Facebook page) managed to get access to the Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One beta this past week. It's a bit odd to have a beta for a platformer, something that's typically reserved for first person shooters trying to do balance and server tweaks before launch, but All 4 One game isn't your typical platformer.
This two level beta features full four player co-op support with both online and offline play as well as a mix and match of the two. Players can choose from Ratchet, Clank, Quark or Dr. Nefarious; each character can use any of the game's weapons, but they differ in speed and basic attacks. For instance Quark is a bit slower and uses punch combos while Ratchet is balanced and attacks with a wrench.
Before jumping in to a game I was impressed with the options at your finger tips for finding a co-op match up. You can filter by which character you want to play as or exists in a game, level type, area and more. Plus you can join a session in progress when a group hits a checkpoint. If you have a game going the game will prompt you that a player would like to join which, when accepted, resets you back to the previous check point with the additonal player(s).
While the basic gameplay is pretty similar to the recent PlayStation 3 Ratchet and Clank titles, the addition of other players into the level design is really slick. The platforming elements in some cases remain the same - typical jumping and timing puzzles - but now there's the addition of being able to suck up other players into a vaccum and launch them over to otherwise impossible to reach areas. Once there you can press the triangle button to latch on to your partner and traverse the chasm yourself.
There's a few other slick co-op elements in Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One too - firing certain weapons at the same time causes them to all charge up in sync creating an impressive audio and visual explosion as you dispatch bad guys. The game is still all about picking up nuts and bolts as well by breaking objects and killing enemies. Luckily it's not a mad dash for these laying around the level - each object/enemy you destroy drops colored nuts depending on your character that only you can pick up.
One particularly fun segment was a boss battle that forced our group of four to work together in timing jumps, launching each other at a weak spot on him, and keeping each other revived when we went down. Really the only way to "lose" while playing co-op is if all four players go down at the same time, as long as one player is still alive the others will either respawn on him in a few seconds or that player can revive them if they died from losing health rather than falling off the platform.
All in all the two level beta for Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a ton of fun. There's some really clever writing and dialog, the characters have some great banter between each other, and graphically the game is looking really slick. As this is a beta, there were some technical issues to work out, but for the most part, it was a fun experience.
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is out on October 18th exclusively on the PlayStation 3 with four player local and online co-op.