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Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

20:1201/11/2011Posted by Dave Stuart54 Comments

Insomniac’s pairing of an intrepid Lombax and his robotic companion is one of the few platforming franchises to successfully make the transition to the current generation of consoles. Surrounded by a sea of realistic shooters of both the third and first person varieties, the Ratchet and Clank series has stood out by sheer virtue of offering something different, and doing it very well. The previous game in the series – A Crack in Time – was a high point in the duo’s history, and yet for the follow up sees Insomniac making considerable changes. It’s a risky move, and one that doesn’t fully pay off, leaving Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One as an interesting and enjoyable game that nevertheless feels slightly out if place with its contemporaries.

The fundamental difference is hinted at in the games title, in that it has been primarily designed as a co-operative game for up to 4 players. So whilst it still contains a lengthy single player campaign, it is supposedly designed in such a way to be best enjoyed with friends, either online or locally on the sofa. Playing solo you are accompanied by an A.I controlled Clank, who is capable enough but also prone to throwing himself off of the scenery or getting muddled on some of the puzzles. Get some friends together and the fundamental experience doesn’t really change, there are no hidden areas or levels that require a certain number of players (like in LittleBigPlanet) and the enemies don’t seem to scale dependent on how many people are firing at them. Even the different playable characters available are all essentially the same, aside from each having a unique weapon, so there is no traction gained from character specific abilities. It’s as if in still requiring the game to work as a successful single player experience the team was unable to fully commit to the co-op idea, hamstringing the ways in which multiple characters could have been used to change up the existing gameplay mechanics. It also means that if you are playing by yourself or with another it can get a bit tricky in places, especially later on, largely due to the limited ammo in some of the (better) weapons and a lack of health (which doesn’t increase for the whole game, but provided one player is still alive you are able to be revived) meaning that many encounters where the game simply throws wave after wave of enemy at you is reduced to a rather tedious affair, as many enemies can take a surprising amount of punishment before they go down.

This has been an issue with Ratchet and Clank games in the past and with the bosses in particular, and it isn’t an area that has really been addressed. The variety of enemies is as impressive and creative as ever, but the method for dispatching them never changes. There are no special tactics for specific enemies, no combinations of weapons that are any more effective in any given situation, and as such it quickly devolves into you blasting away with the most effective weapons regardless of the situation. The fact that the game has dropped the previous entrants ‘upgrade as you use’ system for the weapons (upgrades are now bought at the shop) means that there is often little incentive to experiment, and as such the most ineffectual weapons are largely ignored. Whilst many of the standard weapons return (hooray for Mr Zurkon!) there isn’t much sign of the series now signature inventiveness, with only the Critter Strike (which turns your enemies into pigs given enough of a blast) really standing out. For a new Ratchet and Clank game, this is a real disappointment.

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