Co-op multiplayer Ratchet & Clank. The series has been consistently fantastic without it, but we’re always keen to watch a great game grow. But with co-op, we knew there would be concessions to the game we know and love. Would this sour the overall experience though? In short: no, this is still a great Ratchet game, even as a single-player experience.
If you’d prefer to play through the game alone (also the best way to build up your arsenal), just choose a character and get going. With Ratchet, Clank, Captain Quark and Dr. Nefarious all working together against a common enemy, you can choose to play as any of the four. An AI partner follows you around to help in gunfights and co-op tasks if you’re flying solo. Co-op partners, either local or online can drop in or drop out at any time, which allows you to progress through the game as you choose.
Co-op actions usually revolve around the Vac-U gun, which is also very handy for sucking up crates of bolts. It also pulls switches or catches power orbs that can be fired into sockets. This gadget also picks up players to fire them across large gaps, before the others use a snappy tether to zip over after them. Another co-op moment involves dragging a light-emitting pod through a dark forest together; a time limit and ally-munching plants make teamwork essential here. The multi-purpose vacuum appliance can also be used to revive players. The AI partner is unpredictable; they’re either perfectly in-sync with what you want them to do, or completely brain-dead and refusing to acknowledge the task at hand. In a firefight though, they’re immensely reliable.
Vehicle sections require all players to steer. A flying taxi has players running from side to side and a large water raft needs directional steering switches to be pulled to avoid mines. Tether jumps can link up four players at once, with the bottom player having to jump off first. This is probably the most annoying co-op action in the game as it’s slow and confusing, especially when one player has no idea the rest are waiting for him to jump. At checkpoints individual bolt totals, enemies killed, etcetera are totalled up to add a competitive edge to the game. It also means that there’s a mad stampede every time crates are spotted.
The levels are very linear compared to past games and you have no control over the camera as the right stick now handles weapon selection, albeit awkwardly. Rare Gold bolts have been replaced with green Hero bolts. Planet hopping and moon exploration have been cut, but in fairness, the one planet used in the game features many varied locations that may as well be different planets. The graphics are amongst the series’ best too. There’s no way Insomniac have rushed this out for a quick buck before Overstrike. The game does feel streamlined, but not to the extent that Ratchet: Gladiator was on the PS2.
Weapon selection is as good as ever, with standard blasters and rockets supported by a large upgradable selection that includes flamethrowers, mobile thunderstorms and the Critter Strike, a very powerful ray that turns targets into wild animals. If players choose the same weapon for one target, the effects are magnified, eventually resulting in a wide explosion. Playing solo, your AI partner is very good at this, playing with four players is a little more difficult to synchronise. With no direct aiming control, an auto-lock takes care of you most of the time, although it often favours background enemies over the ones trying to shock-baton your face off.
I generally found that playing the game with one other player, online or locally, was a smoother experience. Four players sharing a screen against a small army, amongst a storm of lasers, explosions, bolts, flying boars and disintegrating platforms can feel like sensory overload. Calmer sections like 4-player turret shootouts on the back of a giant guardian mech are sweet with larger teams though. As with most online games, a few bugs appear such as players getting stuck in scenery or switches breaking. If the next game keeps co-op we’d like to see players get their own screen, free movement and regular aiming again.
“Pain! My Achilles Heel” – Captain Quark
The trademark humour of the series is ever-present in the script. It’s not just the interplay between the characters. The Glados-esque security system in one level scolds you for mindlessly destroying harmless server bots for bolts, “They have names you know. You just destroyed Carl.”
Overall though, Captain Quark and Dr. Nefarious steal the show. They’ve never had their names on the front cover, but they’re the life and soul compared to Ratchet & Clank. Quark with his desperation to be admired, despite his blatant cowardly nature and Dr Nefarious just wanting to kill him and his fellow ‘squishies’ throughout.
- Great gameplay, although different to the series norm
- Script and characters are brilliant as per usual
- Co-op works
- Lack of exploration
- Everyone locked to one screen
- Weapon lock-on can be a jerk
On your own, you’ll be able to power through the game in a couple of days, but playing again with the other characters should keep you going for a while, along with ticking off the Skill-points list. Get involved with the co-op though and you’ll discover an experience different to the usual R&C experience, and an enjoyable one at that. The lack of exploration opportunities will be missed by series fans as the solo experience pales compared to the mighty A Crack in Time, but looking at the complete lack of competition, All 4 One is still the best of its class for 2011.