If it’s been a while since you’ve played a Ratchet and Clank title, like me, you’ll find Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One the perfect jump off point to become reacquainted with this franchise.
From the beginning you’ll be immediately brought up to speed with all the major players, namely Ratchet and Clank, the dynamic duo of mechanically inclined Lombax (think a biped cat and you’re on the right track) and his sentient mechanical pal, their buddy Qwark – a deranged former superhero (and I use that term loosely) now a mayor desperate to boost his approval rating with his constituents – and their antagonist and foil, the insidious Dr. Nefarious.
When – surprise surprise – one of Dr. Nefarious’ err… nefarious schemes to end Ratchet and Clank and to a lesser extent Qwark’s existence backfires stupendously, these four former adversaries must now reluctantly work together against a common threat. Captured and unceremoniously dumped on the planet Magnus, this quartet must bury the hatchet of animosity to unleash their formidable arsenal against all manner of diabolical creatures and mechanical minion monstrosities to uncover the fiend behind their foul kidnapping and band together to defeat him.
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a departure from the more traditional platforming design its previous incarnations have followed. Rather than moving about freely in a 3D environment, you will work in tandem with up to three likeminded buddies in four player drop in-drop out co-op or seize the day on your lonesome with an AI controlled Ratchet watching your back. The camera is now in a fixed position, which works for the most part though it can be sporadically temperamental.
Graphically it has taken a slight downgrade to comfortably deal with the frantic four player addition, but it still is a beautiful looking title with fantastic lighting, inventive weapon and creature designs that suitably mirror each new arena you find yourself in.
The co-operative play brings with it its own ebb and flow, with you and your teammates working together to vanquish the seemingly never-ending onslaught of insane oddities trying to rip your face off and negotiate your way through all manner of hoists, jumps, swings and catapults, while at the same time at odds to see who can collect the most bolts, the in game currency used for upgrades, to unlock the choicest weapons.
While playing with four buddies is a rollicking good time, it does suffer from frame-rate issues when things start to heat up and get hectic, plus you have to take into account what weaponry they’ve unlocked which means if you’re significantly through the main campaign and a newbie joins you they’re more than likely to be a hindrance rather than a blessing.
The perfect combination is with a single partner watching your back who has started the game alongside you or, amazingly enough, the AI controlled Clank who performs admirably and has the same weaponry and upgrades you do. I went through the majority of the game with the AI and – with the exception of a few inexplicable moments where the little bugger seemed confused about the job at hand was – he did a bang up job.
One of the new features brought into the mix is known as Overload. Here, when you focus your fire on the same enemy with the same weapons of mass destruction an expanding circle appears until it hits a critical mass exploding and significantly damaging your opponent. It also has a much more powerful effect, making it well worth your while to take a moment to strategise and work out which is the right tool for the job and tag-team adversaries with a partner.
On that front Insomniac Games, as always, brings the goods with some incredibly inventive weaponry. As it did with the Resistance franchise, it is well and truly leading the pack with some downright off the wall things that go boom. Each weapon has three levels of upgrades, one for ammo, power and then a super charged “Elite” setting which significantly ups its firepower taking a humdrum gun to “oh my god” levels of awesome.
My personal favourites, initially, were; the Doppelbanger – which produces a loud-mouthed robot Ratchet that taunts and distracts the enemy, Mr Zarkon – a steadfast robot war machine to fight by your side that has no need of your bolts as destruction is his only reward, the Combustor – a stock standard ray-gun that morphs to a triple shot when reaching Elite status, and the Warmonger – a badass rocket launcher that decimates without prejudice. There were so many different flavours to choose from you could literally make it through to the end credits without fully utilising every death dealer in your arsenal.
It wasn’t until the second half of the game that I found the love for the Blitzer, a pair of heavy duty gloves that let you play pattycake with the competition, the Frost Cannon which makes short work of larger minions by freezing them in place for a shattering finisher and the amazing Critter Strike. This bad boy turns any behemoth into a wovable widdle cwitter who will actually attack its former allies once turned! Make sure to investigate every option thoroughly. You could find your new best friend just waiting in the wings, pleading to be brought into the mix.
It wasn’t all about jumping and blasting stuff either. Insomniac Games made sure to pepper the adventure with some absolutely necessary and welcome palate cleansers so that the gunplay always stays fresh. There are some pipe grinding sections, a memorable Moby **** styled boss battle involving waterskiing while tethered to a helpful critter’s motorboat, piloting a spaceship through an asteroid field (never tell me the odds!) and jetpacks get a look in as well.
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One was one hell of a surprise. I thought I’d have fun playing it, but didn’t think it would be this much fun. If you’re looking for something a little lighter during this bumper release schedule and dig some fast paced intergalactic action, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One has you covered.