I love the Ratchet and Clank series. They are games that have gone from strength to strength over the years. I love the upgrading system, and the seemingly innocent double entendres. And I love the fact you can play them over and over again, tricking out a mighty array of weaponry until you own the galaxy. Unfortunately, the series’ latest incarnation, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, doesn’t have much of any of that. All 4 One portrays Ratchet in a slightly more family-friendly light than we are used to, and places a great deal more focus on multiplayer gaming. And although the multi-player is fun for a while, a seriously depleted range of weaponry means the days of upping your arsenal and being locked and loaded are well and truly over.
The game starts off as Ratchet and Clank escort Galactic President Qwark to an ‘award ceremony’ which is in fact a trap set up by recurring super-villain, Dr. Nefarious. Standard fare, you’d say, until another double-cross means the unlikely foursome must work together to uncover a sinister plot to save the galaxy, restore peace, free the enslaved, and so on. The story is good – Insomniac have been doing this for years and they know what works. The script isn’t packed with as many dirty jokes as usual, but some cutesy characters and exceptionally lush graphics will make even the most hard-nosed Modern Warfare fan crack a smile.
What won’t be bringing a smile to the lips of old-school Ratchet fans is the lack of upgrades. In previous instalments, if you used a gun enough, it upgraded and upgraded until it became a monstrosity Arnie would have been proud to jam in his holster. In All 4 One, each gun has three upgrades – an ammo upgrade, a power upgrade, and a final upgrade to the elite version of the weapon. These are all purchased with bolts, which takes away the upgrade system many of us have come to love. And with such a limited number of weapons to begin with, players tend to default to the biggest weapon they have and spam that until it goes click – entirely defeating the purpose of having an arsenal in the first place.
In another new approach for the series, you don’t get a ship. There is no travelling between planets, so the game is entirely linear. But for some reason I didn’t mind this – it was actually quite a cool throwback to platformers of the past, sort of like Mario Bros. meets Crash Bandicoot, in space. You progress seamlessly from area to area, completing set tasks and doing what Ratchet (or Clank, or Qwark, or Nefarious) does best. Segments are separated by cinematic sequences that are as entertaining and well-written as ever, so the story chugs along without getting too monotonous. It’s not the longest game in the world – I finished the main story in about six hours, but unlocking extras, collecting bonuses and completing the game with each of the four characters adds to that significantly.
This game wasn’t made to be played alone, and in some aspects the multi-player is extremely well done. The emphasis on teamwork and co-operation means players are required to think of new ways to solve puzzles and destroy enemies, which was a nice touch and made the multi-player option that little bit more interesting. As well as this, the four heroes (or villains, as the case may be) all play slightly differently, so playing as Ratchet is a rather different experience from lumbering around as Qwark. But unfortunately, all is not equal in the galaxy. Bolts are awarded to whichever player makes the kill or smashes the crates, so multi-player can often quickly dissolve into nothing more than a desperate scramble for bolts and upgrades. This competition does add a certain edge, but it’s possible you’ll want to batter your opponent around the head with the controller – especially if you keep being beaten to the money and have to struggle through the game with a piddly little pea-shooter while they rampage around the screen like Mad Max on crack.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this game. There are no major flaws, there’s nothing that glares out at you. Sound and visuals are strong – the explosions sound like explosions and the gigantic, remote-control super bad-ass robots look like gigantic, remote-control super bad-ass robots. Perhaps it just isn’t what I expected when I saw the words ‘Ratchet and Clank’ on the cover. It’s a slightly watered-down Ratchet, aimed more exclusively at a younger group, without the all-ages accessibility of the earlier games. I expected galactic adventure, wise-ass humour and an arsenal of weapons with which to take on the bad guys. I ended up playing a multiplayer-focused platformer with a limited selection of weaponry and toned down humour (poo jokes and all). Don’t get me wrong – I love Ratchet and Clank, and I did enjoy playing this game. It just wasn’t as good as it used to be.
Should you buy it? If you’ve got kids or a group of mates, then yes. It’s the kind of game everyone can play and enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend the single-player.