We are only a few weeks away from the release of Insomniac Games’ next installation of their popular Ratchet & Clank series. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is the first game in the franchise built from the ground up for 4-Player co-op. While Ratchet & Clank: Deadlocked did introduce co-op to the series, it was nothing like the level that All 4 One is on. We were able to get our hands on the All 4 One beta for a preview of what fans can expect in the full game this October. As this game is meant for co-op, we were able to try it out in full 4-player co-op locally, online, and even tried it out as a single player game. Without spoiling too much, this is our impression.
The beta consisted of two levels which gave us a pretty decent preview of things to come. Starting out with 4-players locally, we picked our characters (only four playable – Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, Nefarious) and set our on our adventure. The first level we tried out was Luminopolis where a monster known as the Z’Grute is destroying the city. Luminopolis acted as a bit of a tutorial for us. The other level was The Vertigus Cliffs, set in the N.E.S.T. area of the Planet Magnus. On this level we were able to get a feel for things deeper in the game. While the basic control scheme from recent Ratchet & Clank Future games are kept the same in All 4 One, you will note that there are a few huge differences. First off, this is [up to] 4-player co-op but not split-screen. With that said, the camera is fixed so that there is no over the shoulder, close-up, or zoom in features when using weapons. Everything you see is kept so that all 4 players can be seen at one time. While playing together with 4 people this is understandable, playing alone can be a bit frustrating with the camera as it is. James Stevenson, Senior Community Manager Insomniac Games, noted the reason for this on thePSBlog when he stated,
We’re focusing on the director’s style camera so we can really make the adventure seem cinematic. If you’re alone and playing online with 3 friends, the camera will bias towards you on your screen a bit, but generally we want you to be able to see you and your friends at all times.
Other than having to fight the urge to fumble around, looking for some sort of camera controls while there are none, other controls in the game are fairly straight forward. On screen prompts will even tell you what button you need to press while performing certain actions such as a jump smash, slinging across gaps with a grapple, or a co-op action that needs everyone’s input.
For fans of the series, you will be pleased to know that the weapon wheel has returned. All of your favorite weapons will make their return (including one of my favs. Mr. Zurkon YESS!) along with some new ones. There are a few problems I noted with this though. When you are playing online or with other people, you can use your weapon wheel, but don’t expect the action around to you stop or pause. You will need to make sure you are alert of your surroundings and pick a weapon quickly, especially when in a battle. There are options for a one button change of weapons, but if you want to search for that right weapon in the wheel, my suggestion is to do that while you are in an area void of any enemies. Weapon/ammo caches can also be found in strategic locations around the maps in case you use up all of the ammo in your favorite weapons. Using up a lot of ammo can be a bit common placed for the following reason, aiming sucks. There is a sort of automatic aim feature in All 4 One, but it’s not very precise or accurate. This once again goes back to the fact that the camera is fixed and thus you can not really aim your weapons or have as much control over the direction as much as you would like.
Overall, the 4-player local experience was fun although there were a few quirks. One thing that I really appreciated in All 4 One was this: In video games, there are co-op games where you can just play together, then there are games where you really have to work together. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is the latter of the two. If you are playing this game with other people, make sure that you have people who can work as a team, or you will ultimately fail. Just about every challenge requires the whole team to work together. For example, in Luminopolis, you will find yourself on a transport system flying you through the city. At one point in this sequence you will have to work together to shift your weight in the vehicle so as to avoid different obstacles present in your path. Just one person out of the 4 can cause you to lose this (as we found out). Other areas all around the game require this kind of teamwork. You will need to put your faith in your co-op partners as they launch you across gaps or grapple on to you. If things aren’t done properly, you can easily be launched off of a cliff or dragged down into an abyss to your death. So real co-op is vital in this game.
As a local 4-player game we found very few problems. Online, the experience was generally the same, however some connection issues did present some unpleasantries. Hopefully this will be resolved in the final retail version of the game. Now what about single player experience? Lets face it, it’s not all the time we can or want to play with other people. The single player experience played pretty much the same as with other people. Although you are playing single player, it is still a co-op game and with that fact in place, you are provided with an AI co-op partner. If you play as any other character other than Clank, Clank will be your co-op partner, if you play as Clank, Qwark will be your co-op partner. The AI was pretty responsive to my actions and the necessary actions throughout the levels. It seems that the game will play well as both a co-op and single player game.
We are looking forward to the full release of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One when it releases in North America on October 18th. While I doubt there will be many changes as to the camera and aiming which were really the biggest problems in the game, we are looking forward to the improvements that do come. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One seems like it will provide a pretty fun experience for fans of the series, keeping the general elements of the series intact with the weapon wheel, humor, action, and collection of bolts. At the same time, this will likely provide a fresh experience because players can now work and play together for the first time in a 4 player co-op situation.
I understand that this impression was a bit vague and sketchy on details. That was done intentionally as this is only a beta and should not be assumed to represent the final product of the game. We will hopefully have a full review of the game up soon after launch. So keep your eye out for Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One when it hits stores October 18th. A demo is also set to be released (also full game trial for PS+ members) around that same time.