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Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One Preview

The Ratchet and Clank games are a long running series which originated during the early days of the PlayStation 2.  This month, the latest entry is due out on PS3.  

All4Ones heros in aw of.. something?A sequel to a popular series? I'm in awe as well!

After four releases on PS2 and three on PS3, Insomniac Games is handing over the latest entry in the series, entitled All 4 One, to its secondary studio which was foundered a few years ago.  While the primary Insomniac team is busy working on its cross-platform title Overstrike, it will be interesting to see if their newer team can meet the high bar of quality that has been set by the main studio for many years since its first release.  In all honesty, I was pretty burnt out on Ratchet and Clank after the last game and although I have been a fan since the original and own every one of them (save for the PSP releases), I didn’t think I would be interested in another and after hearing that a new studio is working on it, I initially thought this was a good reason to move on from the series.

But gosh darn it, All 4 One looks so fun!  While the original gameplay videos showed a much slower paced game with a massive emphasis on co-op that I wasn’t really liking, the latest videos demonstrate the single player campaign and somehow it just looks much faster and more close to what I know and love about RnC.  Now I’m all excited once again.  So much so that I decided to review it in two weeks.  Who knows?  I might end up liking the co-op even more than single player, as one would hope, since the game is built around it.

Returning characters are, of course, our furry hero Ratchet and his robotic sidekick Clank, but along with them is Captain Qwark, who despite also being in every past title has only just become playable.  A series randomly reappearing bad guy, Dr Nepharious joins them.  He isn’t the big threat this time, but rather is forced to join the other three on their adventure.  Details on the story are sketchy at best for now, but it seems they've been captured and will need to work together to survive the onslaught of puzzles and combat challenges that await them, no doubt perpetrated by some crazy villain we will meet in the game at some stage.  Considering there have been quite a few over the series' many titles ,it could be anyone from the evil TV show host of Deadlocked to Percival Tachion, the antagonist of Tools of Destruction, who’s species was wiped out by Ratchet’s shortly before they made their home in another galaxy.  Or someone new perhaps has a bone to pick with them.

team work is key in all4one's co-op
Crazy weapons are the best part of RnC

Even if the story turns out a bit lackluster, what really matters with these games is the gameplay.  The fast, frenetic, arcadey action-platforming is what I play them for and it really sucks that so few titles in this genre get made anymore, except for low budget, indie or rushed shovelware.   My expectations for Ratchet and Clank games are now quite high, especially since the core formula hasn’t changed across seven releases.  Adding full campaign co-op is the first time the series has really stepped outside its established mould, so it could very well make or break All 4 One.

The big selling point of the games has always been the arsenal of absurd and quite often hilarious weapons.  You get your standard rocket launcher, rifle and shotgun equivalents for sure, but there are also ray guns that turn enemies in to animals and the Groovitron, which makes everything on screen start dancing while you load another few warheads into your R.Y.N.O gun.  Now with four player co-op, All 4 One boasts not only the standard expected weapons and gadgets, but also those that are unique to the multiplayer experience, including energy beams that get more powerful if you work together Ghostbusters style, and items that only function if everyone is paying attention.  The game world itself is designed similarly, with floor buttons and swinghooks that everyone needs to activate at the same time.

Now, many cynical or jaded gamers will often look at these games and assume they are purely for children due to their aesthetics alone, but this couldn't be farther from the truth.  Like many cartoons from the 90s and films made by studios such as Pixar, they are littered with humor and concepts very few kids would pick up on and clearly aimed at an older audience.  While you can't expect RnC to have the gritty realism of a shooter or the blood and gore of a typical hack 'n slash, these games have always treated the player with respect and assume they aren't a drooling simpleton like so many aimed at general audiences do and I really admire Insomniac for doing so. There’s no reason a game suitable for a child can't be challenging and complex and there’s no reason an adult can't enjoy a bit of good silly fun.  It has always seemed odd to me that Sony hasn't put more marketing behind these fantastic games in the past or trumped the series as one of the big reasons to buy a PlayStation, but that's another topic entirely.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is out on the 18th of October in North America and the 20th in Europe and Australia. 


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