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Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a dismal mess of failure. It ignores what makes the series great, does
a terrible job of incorporating the touted new feature and overall is
just an unrefined, repetitive and dull entry in a previously brilliant series.
Gone are all the creative and interesting weapons that these games are known for, replaced instead by a much smaller arsenal where nothing stands out and only two or three of the weapons you ultimately unlock proove useful in most circumstances. In single player, you feel like you are playing a shallow, less-compelling version of what was previously established that constantly reminds you this is a co-op game and playing solo was an afterthought on the designer’s part. You would be forgiven for thinking the co-op mode of All 4 One is the best way to play, but it isn’t, which is downright strange and shocking. Between the excessive visual clutter, randomly broken platforming, terribly unforgiving ammo and health system and a camera so useless it actually clips through the game world regularly, you would have to be a master of self-control to not go into a spiralling rage from the many different ways this game will frustrate, annoy or just plain bore you.
Take, for example, one of the many boss fights. Every single one involves little more than spamming the most powerful weapon you have and occasionally dodging out of the way of ranged attacks and sometimes using whatever gimmicky item you may have recently acquired. In one particular fight it is possible to use a jump platform that sends you into the air, allowing you to hover with a newly acquired jet-pack for a few seconds. Unfortunately, you can't seem to do anything while in the air and you will almost always land in the area around the boss that will damage you and you can only take four hits before dying. The less players you have, the higher the chance of failing from people dying, but should you have four, the utter mess of visuals from everyone jumping and dodging and shooting in the same small space makes the fights exceedingly annoying in a completely different manner.
All the main problems All 4 One has can be managed in single player to some degree, because you are only dealing with one character on screen while your AI-controlled sidekick is for the most part useful. Jump online however and even if you manage to group with people who aren’t either completely incompetent, lagging like crazy or just dropping out as soon as they jump in, you are still confronted with the problems that are increased the more players you have in your party. Keep in mind this is a title designed with co-op as the defining feature. When even single player has frame rate drops, you really have to wonder if daring to play with others is worth testing your sanity. What really pushed it too far for me was the dialogue characters say in-game, the same two-three lines repeated every 10 or 15 minutes. I love these characters, but never did I think there would be a day where I would want them all to just shut the hell up.
Perhaps I’m coming off a tad harsh, but if you go back and
play Tools of Destruction or A Crack in Time (the last two main titles in the
RnC series), the difference in quality between those games and this is jaw
dropping. It is very telling that the
non-core team at Insomniac worked on this game, because the core team would have never
allowed a product like this to ship.
The last bad Ratchet and Clank game was Deadlocked, but that was only in
comparison to the previous trilogy and at least it managed to be a well-made,
well designed, polished experience regardless of how it was received by fans.
All 4 One feels like someone walked in to a meeting about what
the next Ratchet and Clank game would be, yelled “co-op!” and then quickly walked
out, leaving those dazed and confused people who remained to say "Okay, I guess we’ll do
that and figure it out as we go”. This
does not feel like a game made by a studio with a legacy of quality products, a
studio I still greatly respect and am always excited to see what new things
they are working on. Ratchet and Clank:
All 4 One feels like a game made by business people with bad ideas who have
worked on very few titles in the past.
To say something positive however, the cinematics are at least well crafted. While light on story as always, All 4 One manages to pull off the Pixar-esc charm that comes with Insomniac's well-produced 3D animation. Characters are expressive and entertaining and the story is fun and silly, as has always been the case with these games. It is just a real shame the gameplay itself (the thing you will be spending most of your time with) just fails in every way with what past games did so well. I am not ready to write off Insomniac's new team, but as a first showing of their capabilities, this was a very poor start. I hope that whatever they make next turns out much better.