Friday, May 4, 2012

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One - Not One 4 All

During our buildup to Sly 4 later this year, we have come to the last game in the Ratchet & Clank series, All 4 One, released just last year. It was in fact the release of this game that got me more into Ratchet & Clank in the first place; I had considered playing it, but decided it would be better to get more familiar with the characters first by going through all the other games, starting from the very beginning. To this moment I do not regret that decision, despite the various ups and down I came across during my experience. And now without further ado, let us dip into Ratchet's latest next-gen outing.

Some time after the events of the comic, Ratchet and Clank are escorting Galactic President Qwark to receive the Intergalactic Tool of Justice Award in Luminopolis. In actuality, it is a trap set by Dr. Nefarious as he reawakens a light-eating Z'Grute from cryosleep to devour Qwark. However, this plan backfires, causing Lawrence, Nefarious' butler, to leave his master behind. This forces Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, and Nefarious to work together in order to stop the Z'Grute. Once they succeed, the four are abducted onto a mysterious spacecraft, leading them to embark on an adventure as they learn the value of teamwork.

The story of this game may not have the same cinematic feel as the Future Trilogy, but it is engaging enough to make you want to keep playing. Some of the focus, as well as some of the comedic moments, focus on the relationship between Qwark and Dr. Nefarious, specifically how they gradually become more friendly towards each other during their journey after being bitter enemies for most of their lives. In fact, Nefarious sees plenty of character development in this game, since the titular characters try to get him to use his abilities for good rather than evil. Though he turns on the others again once the universe is saved, there is a rather touching moment after the credits where he seems to actually miss being a hero with the rest of the group.

The gameplay is as solid as ever, though this time the game is more multiplayer focused than before, to where that was the way the game was marketed. However, rather than focusing heavily on competition like most modern games do with this option, it is instead all about co-operation, which you drop in and out of at any time, online or off. As such the gunplay is more centered around this concept, where if two or more players fire with the same weapon at the same enemy, the power of the attack increases based on the number of players. While it is entirely possible to go through the campaign of the game by yourself, I found myself having a lot of fun with a second player on the couch (or futon in my case).

While this game may be all about teamwork, there are still moments of competition to be had. There are plenty of things players can do to try and outdo each other, be it bolt collecting, sucking up small creatures, or even surviving the longest, among others. This adds to the overall experience, rather than hindering it, by throwing in an incentive for parties to get to the end of the stage.

In a turn from the Future trilogy's more realistic next-gen look, All 4 One employs a more stylized art style, making it look somewhat more cartoonish than previous installments. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though, since the game world still manages to look rather impressive and detailed, as do still images used to show the past. While the character designs may be a little different than before, they still remain nice to look at and I wouldn't mind if this style was used again. The music, also as expected, is enjoyable to listen to, one of the high points being the end-of-level music, and helps to match the level or whatever mood is required in cutscenes. The voice actors, for characters both new and old, turn in solid performances for their parts, including Steve Blum as Mr. Dinkles, making the dialogue between them even more enjoyable.

Overall, I thought Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One was a good experience that would definitely appeal to the multiplayer crowd. However, if you are more of a fan of single player, you are probably more likely to enjoy the game less. On the other hand, if you are a Ratchet & Clank fan and you have not picked up this game, I would suggest at least giving it a try.

Playing the Ratchet & Clank games for the last several months has introduced me to some memorable characters and moments, and I have enjoyed it for the most part. I am aware that there is a game that was made for cell phones, Ratchet & Clank: Going Mobile, but I haven't had a chance to play it because, as far as I know, I do not have any way to access it. Regardless, I would consider myself a Ratchet & Clank fan and I can't wait to see what Insomniac does next with the franchise.

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