The Ratchet & Clank universe is a special place for just about every PlayStation fan, and the latest offering from Insomniac tries very hard to create a complete cooperative experience. With a rich history of imaginative environments, clever puzzles, quick and hilarious dialogue, inventive weapons, and addictive gameplay, it seemed like a perfect backdrop for a solid co-op game. All 4 One proposes to take the loneliness out of Ratchet & Clank, and instead give up to four players—online or local—a chance to live through a brand new adventure. While this translates to a more timid and basic overall package, it’s still plenty of fun to play with a group of friends, especially if those friends get the inside jokes and can accept the basic gameplay.
All 4 One sees our heroes, Ratchet and Clank, ready to retire after defeating Dr. Nefarious, but not before President Quark asks the dynamic duo to join him for his acceptance speech of the Intergalactic Tool of Justice Award. Without a big surprise, Dr. Nefarious tries to run amuck, only to be overshadowed by the game’s primary antagonist, The Collector. The game puts all four main characters together in an adventure to thwart The Collector, but it’s done in a way that isn’t all that significant or really strikingly. The story here isn’t nearly as strong as previous entries, and it’s clear that Insomniac tried hard to make All 4 One more accessible, particularly in its narrative approach.
Fans will automatically recognize the incredibly witty dialogue and cutscenes. This is especially true given all four main characters have pretty unique attitudes and off one another quite well. However, the cutscenes are lacking, and this slows down the story and makes it relatively dull. Of course, Ratchet & Clank games aren’t the best stories, but this one is quite dull.
As always, combat is blast—literally. You’ll have a good time mowing down a wide variety of baddies with familiar tools and weapons like the Warmonger and Mr. Zurkon. Combat hasn’t really changed, but there are new boost attacks you get when all players fire a single target using the same weapon, unleashing a powerful attack. Just like everything else in All 4 One, combat is a bit basic compared to previous titles. Yes, you still have plenty of weapons and tons of enemies—nearly a new enemy every few minutes—but you kill just about anything firing the same weapon throughout the entire game. All those classic weapons, and character-specific weapons, are tied to a basic system that allows you to unlock weapons redeemed by bolts. The game has a bit of a competitive side given you sort of race to get the most bolts. You even get melee weapons, but they aren’t nearly as useful as the ranged weapons. You can try to line up some interesting combos, but don’t expect anything too crazy.
All 4 One’s biggest change is the co-op gameplay, but sadly, I feel like Insomniac opted for a more basic approach rather than really inventive, or engaging activities. There are super basic puzzles that require a teammate or your whole team to perform the same function, and a bit more elaborate puzzles that make one player grab an energy ball with your vacuum—arguably the best weapon/tool in the game—and toss it to another player. You’ll use your vacuum to toss teammates to platforms you simply can’t reach with a double jump. Press a button to slingshot yourself to the other player and you have makings of some truly amusing moments. For example, you can pick up a teammate and throw them off the ledge. Perhaps another unassuming teammate sees this and thinks they need to follow this flying comrade only to soar off into the abyss.
Even though these co-op moments are funny, the overall concept of playing with friends lacks any real excitement. Outside some minor glitches, locally and online, everything works as it should. If you decide to play the game solo, which isn’t nearly as fun as playing with others, you’ll get Clank to help you out along your journey. For the most part, he works pretty well as an A.I. companion but he occasionally get in the way or gets stuck on the environment.
The game shines in two key areas: boss battles and environment. Each level is crafted extremely well, and the gameplay will vary from riding rails or killing fish, to fighting massive mechanical bosses. The bosses are once again a treat and offer some exhilarating action. You’ll likely notice some framerate issues, which is a shame considering this is when you need to see everything running smoothly. The environments you fight these big bosses in are eye-popping as usual, and the use of color and depth is terrific.
In many ways I found myself bored playing this game, and that’s saying a lot considering how much I enjoyed A Crack in Time. It gets quite repetitive, despite the varied level layout. I mostly found myself frustrated with how the game handles local co-op. The game saves characters to your specific profile, so if you have a buddy hop in and play as Ratchet while you leveled up Clank, your buddy is starting quite gimped. It’s almost like the game is begging you to play online, but couch-co-op is what we really want from All 4 One, and while it delivers, it does so with a crutch.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One makes co-op fun, but it’s not exactly what we were expecting from this rich series. Yes, the levels are designed quite well, the graphics are adorable, the banter is pretty funny, and the combat is just satisfying enough to hold our attention. But the game lacks that real co-op punch we wanted. Instead, we get a game that’s jammed with basic ideas that never truly grew to their potential. This is definitely worth picking up if you are fan of the series, or have kids and want to teach them the ways of da’ Clank, but if you are expecting a really ripe co-op experience, look elsewhere.