I recently finished playing my second PS3 game, another “Ratchet and Clank” game, this one called “All 4 One”. I heard some bad things about it before buying it, but I did it anyway because I have an unhealthy need to play games with Dr. Nefarious in it. While I did actually like the game in the end, there are some problems with it. It’s going to sound like I hate the game, but I don’t. I do dislike certain things about it, though.
And so I feel an obligation to society to discuss this game in much greater depth than necessary. First of all, I must mention the most important change to the game. This game is meant to be played with multiple people, which I think is the reason for many of the other changes. It also includes a team of characters that shouldn’t really be together, which feels forced in simply because Insomniac wanted those characters to be playable.
Anyway, when the game starts, Dr. Nefarious shows up and unleashes some big beastie called a Z’Grute on the city of Luminopolis, but it gets out of his control and turns on him (and his butler Lawrence quits and runs off, which is really just for the sake of what comes next), and this is where our forced multiplayer comes in. Not only do the good characters of Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark have to stop it (which makes sense), but Nefarious, too, and there we have our mandatory four playable characters (Why is four always the magic multiplayer number?). After our unlikely team stops the Z’Grute, some big machine comes, and then they all wake up and find they were kidnapped and brought to some strange planet far away. Here, they must uncover the evil force behind the giant structure called Ephemeris (I want to name a pet that) and save the planet (and perhaps the universe…).
As I said, parts of the game seemed forced. Maybe I’m just picky, but that’s how it seemed to me. They wanted people to be able to play as the three good characters and as Nefarious, and while I like being able to play as my favorite evil robot (which is the character I played as the entire game, of course), having him working alongside the good characters doesn’t quite work sometimes. Under normal circumstances, he would never do that. Why didn’t he just leave and let the Z’Grute destroy the city? Why bother to stop it? And even if somehow he did end up on that planet with everyone else, Lawrence would’ve come and rescued Nefarious as he had done in the past. Insomniac knew that, and so they had Lawrence quit, though I think they gave him insufficient reason to do so. If Lawrence put up with Dr. Nefarious (who, to put it lightly, isn’t easy to work with) all these years, I don’t see why he’d just quit because of some monster. Perhaps he’d run, even though I’ve never seen Lawrence flee from danger before (though maybe it’s because he has short legs), but I don’t see why he’d quit. Especially since I’ve always found Lawrence to be surprisingly loyal to Dr. Nefarious until now. It seems out of character, and it bothers me to no end. Like I said, though, perhaps I’m nitpicking. I am a duck, after all.
But anyway, on to the gameplay. As I said, you can play as one of the four characters. If you play alone, then you have another character with you controlled by a computer. Usually this character is Clank, but if you’re Clank, it’s Qwark. They like to emphasize teamwork in this game, which is sometimes done well and sometimes isn’t. If multiple characters shoot at the same target with the same weapon, more damage is done. Sometimes they must work together to hit several switches. Sometimes they toss things to each other. No complaints there, really. Sometimes you all must simply press the triangle button at a platform to make it move. This part is lacking in imagination, I think. But, overall, I guess this aspect of the game is usually fine.
Except when the computer character doesn’t behave himself. Usually my little Clank sidekick knows what to do (which I find adorable), and sometimes he’s an idiot. Which I would’ve expected from Qwark. He gets stuck places. I throw him across a gap in order to use my Swingshot on him to get where he is, but he jumps back to me, and we both fall to our dooms. He refuses to toss things to me, as I stand there waiting for the item like an idiot. He disappeared for a bit during the final boss battle. Don’t know where he went. Maybe I can only expect so much from an AI, but it can be frustrating.
Anyway, there is a decent variety of weapons you can use, like usual (but getting more ammo is much easier now, as you just stand on this thing and get it all back for free, which works out for cheap people like myself). Mr. Zurkon makes a comeback, and there’s a rocket launcher and a weapon that turns enemies into piggies, to name a few. There are also gadgets, like the Swingshot, as I mentioned somewhat before. There is also this silly vacuum for doing a variety of things, like throwing objects (or Clank) somewhere, activating weird switches, moving things, and, well, sucking up little animals (which seems mean, but I guess they’re okay). I guess the vacuum is pretty useful and everything, but I find it out of place. Just as I find the cutesy little animals everywhere rather odd. And the fact that I’m sucking them into a vacuum. I’m not quite sure what they were thinking here.
Something a bit disappointing in this game is that it is all very linear, with a fixed camera position that can get a little annoying. This camera is quite controlling, and sometimes it just won’t let me go where I want, even if I want to backtrack just a little. Come on, let me go back and get the ammo I passed! Come on! The game also takes place on one single planet (with the exception of the very first level), unlike a bunch of planets like in the other games. There is a nice variety of landscapes to make up for it, though. Places way high in the air, with views for miles. Locations by the water and places underground. Dark forests and icy areas. The graphics look quite nice, too, so these levels can be quite lovely.
Something I hate about the game are the health, the ammo, and the enemies. One, the health disappears after a short time if the box it’s in is broken, instead of staying there until you need it, like in other games. Enemies keep breaking these boxes before I need it, and then when I do need it, the health is gone. Two, I keep running out of ammo. During long battles, they just won’t give me ammo, and I run out, and then I’m helpless. Three, some battles last too long. Especially in the last couple of hours of the game, they make you fight seemingly endless groups of enemies. And these enemies take so long to kill. How can you shoot the thing with 20 grenades and 10 rockets and 150 bullets, and it just won’t stop? How? You just keep shooting them and shooting them and they just won’t die and then I run out of ammo and my health disappears before I can reach more and I hate it! It makes me a mad duck! So mad a duck I am! And why do I sometimes come back to life when I die, and sometimes I don’t? There’s no rhyme or reason to it! And if I have no ammo left whatsoever, please don’t revive me! What’s the point! Do not resuscitate me, Clank, just don’t!
I also feel it worth mentioning that this game is more childish than the other games. And a bit, well, corny. You see, throughout the game, the characters say different things, and I don’t mind much of it (such as Qwark’s, “Ammo. Stuff to kill stuff with.”), but sometimes it’s just annoying. Especially Clank’s dialogue. He is one corny, little robot. And ducks don’t like corny. We like corn, but not corny. You don’t need to apologize for shooting at your fellow robots when they’re trying to murder you. And stop telling the dumb little animals you won’t harm them, just before sucking them up into a vacuum like living pieces of dust. And please, Clank, please never comment on our teamwork ever again. Or I’ll be tempted to use the vacuum and toss you off the side of a cliff. How’s that for teamwork?
All in all, though, I do have to admit that I usually had fun playing the game, despite my whining about it and me getting homicidal thoughts about Clank. Who I do love. He knows I love him. He does. But, I don’t know why they changed things so much. And I don’t know why it’s more childish than the other games. Or why I’m vacuuming up animals. And I still will never get over Nefarious or Lawrence behaving out of character. But, I still enjoyed it. It was fun and sometimes funny (with some disturbing dialogue from Qwark…). The graphics were quite lovely, as I said before. And there was some challenge to it, if fighting nearly invincible enemies with no ammo and no health can be considered challenging. I guess it is. So game, after all I said about you, know that I still care for you. Hey, don’t look at me that way, with the sting of betrayal in your eyes. If you start crying, I’ll start crying.
All 4 Ducks