Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One opens up with galactic heroes Ratchet and Clank finally hoping to retire after years of adventuring and yet again defeating long-time foe Dr. Nefarious. After foiling an assassination attempt by Nefarious against Galactic President Qwark, a Zapp Brannigan-esque superhero in green tights, all four are are abducted by a gigantic robot ship called Ephemeris and then dumped on the planet Magnus. Turns out a new villain called The Master has been collecting the universe’s most deadly creatures and is wreaking havoc on Magnus’ surface in preparation of (what else?) his own quest for galactic domination. Now it’s up to the former enemies to crush The Master’s robot armies, save the day and try not to kill each other in the process.

As an action-adventure game, All 4 One is chockfull of humor, great gameplay and fantastic visuals. You’ll be jumping through the highly detailed robot factory innards of Ephemeris, the rock and jungle environments of Magnus’ surface and beyond while smashing and blasting anything that dares get in your way, be it fire-breathing robots or giant alien squids.
While at its core All 4 One is a platformer, it also does a good job of mixing up the level design so you don’t always have the simple task of getting from one point to the next in one piece. A particularly intense section of the Deadgrove chapter has you using jetpacks to carefully navigate a mining complex full of laser beams and giant rock-splitting blades, while later on you’ll be frantically trying to guide a rubber raft through a sea-mine laden river. Boss and mini-boss fights punctuate each section, and there are so many new enemy types introduced throughout All 4 One‘s eleven chapters that any time things feel like they’re getting repetitive, you just have to play another minute or two.

A whole arsenal of weapons and gizmos help in your battle against the Master’s forces, though some of them definitely have been designed with the co-operative play in mind and may not see much use in single player. The Arc-Whip, for example, doesn’t do a whole lot of hurt on its own but is great at stunning enemies for a minute while your colleagues lay into them with more damaging weapons, like the trusty Combuster or rocket-launching Warmonger.

Each of the four characters also brings his own unique device to the party. Series hero Ratchet, for example, has the “doppelbanger”, which launches a robot decoy of himself that attracts enemy attention from everyone else on the team, which is useful when the game chucks a swarm of robots at you. Nefarious on the other hand, has a “cloaker”, which turns him invisible and lets him sneak around undetected. It’s pretty useful for getting past the one-shot kill beams of the sentry droids that show up mid-game, but it’s also great for letting your teammates get targeted first, if you’re feeling a little devious.

Your worst enemy though, will be the game’s camera. While most of the time it does a good job focusing on the action, it simply just doesn’t zoom out far enough to give everyone a good view of the area. Given how crazy and chaotic things can get with four players and a dozen enemies on screen all trying to laser each other to pieces, it can get dizzying trying to keeping track of what’s going on or who needs help. There are several parts throughout the game where you and your team will be split up by the environment, either by just taking turns making a jump over a hazard or just by being knocked around by enemies. The camera, on the other hand, won’t back up far enough to show the entire scene and players will sadly end up confused and off-screen until they can regroup. Also, God help you if you fall behind your teammates, as the camera sure won’t wait for you to catch up, causing the game to kill you if you’re too far ahead or back from the rest of the group. You respawn closer to your friends a few seconds later, but it’s seriously not a nice way to help newbies catch up to veteran players.

Another slightly nagging aspect of the game is that All 4 One needs to be played with other people to really get the most out of it. I worked through probably about half the game by myself, and the other half with a co-worker, and it’s clear that All 4 One is just plain better when played with other people. If you’re playing solo, the game will give you an AI partner that’s competent enough, but he’ll spend a good chunk of the time hanging out on your characters’ back during any lulls in the action. It was actually kind of depressing to hear my character say the same handful of one-liners over and over while jumping around the level all by his lonesome.

With other players there’s a much greater sense of camaraderie in knowing there’s another person helping you figure out puzzles and watching your back in a fight, or at least laughing with you during All 4 One’s hilarious cut scenes. There’s more of a chance to plan out a strategy for taking down a boss and for using the various weapons and gizmos designed to help fellow players to deliver the killing blow. It’s disappointing that the single player game feels lacking, even though technically it’s the exact same game either way you play it.

Despite some of its camera quirks, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is a fun, comedic game that’ll do a good job of keeping you (and your friends) playing to see what it’ll throw out next.

Bottom Line: Despite the unstable camera, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is a hilarious action-adventure with a lot of variety between the platforming, environmental puzzles and hack-and-blast action, but unless you’re a hardcore Ratchet & Clank fan, you won’t get the full experience playing it by yourself.

Recommendation: If you have some off and/or online friends to game with, you’ll all definitely enjoy playing through Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, though be wary of the blasted camera.

[rating=3.5]

Game: Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Genre: Platforming
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform(s): PS3
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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