The Ratchet and Clank series steps into the world of 4 player co-op in the newest entry, Ratchet and Clank All 4 One. The newest adventure sees our favorite Lombax and robot duo joined by the bumbling Captain Qwark and former nemesis Dr. Nefarious. The four team up to solve puzzles, help each other navigate levels, and take on wild foes. The demo I played at E3 allowed for four players locally and ran in 3D.
The first level I played was called Luminopolis. It was a night level that took place in a sprawling city. A giant monster called a Z’Grute has been unleashed on the unsuspecting metropolis and it is up to the fours heroes to take it down. Gameplay adheres to the traditional Ratchet and Clank formula of shooting and platforming. Each character shares the same arsenal of weapons but have their own melee attack and unique abilities. Since Luminopolis is one of the earlier levels in the game the selection of weaponry was limited to one blaster.
If you play alone as Ratchet, it plays like every other game in the series except the camera is pulled back a bit farther and there is no option to shoot from a first person perspective. By pressing and holding the triangle button your character will tether to his closest ally. This mechanic comes in handy to save yourself from falls and allows more than one character to travel via one swing shot. Enemies were fairly easy to deal with although some required a special slam attack to finish off accomplished by jumping then pressing the square button. The slam attack comes in handy when opening special crates, solving puzzles, and even during boss battles.
Battling the Z’Grute required gaining more elevation so rather than just platforming there were other means of getting up. There was the familiar section where Ratchet would glide on high speed rails except now the rails were wider to accommodate four characters at once. Later the heroes hopped aboard an air taxi and wove in and out of traffic by shifting their collective weight to different sides of the vehicle. We encountered the Z’Grute several times throughout the level. In one area we had to dodge the electrical charges it sent through the ground with well timed jumps while blasting it with our collective firepower. By the end of the level we were firing turrets at the Z’Grute as it climbed a skyscraper in the distance.
The other level I sampled was called N.E.S.T. This level was considerably more colorful and vibrant than the one before. It placed more of an emphasis on the co-operative aspects of the gameplay. Each character is equipped with their own special vacuum device that grants you the power of suction to help your teammates. Multiple times throughout the level either my partner or myself would have to suck the other’s character using the vacuum and shoot them across chasms onto specially marked platforms to hit switches or simply reach the other side when a normal jump would not suffice. If an ally dies in combat or from falling they are automatically reborn after a certain period of time. Using the Vacuum on a fallen comrade revives them sooner but leaves the player providing the assistance vulnerable to attack. The tool also comes in handy for shooting allies to higher elevations.
In the final boss encounter on N.E.S.T the fight was against a creature with a force field around it that protected it from our attacks. To deactivate its shields required shooting an ally into the air to perform a slam attack on two large nodes. Once the shield was down we were free to unleash our collective firepower before the shield went up again requiring us to repeat the process to bring the boss battle to an end. Shooting at the same target increases the amount of damage done to the enemy, represented by an ever expanding halo around the enemy. You earn co-op points for working together throughout the levels. At the end of each stage the team member with the overall best performance is declared the winner. Additionally, each player is awarded for their unique accomplishments during the level such as killing the most enemies or destroying the most crates.
Ratchet and Clank All 4 One has the look and feel of a genuine Ratchet game designed for four players. The visuals and animations are better than they have ever been and playing the game in 3D is a sensory delight. The controls are tight and easy to get used to. If you wish to play the game solo that option is available with the computer A.I. fulfilling the role of a teammate. Only two characters were necessary to complete the levels I sampled but it feels much more satisfying to play with a full party. Ratchet and Clank All 4 One is shaping up nicely for its release this October.