Insomniac's Love Letter to Platforming Fans Everywhere - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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Insomniac's Love Letter to Platforming Fans Everywhere

     If you’re anything like me, you’ve grown tired of the FPS frenzy the video game industry has fallen into. In a time where publishers market graphics and realism more than gameplay, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One comes as a breath of fresh air for everybody who’s tired of how seriously games take themselves nowadays. With hilarious writing, unrivaled voice acting, and brilliant game design, All 4 One separates itself from the pack with a cooperative adventure that includes a much-needed venture from the standard Ratchet and Clank formula.

     If you haven't played some of the older PlayStation 2 Ratchet and Clank games (make it your top priority), you might be surprised with how simple and light-hearted All 4 One's plot is. Unlike the stories from the previous PS3 Ratchet games, there really aren't any dramatic moments in the game. Rather, All 4 One remains consistently blissful from start to finish. The plot focuses much more on the relationships between the characters instead of the intense situations they’re thrown into. However, just because the story may be a bit shallower than in the previous games, doesn't mean it's any less entertaining. The innuendo-laced script is guaranteed to keep you chuckling for the duration of the game. Pair the fantastic writing with some of the best voice acting in the business, and you'll quickly forget any qualms you might have about the plot's complexity. If you go into All 4 One expecting a dramatic story, you'll definitely be disappointed. The game's light-hearted script and top-notch voice acting makes for one of the most humorous experiences you'll find in video games.

     As with any Ratchet game, zany, over-the-top weapons are a crucial part of All 4 One. Since unlocking these beautiful little diabolical machines is such a fun part of the game, I won't ruin the surprise by going into great detail here, but I can tell you that there is a huge array of weapons for you to choose from. Whether you prefer long-range or close-up, explosive or slow burning, Insomniac has included a huge variety of guns for you to fall in love with. And to accompany the wide variety of weapons, the team did a fantastic job of designing enemies around the player's arsenal. While you technically could play through the entire game using only one or two guns, the enemies are usually vulnerable to a particular type of weapon. This design ensures that players will be constantly switching guns throughout the game. However this is more of a backup plan since no gamer in their right mind would resist trying out all the different weapons to see their sweet, beautiful, destructive effects...

     With this being said, the gunplay of All 4 One has undergone a slight departure from the previous Ratchet titles. To add an extra emphasis on the cooperative gameplay, Insomniac designed each of their weapons to increase in power when used simultaneously by multiple players. While this encourages communication and cooperation between players, it can also really limit the amount of choice a player has when picking weapons. This isn't really a problem when you're playing with skillful players, but it can definitely drain the fun out of the game when your partners "force" you into choosing the same weapon over and over again. This wouldn't be a huge issue if weapon choice weren’t such a fundamental part of the gunplay. In fact, weapon choice is actually more important than aim or reflex in All 4 One. This unusual design might seem completely backwards compared to other recent shooters, but I actually really enjoyed its originality.

     But it’s the platforming segments in All 4 One that really steal the show. I’m not sure how they did it, but Insomniac found even more ways to innovate in a genre that really just boils down to a test of timing. Halfway through the game, I expected to start seeing some of the designs being recycled, but that wasn’t the case. All 4 One continuously innovates on the fundamentals of platforming without ever feeling stale or unoriginal, despite the game’s solid length. This variety is accomplished through the ingenious director-style camera. While some players may dislike the uncontrollable camera design, it’s really allowed Insomniac to experiment with interesting level design that wouldn’t be possible with a player-controlled camera. There are some truly breathtaking moments in All 4 One where the platforming transitions seamlessly between 3D and 2D design. So while the core objective of the gameplay remains the same, its presentation constantly shifts, keeping the players alert and entertained.

     But for everything Insomniac nailed in All 4 One, there are some minor issues that keep the game from reaching its full potential. The most glaring issue I have with the game is its drop-in, drop-out co-op system. While it technically does get the job done, calling it a “seamless process” would be overselling it slightly. When another player wishes to join your match, you’ll be prompted to reload the level from your last activated checkpoint in order for them to start playing. So if you accept, you’ll be forced to restart the current segment and if you decline, they’ll automatically join when you activate the next checkpoint. Mind you this isn’t a horrible design, but for a game that relies so heavily on co-op, you’d expect a cleaner, smoother experience.

     In addition to this concern, I also had a few minor complaints that I’d like to mention. First, there is entirely too much graphical bloom in All 4 One for my personal preference. The environmental and character designs are downright gorgeous, but I have a hard time appreciating them with the game’s washed-out appearance. Second, I have experienced some minor latency glitches when playing online. But since Insomniac has an excellent record of communicating with their fanbase and continually supporting their releases, I have no doubt that this problem will be addressed soon. Finally, since there are various collectables to be found in All 4 One, it would be extremely helpful if Insomniac implemented a level-by-level breakdown displaying the status of your collectables. Again, these are all minor personal preferences, but I felt it necessary to mention them as to fully evaluate the game.

     All in all, if you’re growing weary of the multitude of mature, gritty shooters out there today, do yourself a favor and pick up this refreshing cooperative platformer. With great gunplay, ingenious platforming design, and a masterful execution of co-op, there’s a little something for everyone here. Don’t mistake the “E” rating for a sign that this is a kiddy game. Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a love letter to all the platforming fans out there.

8.5 out of 10

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