Ratchet & Clank All 4 One Beta Impressions
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2011-09-15 PS3 Action/Platform E10 (Everyone 10+) Insomniac / SCEA

Even as a long-time fan of the Ratchet & Clank series, I have to admit that I never once asked for a multiplayer-focused experience in the franchise. While this isn't the first time that a predominantly single-player experience has branched heavily into the world of online multiplayer, it also isn't the first time that the resulting multiplayer experience has left me wanting a bit more... or just to play by myself.

In the Ratchet & Clank All 4 One beta, we're given two lengthy stages to test out the online co-op, which supports up to four players. You can choose to control a cast of series regulars: Nefarious, Captain Qwark and of course Ratchet and Clank, and can then choose between the metropolis level of Luminopolis and the robotics factory / cliff side of N.E.S.T.

In Luminopolis, we see a massive monster by the name of Z'Grute terrorizing the city. The local news crew serves as your commentators (bringing back the humor we all know and love from the series), as you run through a series of alleys and boardwalks, eventually climbing your way to the top of a set of skyscrapers for a final showdown. Of course, this experience relies on some co-op aspects, but also allows for your loner tendencies to shine through, especially when playing with more than two people. You'll all compete individually for Bolts by opening crates or destroying lesser enemies, and the co-op here is reserved more for a taxi sequence that sees you shifting your collective weight from side to side to steer, or sees you combining your shots on Z'Grute (and surrounding power nodes) to finally destroy it.

These true cooperative features function well enough, but of course, there's no telling whether or not these strangers will want to actually help you out, or are there to cause problems for their own juvenile amusement.

In N.E.S.T., the cooperative features steal the show, which can either lead to a real sense of satisfaction and enjoyment as you and your partners work together for a common goal, or can bring the beta's biggest problem to light: finding competent partners is far easier said than done. While both of these stages can be played in a solo setting (for example, if you're playing as Ratchet, then Clank will be controlled by the computer during co-op sections of gameplay), there are so many instances here where you must pick up your partner in a vacuum and then throw them across a gap while trying to climb into the factory from the cliff side that it begs for more than one human player.

Now, before I'm ridiculed for bashing on beginners, let me explain that I don't blame newcomers to the beta or even the franchise for being a bit rusty or even confused as to some of these new controls. However, there's a clear difference in the gameplay habits of those who are new but are trying, and those that have no desire to help out whatsoever. For instance, you can only walk so far away from your partners before the camera will stall, waiting for them to catch up. If you then see your lagging "friend" purposefully running in the opposite direction, or dancing around in a corner, that's not helpful - that's trolling.

While this may kill the fun factor for some of your time with the beta (when you can find an adequate partner, the game really is enjoyable), we have to remember that this is a beta after all, and is free to access, so long as you have a code. Hopefully, by the time the final game is released next month, we'll see the quality of player increase dramatically, as, let's face it - how many idiots are going to pay $60 just to screw with people?

All told, while the beta does expose the real potential for entertainment in the final version of the game (which of course is the overall point), that enjoyment is hidden behind plenty of issues, both player-made and technical (no, I'm not blaming a beta for having expected technical issues either). The silver lining with all of this is that, yes, Ratchet & Clank All 4 One still looks like it will be a blast to play either alone or with real-world friends, but the beta experience itself can really leave a bad taste in your mouth.