by Josh Butler
previewed on PS3
Starter for four
Despite evidence to the contrary, Insomniac Games do know how to count.
When it is released in October Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One will, in fact, be the 10th game to feature Sony’s furry mascot since he made his debut in 2002. All 4 One’s subtitle - rather than adopting the ‘F3AR’ school of unpronounceable sequel numeration - refers to the potential number of players on-screen simultaneously. That’s right; Ratchet & Clank is going multiplayer. Lock up your griefers.
It isn’t a huge leap for the platforming Lombax and his robot side-kick. While Clank has at times functioned as little more than a glorified backpack attachment, he has always had his time to shine in each game (even taking top billing in his PSP spin-off Secret Agent Clank) and fans have long demanded the two player co-op mode that seems the next logical step for the series.
Allies and antagonists
It may have taken nine years, but Insomniac is finally delivering on that promise and apparently making up for lost time by throwing two more cohorts in to the mix. When self-styled superhero, President Qwark receives an invitation to be named an ‘International Tool of Justice’ (for those complaining All 4 One’s subtitle lacks the customary innuendo of the Ratchet & Clank canon) he is of course helpless to resist. But he finds himself walking in to a trap laid out by the unambiguously-christened, Dr. Nefarious, whom the title’s heroic duo defeated only two years earlier. Needless to say, all does not go to plan for anyone involved and a mysterious ‘creature collector’ named Ephemeris whisks the four of them away to an alien planet, leaving them with the choice of co-operating or facing the wrath of the planet’s inhabitants.
A solid buddy-cop movie plot if ever there was one, but rather than acting as a slightly-forced conceit to bring together four characters, the reluctant origins of their alliance also plays in to the dynamics of the game. Following in the footsteps of New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s infuriating brand of antagonistic platforming, Studio Director of Insomniac North Carolina, Chad Dezern acknowledges that a key part of the game involves ‘spite and competitiveness’. Co-operation may be an essential element in successfully navigating the majority of a level’s obstacles, but at the end of each stage a reward is given to the player who has collected the most bolts, with a demerit going to the player with the most deaths. This also establishes a hierarchy of which players will be given first choice of new hardware when preparing for the following level, perhaps revealing the ‘all for one’ of the subtitle isn’t the selfless motto it seems.