Friday, November 25, 2011

Postmortem Review: Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One - My View on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

   Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is the newest entry in the Ratchet & Clank franchise. Most of the over the top baddie blasting platform action is back. Best of all, 4 players can join in for co-op blasting goodness.

The Good
Ratchet & Clank + Multiplayer = Awesome

   My kids, wife, and I have enjoyed Ratchet & Clank since the first times we laid eyes on them. For us, Ratchet & Clank is to the PlayStation what Mario and Luigi are to the Nintendo. Finally, we can all enjoy the great platforming experience together. Ratchet & Clank has great potential as a multiplayer game. At the very least, it is not a kart racer.

Big Booms Sound Good on Big Speakers
   For me, the biggest excitement in R&C came from ganging up on the bigger enemies. When players focus their fire on a single enemy, they get a damage multiplier and a meter on the enemy begins to fill. When it gets to a certain point, the enemy blows up. If you have a proper sound system, the KABOOM! is fantastic. While it was the same boom every time, it never got old to me.

Visually Stunning
   The Ratchet & Clank series has always been one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on the PlayStation consoles. The environments are vibrantly colored, there are all kinds of objects to look at, the character skins and movements are great, and the explosions are absolutely wonderful. This latest entry does not disappoint in the visuals department and reminds us all why high definition and 3D were simply meant to be.

The Bad
Can we fix the interface next time around?

   Insomniac Games has come up with a very intuitive system for selecting weapons in the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series. Unfortunately, it fell apart in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. The player selects weapons and gadgets from a wheel that comes up when the player presses the right analog stick. There are a few different wheels to select from, which can be sorted through by pressing L1 and R1. Pretty straight-forward in theory. When you are playing though, your finger is likely on the R1 button when you bring up the weapon wheel. This can lead to you selecting a different weapon than you intended. Add the frustration of having the game pause when multiple people open the wheel at the same time and you constantly have the wrong weapon selected. I tried to use the hot-key system, but then I found that I was constantly trying to swap things in and out of my four hot-key slots. If it is too much of a pain, it should not be.

Nothing New
   As far as innovation goes, All 4 One is a step backwards in the R&C franchise. Multiplayer is great, but why does it have to be at the expense of great gameplay? The platforming has been oversimplified for this entry; perhaps to make it easier for multiple characters at one time. At the same time, the arsenal is less fun than it has been in previous games. Where is the Groovitron? Why isn't Mr. Zurkon that great of a weapon anymore? The lack of more or new makes this game seem as if it would more appropriately fit in with the oldest entries in the franchise.

I Want Six-Axis Control
   I miss six-axis control. Since the beginning of PlayStation 3, the six-axis has gotten a bad reputation. Now that The Move is out, the six-axis is long forgotten. Our controllers still have the functionality though and Ratchet & Clank was one of the few series to put the functionality to good use. With a little bit of creative thought, we could go back to having segments where the heroes are controlled with six-axis movements instead of directional buttons. Sure, it can take a little getting used to, but cleverly placed six-axis control segments adds to the level of immersion in the game.

The Ugly
Wait a second.....this isn't a Ratchet & Clank game!?

   When the first announcements for R&C: All 4 One came, I wondered to myself, "Why isn't 'Future' in the title?" When we started playing the game, the answer became immediately obvious. All 4 One is not here for the story. It does not bother to follow the Ratchet & Clank storyline at all; nor does it attempt to make excuses for it. At times, I wondered if this were truly a Ratchet & Clank game or just another top-down shooter with Ratchet & Clank character models dropped in.

PS3 Multiplayer Done Wrong
   Game publishers should look to how local multiplayer is implemented in the Little Big Planet games in order to gain a good idea on how to do it right. Most often, when I am playing a multiplayer game in my house, I am playing with my kids whom also have their own profiles on the PlayStation. All of the bonuses we earn for playing together on my profile should also be reflected in their profiles. To be fair, Little Big Planet is pretty much the only game I know of to do this. I understand that implementation of a design could get sticky; but really, we could work a system to allow character progression in the particular player's profile.

Did it Save?
   Especially when just starting to play R&C: All 4 One, it is not obvious when exactly the saving is taking place. After a while, you learn it is after points are counted, but even so, there were times that it seemed like we played the same area over and over again because the game simply did not save. We can fix this easily, but nobody seems too concerned. The text "SAVING" with the icon would be a lifesaver for the fans, but instead we insist on having an icon that looks similar to every other icon that appears in that exact location on screen. Is it saving now? Oh, no, that was the stupid loading icon again.

   For a four player game, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is great fun. Anybody that has played the other R&C games will love to have a shot on the co-op. Unfortunately, fans looking for some new weapons and gadgets and some innovating platforming will have to keep waiting.

Welcome Back

   Welcome back everybody! It has been a long time, but I think I am ready to continue on with blogging. I have been considering coming back for a while, so I have read most of my old posts. One thing I can say for sure: my life has changed incredibly since March. Even more since this time last year.
   First thing I have to say, I am having a baby boy! We are expecting in April. This is an exciting time in the pregnancy. First, because we just found out the sex of the baby which means we can continue preparing for the baby. Second, we can feel the baby moving all day every day. He is going to be a very active kid it seems.
   The second big change is a new job. I had spent a lot of time working on resumés in the last year; even wrote a bit on resumé writing here. I was starting to feel the pinch for money, so I put my resumé to good use. Apparently, I write a decent one, because I got the job on the first try. I work for a gigantic technology consulting firm, Accenture. I am an associate software developer for them. So far, it has been a wonderful experience. I am also still working in quality assurance on the side.
   I have several other things going on too, but really, I will start talking about what I am here to talk about.
   I have been doing a lot of gaming, and I have a couple of reviews going into editing, almost ready to post. Some of the games I have completed over the last few months include Ico, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, NBA Jam, and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. I am playing a couple of other games as well, so blogs for those will be coming. I bought an iPad, actually, two. They are awesome and I will have a tech blog for that. I also have some programming discussions in the works as well as some process discussions. I do believe I will continue with Wednesday's Wallpaper too, so check it out.
   I think I have given enough for a quick read today. I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I also hope all of you Black Friday shoppers are getting a good rest by now. It feels good to be back. In leaving, I will give you a new track from one of my all-time favorite bands, Cake.