Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

MRL37- Sideshow Jel

We have to get some rules going on with this new guy or else it's going to just be too powerful. Going around combining all the female cast into one glorious pin-up to exploit in donation wallpapers and voting incentives until the comic got so powerful it collapsed in on itself! Those kind of things happen, right? At least the gang is a lot more accepting of Jealousy, even they are gawking a bit. If strangers are forcefully trying to get you to morph into a blob of lethargic goo or a mute boy with control over the embodiments of evil, tell an adult!


I redid some of the site layout on the left there, so what do you guys think? The subpages stayed the same but at least for the main page and archives, I got rid of the Javascript tabs for navigation. Now you mean people that run all your blockers on Sins can still access the different areas of the site and bask in the wonders of the forum and all the grooviness that Mercynaries embodies. Let me know if anything isn't displaying right or you run into issues, please! I want to redo the order the buttons are in but I'll wait to see if I get feedback first.


I was all excited because the Saints Row character creator was released today and I snagged a free code for it, but then it crashes as soon as I start it up. Why do you suck so much, computer games? Stop it!


Far too long Review: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One- You pick your character before the story starts and I went with Nefarious. The game then opens with him trying to kill Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark and then when gameplay starts, your AI teammate is Clank and he's suddenly your good pal for no story or game reason. It's like they missed an entire story segment explaining why the series's big bad villain would care about cleaning up a mess he was happy to create. Then once you get into the level, mysterious robots show up to capture the monster you're trying to stop and what's your reaction? Destroy the robots! This introductory lack of thought kind of sets the stage for the whole game. Level two of the game is the now requisite "rip off Portal and make no attempts to hide it" level. I know GlaDOS wasn't the most original character around, but you reach a point where the similarities are more than coincidence, especially when the level is all about running through testing chambers. At this point it's not even funny, you just feel kind of bad for whoever had to write this. Augh! Later in the game she even lies about there being cake to get her minions to fight you. I just went from pitying that writer to utter contempt.
All 4 One lacks the polish of the previous Ratchet games. Just one stupid example is the bolt crates. As you go through stages, you'll see some random crate come flying across the screen or shoot out during a cinematic because they use a crappy physics system and didn't make sure everything was placed properly. There's no weight to the physics objects. They're either on the ground or floating/zipping through the sky like they're feathers. They mask the first third of the game's install with a cinema, so why not move the rest of the intro upfront too? It has a pretty long opening so if they could put one movie during the load, go for all of them. I'd rather sit there and watch something while the game installs than watch one movie, go check my email while the game installs, and then come back and kill more time watching cutscenes. They removed pretty much all forms of character progression. You start the game with four hit points, you end it with four. You don't even power up your weapons through use. You just buy ridiculously expensive weapon mods from the shop for guns that aren't that interesting and you'll rarely use because they have so little ammo. You'll use the starting gun for about 90% of the game because it's quick, useful, the cheapest to upgrade, the computer knows how to use it, and it's the only gun that you can fire for more than ten seconds. Not only are you no longer rewarded for exploration, but you're actually punished for it. I came across a series of collapsing platforms leading off-camera so I started hopping out on them. In the past Ratchet games, that would have led to some bolts or a new item. Here, I got to the last one and there was nothing, all the platforms behind me had collapsed, so I just had to stand there and wait for the platform to collapse so I could die. Everything in the game is drawn out and wears out its welcome. At one point you get a jackhammer gadget that you use to break certain floors. It takes no skill, there's nothing to it that requires any intelligence, you just move to the glowing red X, equip the jackhammer, and hold a button while the characters perform a 5 to 10 second animation (frequently longer because the computer gets stuck on these segments a lot). That's it. Once you get this item, you have to do this constantly. Dozens of times in one level. All it does is slow everything down and put a pointless wait point into the game. And once you pass this level, you will never ever have to use it again so it just sits there taking up inventory space for you to accidentally select in the middle of a firefight. Another area gives you a poorly controlled jetpack that all it can do is dash to the side and thrust to move up/down. This might be fun for like a 30 second bit, but this section goes on for about fifteen minutes that feel like hours because again, the AI partner sucks at maneuvering and will get caught on the level and prevent you from moving forward. The "skill" this section takes is getting the AI to constantly ram into saw blades so it dies and you have ten seconds of peace. There are areas where unless you have every weapon in the game, you're going to run out of ammo. Every one of these instances that I encountered was against flying enemies or enemies that were in the distance so I couldn't hurt them. Your AI partner has unlimited ammo so I spent the rest of these fights running around in circles dodging fire while I waited for my partner to clean up. That's just terrible design. I got to one fight that I just absolutely could not finish because the level keeps sending wave after wave of enemies at you, I always ran out of ammo, and Clank repeatedly committed suicide so there was no way to kill the remaining enemies and move on. I was ready to pack it up and call it quits, but I found a way to bounce Clank off of enemies and hookshot over to him to get around the fight and thankfully there was a checkpoint on the other side. I had to fight Clank's attempts to run back to join the fight so it took a couple of tries, but that is the only way I know of to get passed this area on single player mode and I really don't think that was the way I was supposed to do it. The game is designed for replays (not quite sure WHY you want to do that) but you can't skip the cutscenes even after you've already watched them once. There are save points after cutscenes but if you quit and load your save later on, it kicks you back to the movie so you have to sit through it again.
All 4 One is a multiplayer game to the point that it punishes you for not playing with other people. Just look back at the mass fights where you'll run out of ammo. Four people could work together and pick off multiple enemies at the same time and move through this while the single player has to depend on a braindead AI partner that you will haaaaate. For most of the game, your AI Clank will ride along as a backpack like normal but at some spots he jumps off even when there isn't a co-op puzzle or action needed. He always falls behind, which screws with the camera, and you aren't allowed to get too far away from him or else the game sets up invisible walls until he catches up. That's tons of fun when you're jumping over a pit, smack into a barrier because Clank wandered away, and you die. Towards the end of the game where the puzzles require multiple steps to form a sequence, your AI partner does the computer equivalent of falling to the ground, twitching, and foaming at the mouth. It will just stand next to objectives and stare at them, not help you, run away from you, or kill itself. One section requires you to drag two parts of a plug together and I could grab mine but the computer wouldn't grab its. So I switched sides to grab its one and left it to grab mine and still no dice. This continued for several minutes of me trying to re-angle where the AI was standing, moving in different directions, trying to nudge it along a path, when I finally gave up and started setting up the final part of the sequence and then the game acted like I had completed everything. The two parts of the plug were still in their original unconnected spots but the game was apparently cool with this. Even the dialogue makes you start to hate the characters. Clank has a "sisterboard" instead of a "motherboard". Do you think that word play is hilarious? I sure hope so because you're going to hear him say it multiple times across the levels. Over and over and over and over.
It's not without some neat segments or ideas but they're few and far between. The best part of the game is the tether item. You can now latch onto your partners with the swingshot and hook over to their position. So you can throw Clank over to a platform, hook to him, and zip over the gap. I'd love to see a mechanic like that in a Bionic Commando or Spider-Man style game. Even in a Power Stone/Smash Bros-esq fighting game that could add a manic, hilarious twist. For the"puzzles" where you have to throw your partner across a gap and then tether onto him to fling yourself across, the AI has a real problem with this and will sometimes tether back to you after you've thrown it across. So when you go to grab onto him, you both meet in the middle and die in a pit. The graphics are fantastic and outside of Ratchet's new look, everybody and every monster and robot looks great. The Ratchet and Clank games have a very distinctive vibe when it comes to monsters and the new ones carry that through. I don't know what's up with Ratchet though. He's like Star Fox where Nintendo gets weird every time they redesign Fox and the A4O Ratchet is like that deformed DS Fox. There are a couple of genuinely laugh out loud moments in the story but I think I counted about five of them out of the entire game and none of them go to Ratchet or Clank. Qwark and Nefarious are the real stars here and given the drastic changes to the R+C formula, it might have made more sense to make it their game and leave Ratchet out of it.
This is the kind of game where I'd love to do an in-person post mortem with the dev team. Just sit down on a couch, run through the game over a few days, and constantly ask "Why?!". Why did they think the gadgets were fun? Why are all the puzzles repeated ad nauseum? Why do they just throw wave after wave of the same enemies at you? Why does everything have so much health? Why didn't they fix the AI? Why did they feel the need to use the word “interlopers” so many damned times?! Why did they remove the player progression? Why are the items so bad? Why didn't they fix all the bugs and glitches? And most importantly, why was this game even made? As a regular game, it's just bad. As a Ratchet game, it's horrible. What happened to Insomniac? Ratchet and Clank was the shining star on the PS2, a console with scads of great games, but since they moved to the PS3, their games are "meh" at best. Are they just victims of their own success? They know they have the name recognition and Sony's cash so they can just half-ass everything and know people will buy it anyway? If they cleaned it up, fixed the design and combat flaws, and chopped out the filler, it would have been an awesome $10 PSN Qwark and Nefarious title. As a $60 mess of a retail product, even the staunchest Ratchet fans can skip it without missing much.
Sins Committed: Bad camera, Repetitive puzzles, Repetitive combat, Bad level design, Bad AI
Virtues Acted: Good graphics, Good character designs, Funny moments, So help me god it got me to laugh at a poo joke