Review: On today's show, scandal rocks the famed heroic duo, Ratchet and Clank. Separation!
From its humble beginnings as one of the PlayStation 2's premiere platform franchises in the fall of 2002, the Ratchet and Clank brand has granted developer Insomniac Games household name status when paired with the likeable duo they've masterminded: a Lombax named Ratchet and his robot companion, Clank. Before then, Insomniac was primarily known for working on the Spyro platform series and Disruptor, one of video game history's obscurely forgotten first-person shooters. Spyro, on the other hand, was big. But, never quite as much a deal as Ratchet and Clank made it for the company that never sleeps in the next phase of gaming evolution. With the first three Ratchet and Clanks exploring a hybrid of platform, shooter, and RPG dynamics, it was only natural that the fourth entry brings gamers with happy trigger fingers more of that. As a final farewell to PlayStation 2 owners, this is Sony's present to them: Ratchet: Deadlocked.
Gleeman Vox rocks! Wait a sec... No he doesn't. He's yet another interplanetary villain who's responsible for all the wrongs Ratchet has to correct. For starters, he's the guy who put on that explosive collar Ratchet now wears as a safety measure to keep him caged like a prisoner in Vox's televised underground blood sport tournament that pits heroes from all corners of the galaxy to spar off in deathly challenges and against one another. Murder: it's TV that sells. Ratchet has no choice but to fight, to make it to the top level, to find a way to be free again. But, doing so must be done solo. Clank, no longer piggy-backing Ratchet, now serves as his helpful radio support with their space-age mechanic friend Al (who's also a prisoner) "acquiring" a couple of bots to back Ratchet up through any danger.
Ratchet: Deadlocked is cosmetically similar in a different way of handling the Ratchet and Clank blueprint. It has guns; so did they. It has platforming elements; so did they. It has Ratchet and Clank; but, so did they. Then what could possibly be so alarmingly unnatural about this? A much greater focus on weaponry, that's what. Earlier Ratchet and Clank games, especially the original, would throw its players a bone every now and then by issuing jump-based challenges. Here, that kind of air is the thinnest it's ever been. All there is to breathe now for the most part is the centralization around guns. Big guns and little guns, guns from a controllable spacecraft and pivoting turret, and even Ratchet's henchmen...I mean, robotic squad -- they have guns too. Playing a little more like a strategic third-person shooter this time around, Merc and Green tail Ratchet as his bodyguards in place of Clank getting the shaft. Not only are they capable of automatically targeting enemies on their own, but with user input they are able to unleash hidden powers within. Once in a while there exist enemy turrets, notorious for quick fire rates and the ability to be impervious to Ratchet's store-bought weapons. On the bottom left of the HUD display, four directional pad options are there to choose from as they appear, disappear, and reappear at key moments like these. When approaching this kind of defense system, on the left choosing to fire an EMP grenade will temporarily stun this beast while the AI droids do their thing and stun it for Ratchet. When the time's right, Ratchet can either come in and finish the labor himself or wait around for his lackeys to do it for him. There's nothing like a lazy afternoon of robots doing your chores. Other times it's the bots' job to hack into security orbs to unlock doors, unlock bridges, and blow up certain monuments of objective importance. Don't start out thinking the droids are invincible, though. They can perish just the same as Ratchet, but unlike him only require that Ratchet's revival command is put into good use. For what small measurement of platforming segments there are, the droid doubles add to that too when they employ a zip line for Mr. Cute 'n Fuzzy to grind. The AI bots add something different to the Ratchet and Clank series indeed: something that's in a way unique, strategic, and fun.
Controlling these metal heads isn't the only thing Ratchet's up to. He has several missions ahead that follow the same way as they have in the past. Working his way up the ladder from a confined sector where weapons can be bought, hero rankings can be accessed, and the backup bots can be customized with improved fittings, planet-to-planet mission lists can additionally be selected from here. As per the usual, Ratchet is automatically transported to a series planets across the galaxy (all conveniently located near one another, no less). At first these worlds are locked, but as Ratchet mows down the mission orders on each, he'll open their doors (which planets obviously have) and bust on in like a bolt of searing lightning. Missions range in an interesting array of classes that are unalike, although feel very distinctive. There's gun blasting and a lot of it. That's all there really is to do, in the middle of doing other activities of course. Not that that's a bad thing. But, what can you expect from Ratchet and Clank after all these years? The long list of one-of-a-kind weapons have always been a favorite staple in the eyes of series vets. As Ratchet must capture all the nodes in one area, chase down (while shooting) system-guided hover bikes on a hover bike of his own in another, and every so often face off against the imposing hero bosses, he must do so while brandishing his astonishing array of customizable weaponry. Not as extensive or really "out there" as before, the weapons that can be picked up at vendor stations in each level with bolts accrued from defeated enemies and mission completions, are less impressive on the whole.
Differences are evident -- between Ratchet fashioning a giant mace used for bashing swats, a bazooka for more unfriendly foes, and explosive balls that automatically track enemy presence when spread around the vicinity -- but, some weapons just feel too similar to past Ratchet and Clank titles. Don't cry yet, though. The RPG system that's made the franchise a smash hit up to this point allows weaponry to grow over time for improved secondary configurations. Just as well, Ratchet's droids can be modified with altered paint schemes, heads, and even enhanced elevations of their own (such as shielding). Plus, as each weapon's usage rate equates toward its inching graduation of rounding out better, this time the game tosses in Omega and Alpha mods. Alpha mods are really just your typical strengthening of a weapon's ammunition count or speed, but for some reason can't be accessed until players beat the game (the first time through, the goal is to open their slots). The individual Omega mods, on the other end, empower weapons with extra abilities. There's one that fires electrodes at a single enemy (which then spreads to adjacent enemies) and another that turns enemies on each other, for example. It's all well and good gameplay, but each purchasable item costs a whole lot of bolts. By the hundreds, thousands, and even the game's "ultimate weapon," the Harbinger, raises the bar toward the two-million digit range. Bolts aren't exactly the easiest to save up when at a consistent rate you're spending thousands on ammo refills, Omega modifiers, and every other gun in the game. By the time the Harbinger becomes available at the end of the game, you'll be lucky to have half of the amount required to obtain one. Once the game is done with however, a save option is available to run through the game again with all your statistics from the first time kept intact (and all your guns are already available to you). Only completists need really apply here.
Generally speaking, Ratchet: Deadlocked is not a difficult game in any sense of the definition. Players from all walks of life can pick their pain out from four difficulty settings, including Couch Potato for the slacker in all of us. Okay, maybe just me. With tons of zombie robots and enormous lobster creatures to battle, the game's handling also takes about 10-15 minutes to adapt to if you're not already a serious Ratchet and Clank follower. Onscreen tutorials will detail everything you need to know from the aiming (analogs) to the blasting/swingshooting (R1). Returning and newcomers alike will also appreciate Deadlock's next wave of evolution in multiplayer possibilities. For the first time a cooperative campaign option is available for two players at home, with one person playing as Ratchet and the other as his united battle bots. The third rendition of Ratchet and Clank, ?Up Your Arsenal,? was also unique as being the first platformish title to introduce an Internet gameplay mode. Ratchet: Deadlocked goes a step ahead of its prequel by tweaking the modes, adding two additional ones, and in particular designing the game's newest vehicle for play here, the Landstalker (a spider-like tank that unloads laser beams and mortars on targets). For starters, Siege mode from ?Up Your Arsenal? has been turned into Conquest, which now has two teams (for up to eight participants) protecting and capturing one another's nodes across expansive levels. Other game types are your standard Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (with a Ratchet and Clank twist), while new to the foray is versions of King of the Hill (teams battling to score hill time) and Juggernaut (one person is the all-powerful Juggernaut, and whomever abolishes the Juggernaut becomes the Juggernaut). Networking with Ratchet: Deadlocked is interesting enough to keep Ratchet and Clank heads busy for a while. But, there's one burning question that remains. Since there's simply no way (or need) for attaching a Network Adapter to the PlayStation 3, can an online game intended for the PlayStation 2 audience be connected through the PlayStation 3's wireless interface? The answer is a resounding yes.
Ratchet and Clank have always looked good in their adventures, but never quite as
good as Jak and Daxter have. Throughout the PlayStation 2 cycle, both franchises have had critics and the fans comparing and contrasting those two series. It's only natural, considering both companies share the same tools and make games that in some ways connect, but in many others ways clash. Ratchet's universe in Deadlocked is one of a futuristic mold that lays down the transparent walkways, the way-out building structures, machine and alien beings to dissect, and a series of spacey crafts to operate. Ratchet will visit swamp territory and one of a desolate sand region. He'll march across snowed grounds and pop up indoors through the battle arena tests past rumbling and rotating platforms coated in flame. Deadlocked's problem, like its predecessors, is that the game is not as adorned as it should be. Ratchet: Deadlocked cooks up plenty of clear space to go along and views that are more homely than breathtaking. Breakable light posts line up through technological trails to be smashed, bubbling muddy craters come packaged with the more Earthy surroundings, and every once in a while electrical shields automatically rise from the ground, and/or circular and rectangular structures stay put to provide Ratchet with some cover. There isn't a great deal of fascination populating the levels. That and Deadlock's stages are much more compact than ever before. Missions in this way are over with before you know it, because as you're ranked on completion time, you'll be zipping through everything that must be done more instead of stopping to smell the roses.
Besides, it's never been the steak that was the feast for your eyes, it was the sizzle. In action, the amount of explosions and laser beams bustling by are up there. Imagine inside of a largely enclosed domain, that enemy robots (both small and large) are pouring in by the truck load. You as Ratchet are pumping out auto-targeting mini-turrets, auto-targeting mines, and then switching over to a weapon that dispenses explosive rounds on impact, and you have a pretty clear picture that there'll be lasers and enemies breaking to pieces every which way. Even with all of this in mind, Deadlocked still doesn't have a lock on that level of magnificence that you'd rush off to tell your friends about. Its numerous effects are formidable, but cartoonish. The game's character models are shelled out in a similar pattern. Bad guys are of the sort where robots come in red rocket-powered suits. Tiny alien critters come crawling in by the droves. Then you have your spinning metallic things, mucky grayish zombie robots, and bigger alien beasts from scorpion versions to one that looks like seafood. Opponents don't feature many animations besides falling down and dying, or doing whatever it is they do to hurt the one called Ratchet. Crime boss Ratchet himself has a new look this year, in a spacesuit getup complete with pointy-eared visor mask that changes in color as Ratchet goes further with his plans to poison the ocean's animal inhabitants...err, never mind. Ratchet looks dressed to kill, but without Clank to "back him up," his animation sets are limited in that he can no longer flip and flutter around in the air. He has weapon firing positions, forward and side-to-side jumps, and some booster rockets on his feet, but not all the motion highlights that made the first three Ratchet and Clanks as charming as they were.
Do you like mozzarella, goat, or bleu? How about some string cheese to go along with Ratchet: Deadlock's cheesy puns? The story of Ratchet: Deadlocked is once again overrun with flat kiddy jokes and actors that don't really strike as the daddy of all voiced achievements. Ratchet is too friendly, for one thing. The voice tempo being high-pitched matches his persona, but this tends to make him a more irksome character than one that's groovy. The news crew made of one zany male alien and one Latin-speaking female robot who commentate on Ratchet's grueling matchups are lively, but also generically so. Clank's cool-as-a-cucumber robo-esque vocals are what save the game from having a characteristic drought that doesn't go overboard with goofiness. Compared to the Jak and Daxter games, the voices here are suitable but in a lamer, less engrossing sort of way. What else is there to speak about? Musically Ratchet: Deadlocked has an electronic set of themes to add to that sort of beyond approach the game has going for it. Similarly, the audio also has a massive amount of laser beams fizzling, stuff being blown to bits with the tone of combustion in the air, and Ratchet's wrench banging away at shattering poles and grunting robots. These aspects are implemented nicely, but aren't exactly the wave of the future even though they are set in the future.
Nearly two years ago PlayStation 2 owners were first enjoying the last fragments of Ratchet (and to a much smaller extent, Clank). Ratchet: Deadlocked is the last we'll ever see of the titular hero on Sony's second generation console. For sure, there'll be more of him to come. Already out this year for PlayStation Portable holders, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters returns the franchise back to its roots in rejoining the Lombax with his best bud, Clank. This fall will also see the debut of Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction on the PlayStation 3, which also intends to pedal its way back to the origin.