- Format: PS3, Vita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
- Developer: Insomniac Games
- Players: 1-2 (Online Multiplayer)
- Site: www.insomniacgames.com/games/ratchet-clank-series/ratchet-clank-full-frontal-assault/
This year sees the Ratchet and Clank series celebrate 10 years of platforming shenanigans. To celebrate this milestone developers Insomniac Games have brought the Cannon and Ball of platforming back together again in Ratchet & Clank Q Force. This time the game mixes up the gameplay somewhat, with the addition of elements of the tower defence genre. The question is: Does this experiment work or have Insomniac made a fatal mistake with the popular platforming franchise?
This new entry in the series is a budget title retailing for less than £15, obviously to placate fans before the next fully fledged sequel. This is also one of the first games to utilise the cross-buy feature, where purchasers of the PS3 version of the game have access to the Vita version at no extra cost, which is a nice added bonus. The game sees our heroes tackling another super villain who has contacted the bumbling Captain Qwark to let him know that he has deactivated the defence systems from some surrounding planets, leaving them open to an enemy invasion. It’s up to our unlikely heroes to save the day. Once the heroes land on each planet you are tasked with defending six generators in your base from marauding aliens that can attack through two separate doorways.
You also need to explore the world and activate some nodes to turn the planet’s defences back on. On your travels you need to collect bolts by smashing crates and taking out enemies, and also unlock weapon pods that give you access to bigger and better weapons, which are crucial to your survival. Bolts are used to purchase defences for your base, which include mines, turrets and barriers. Unfortunately, no matter how many defences you put in place, you can’t rely on the base defending itself from enemy attack, and you need to make sure you are there when enemy troops attack to help hold the fort. This means when you are out collecting bolts or activating switches, you are faced with a mad dash back to base when the alarm bells start ringing and another wave of enemies attacks.
The Ratchet and Clank series is known for its wildly inventive selection of weapons, and there are a few fan favourites that make an appearance here. The Groovitron Mine mesmorises enemy units with its glitter ball and funky music, making them dance away like Peter Crouch at a Gangnam Style party, while you can also unlock the Thundersmack and the devastating Warmonger. Unfortunately these weapons don’t carry over to the different planets, and you need to unlock them in each world, which is very disappointing and annoying. It means you need to venture out into the level to find weapon pods and collect as many bolts as you can muster.
Generally bolts are in pretty poor supply, considering the cost of the defence units, and your turrets and barriers are pretty weak, and can be quickly taken down by the enemy. This is at odds with your hard-as-nails foes who can take several shots to destroy, which is particularly taxing when you reach the end of a level and you are hit with a massive assault of enemies. This game’s cutesy exterior hides a punishing title that verges on feeling unfair at times.
The platforming and the tower defence aspect of the game work well, but constantly having to return to base to protect it from enemy forces and having to collect as many bolts as possible to fund your defences can get quite repetitive. There is a co-op option either split screen or online which helps alleviate this problem, as one player can stay to protect the base while the other person can venture out into the level to collect bolts and activate nodes. This helps make the game a lot less stressful, as you can concentrate on one aspect at a time.
There is also a competitive multiplayer mode, which is a tweaked version of the single player campaign. These matches consist of three sections of gameplay: Recon, Squad and Assault. During the Recon phase you need to capture nodes around the level, which gives you a constant supply of bolts during the other phases. The Squad phase lets you spend your bolts on attack units, which spawn just outside your enemies’ base during the Assault phase. During the Assault phase you are free to join in with your forces in attacking the enemy base. These phases cycle around up to five times, depending on whether you or your opponent can save your base from the enemy attacks. It’s a neat variation that can get quite addictive. The only problem is that there are only three maps and two game modes– 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2– which means it could struggle to hold your interest for long.
Ratchet & Clank Q Force is an interesting but flawed attempt at merging a platformer with the tower defence genre. It works far better as a co-op and competitive experience than the single player mode, which feels unbalanced and unfair. It’s also relentlessly tough, and many younger players used to the undemanding LEGO games may be put off by its high difficulty. However, for the budget price it’s a game that is well worth trying out, and any fans of the duo should pick this up to satisfy their bolt collecting fetish until Insomniac deliver the next main entry in the series.