"…is calling upon the Q-Force enough to keep the series running?"
Making the next game in the long running Ratchet & Clank series was never going to be an easy task with last year’s All 4 One being a change in the wrong direction and the original formula being used to its fullest by the time A Crack In Time rolled around. So is calling upon the Q-Force enough to keep the series running?
That’s right the Q-Force, you know from Ratchet & Clank 3, they’re back, well not all of them (unless you’re willing to pay for DLC skins). With a focus on co-op, re-uniting this group of heroes was an obvious step, another obvious step was to go back to the third-person gameplay which they have also done, finally a chance to play as Captain Qwark in third person gameplay, the only problem being is that he is at his lowest in this game spouting the same three or four context sensitive phrases over and over every time you break a crate or kill an enemy, all of them, ‘jokes’ made in previous games already. The game likes to make its callbacks to the previous games with familiar faces and one face in particular that about two fans of the series will recognise right away despite him being the crutches of the story.
It’s painful to see a series that verged on Pixar quality characters and story to fall this hard on its face with the most forgettable villain in the series and an overreliance on that good old modern internet humour, mentions of ‘You Mad Bro?’ among other internet things are cringe worthy, please don’t introduce the younger generations to this. Being a wave based, tower defence style game doesn’t do the storytelling much favour either with repeated playthroughs and multiplayer the main focuses for the game.
Not that you will want to play the game more than a few times through anyway with tedious gunplay and uneventful levels combining to make for a pretty boring time whilst fighting off waves of enemies and disabling their defences. You start at your base, playing in single player will see two AI characters sitting on turrets not doing a whole lot to help the fight. You will set up defences in the base using the bolts you pick up and also dispose of a good majority of the enemies yourself using weapons dropped into the battlefield as you progress. These weapons aren’t new, they’re recycled from the recent Future series of games with returns by the trusty Combustor and the wind filled Sonic Eruptor. The joy of the other games was seeing what crazy weapons the developers had come up with each time outdoing themselves and then experimenting to see what was effective in which situation. Here though, most of the weapons are of the same kind with few of them having different effects or firing patterns to change the gameplay up a bit. Having turrets should let up the pressure on the player with good organisation of the base defences being enough to hold back enemy waves, but it isn’t and therefore becomes a distraction more than anything with player attacks being the best way to dispose of foes. It’s not a satisfying combination of gameplay with boring shooting mechanics, useless defence organisation and flat levels not allowing for any kind of traversal. The hover boots added a whole new dynamic to the way you moved in A Crack In Time, here though they barely boost you forwards and don’t give you the sense of speed they probably should, at least when playing as Captain Qwark. There are a lot of small nit-picks I could make about the gameplay, but just know this, it just doesn’t feel right. Obviously playing as Ratchet will offer the “best” gameplay experience with faster movement and natural feeling strafe dodging and hover boot boost. Clank is in his not-so-giant version like he is in Ratchet Gladiator/Deadlocked so they didn’t have to change the gameplay for him.
"It’s in the versus mode where the game starts to shine a bit…"
If you really want to drag along some friends along for the ride, it’s totally possible with up to three players defending the base and setting up defences, which makes the game all the more routine and even easier to keep enemies out, until the last wave of a level where the game throws everything it can at you. There’s also split screen co-op and vs. modes with two teams setting up bases and simultaneously attack and defend much like the multiplayer of Ratchet & Clank 3 with a bit more depth. It’s in this versus mode where the game starts to shine a bit with cooperation and actual tactics making the difference when facing a team doing the same. As with most multiplayer focused games, there is a level up system that modifies your characters with enhancements like making your attacks stronger and your movement speed faster. As if the player didn’t already have enough of an advantage, this system makes things even more trivial.
Visually, the game is on par with All 4 One, sharp and cartoony visuals that play well in the world of Ratchet & Clank with lush colours and varied planets combining to create detailed levels that unfortunately don’t offer any verticality to them and are pretty flat for the most part. The game suffers from having a low frame rate pretty consistently, the game never runs smoothly. This being said, buying the game off of PSN will fill quite a significant chunk of your hard drive, so if you’ve yet to upgrade from a base model, you might have to free up some room at this point, the retail edition of the game still comes with a data install despite the game coming on the revolutionary Blu-Ray media format. The futuristic and epic sounds of the series are somewhat missing from this title with the music not being quite as memorable or iconic and kind of blending in with the generic gun noises, death sounds and those previously mentioned ‘witty’ one-liners.
"…it looks like Ratchet & Clank’s time is up"
I’m really sorry to say this but it looks like Ratchet & Clank’s time is up, a disappointing entry that tries too hard to have it both ways with the game throwing lots of call backs to the older games, but also trying to change the core gameplay as well as focusing on the weakest element of the series. Tedious and trivial gameplay makes even playing one round of this game a painful experience for all involved.