Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force PS3
There was a time when fans of Insomniac Games could take comfort in knowing that once we finished the latest Ratchet and Clank title, a new Resistance adventure would soon follow. Conversely, after we led Nathan Hale through another campaign, a Ratchet and Clank adventure arrive soon after. Unfortunately, we are now at the point where we have little idea about the titles that are coming next and the games that do arrive are offshoots of their respective franchises. One such example is the latest Ratchet and Clank game, subtitled Q-Force. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it just makes you wonder if they are in fact any good.
There is little in the way of story in this title, but the plot that is there makes itself known through cut scenes that contain the usual Ratchet and Clank humor. This time, the gang must lock horns with Zurgo, a former Quark fanatic who feels betrayed and seeks revenge (The Incredibles anyone?). After he deactivates local planetary defence systems in the sector, you must now to stop the invading ‘Grungarian Forces’ and reactivate said systems in order to the save the planets from Zurgo’s wrath.
In order to reactivate the planetary defence system in each world, you will need to find and destroy ‘Key-Nodes’ in order to gain access to the Grungarian-infested base. After the defenses are back online, you must then return to your base and defend six generators until the planets’ defences come online.
Whilst searching for the Key-Nodes, the enemy forces will continue to invade your base in order to shut down these generators. Fortunately, you can fight back with weapons and reinforcements that are obtainable thanks to the bolts found throughout each level. The defences obtained through this currency can help in giving you extra time to get back to base and eliminate the threat. Invasions can be frustrating at times, as they always seem to attack either just as you locate a Key-Node, or after defeating a horde of enemies that are sure to re-spawn by the time you defend your base and travel back.
It is fun to explore each of the game’s various planets, as they all allow many opportunities to boost about the place, grind rails and swing from platform to platform. Ramps and boost pads bring back that awesome hoverboarding gameplay from the early Ratchet and Clank games and come in useful when rushing back to base. Crates containing bolts respawn as do enemies; you can easily spend 30 minutes gliding about the place, looking for gold bolts and leveling up your weapons. Improving your weaponry is a necessity as enemies become much fiercer as the adventure progresses. You can obtain weapons from large green machines and opening them takes place through a simple mini game that requires you to tap ‘X’ as the dial passes through a blue area, or the white area for a bolts bonus. Many of the classic Ratchet and Clank weapons can be collected such as the Combustor, Groovatron Grenades, the Sonic Eruptor and of course, Mr. Zurkon. These weapons level up the more you use them, which allows you a choice in using the weapons that you prefer.
The final showdown on each world where you must defend until the planet’s defences come online is by far the hardest section of each level. Not only do you have two entrances to guard, but some enemies are extremely challenging to kill, and when you have one or even two of these foes on either side, there’s little more you can do than equip your most powerful weapon, stand close to an ammo crate and hope you do enough to achieve victory.
The online competitive mode works well. It takes the defence elements of the campaign and spreads it throughout the map. Each game has three distinct sections; ‘Recon’, ‘Squad’ and ‘Assault’. During the Recon phase, players will rush to each of the bases and capture as many as possible, fighting with the opposition when they cross paths. For every base captured, another weapon becomes available to that team. The Squad mode then begins; here, players must now head back to their main base to buy upgrades with the bolts they have earned (health increase, melee power etc.) and hire various reinforcements such as Grungarian soldiers and – if you can afford it – a ‘Grungarian Tank’ to really heat things up (you’ll hate them until you buy your own). The final stage, Assault, is the moment you have been working towards; it involves a great deal of gunfire, explosions and death until only one team remains.
The competitive mode is good fun in the way that it slowly builds up to the final showdown. However, I cannot help thinking that 1vs1 or 2vs2 just is not quite enough. Unless you go looking for the opposition, you generally just roam around taking nodes for ten minutes when you could be fighting for them alongside some teammates. When playing cooperatively, four players are enough but when playing competitively you just want to shoot everybody in order to reach no.1 on the leaderboard. Sadly, defeating only one or two people does not have that same impact and for that reason alone I cannot see myself wanting to play more than a few games.
Regardless of any faults, I am pleased to say that Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force feels like a Ratchet and Clank title. The freedom to explore vast levels, find bolts and collect a range of weapons can keep you on any of the four main levels for at least an hour. Additional tasks such as a time goal and completing levels without losing a single generator add some replay value. The multiplayer may keep you entertained for a few hours, but is generally disappointing given that the entire game emphasizes teamwork. Insomniac took a risk with this title, but I think it has paid off. It is a fun game to play with a friend and is worthy of being called Ratchet and Clank.
Also, it is only around £15!