Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ratchet: Deadlocked - Challenge Mode: The Video Game

Continuing with our build-up to Sly 4 later this year, Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank series moves forward into 2005 with Ratchet: Deadlocked, released one year after Up Your Arsenal. This game not only continues to provide a multiplayer mode like last time, but also takes gameplay in a different direction than the previous games. Although this title was still received fairly well, like others I have a few problems with it.

The plot of this game is, not to put too fine a point on it, thin compared to the stories preceding Ratchet & Clank games have to offer. After the defeat of Dr. Nefarious, Ratchet, Clank, and Al are kidnapped from the Starship Phoenix after it has been reported that several galactic heroes have disappeared. It is then revealed that the three of them are being held captive by Gleeman Vox, head of DreadZone, an event in which contestants must survive a series of challenges, shown on the channel Vox (a thinly veiled jab at Fox). While Clank and Al try to figure a way out of their predicament, Ratchet must survive all of DreadZone's challenges before going up against the champion, Ace Hardlight.

Some games have a mode where you complete a series of challenges in order to improve your skills and get rewards for completing them. This game's main campaign is exactly that, complete with an in-game Leaderboard. While there is an option to play the campaign with someone else (or by yourself, in which case you play with a pair of upgrade-able robots), this doesn't change the feeling of repetitiveness as you go forward, especially since some of the challenges across the different planets are essentially the same.

No Ratchet & Clank game is complete without a variety of weapons at your disposal, however there aren't as many here as there were before. The two-ring arsenal system is kept, though it can be awkward to use this time, and the experience system is intact, allowing you to get your weapons up to Level 10. This game also introduces a system of Mods, which you can purchase to upgrade your weapons to do all sorts of things, from freezing enemies to spouting pools of lava and even turn foes into various animals. However, the excitement is stripped away once you realize you can survive the challenges using only one weapon (for me at least, it was the Magma/Vulcan Cannon with an Acid Mod).

While the character's voices are still done rather well, the dialogue leaves something to be desired when the DreadZone announcer Dallas keeps repeating the same lines over and over to the point where you can predict what he's going to say next as he's saying it (he also seems to have a thing for co-announcer Juanita apparantly). Due to the thin plot, there isn't too much room for developing the new characters, but whatever is squeezed in manages to get the game by, with some rather funny moments thrown in to keep you going. The sound isn't all bad, since the music of this game is not annoying and is still worth a listen.

As I've said in my review of Up Your Arsenal, there is a small problem I have with spending Bolts, the currency of the series. While Bolts can still be used to buy helpful weapons and upgrades, though there is a lack of a bonus from saving your last game, I still found it odd that they can still be used to merely change the aesthetic of something, this time the design and color scheme of your robot allies in the main campaign. I personally found this to be rather unnecessary, but I'm sure there's some people out there who would get a kick out of doing this.

As stated before, the Multiplayer returns here, but like the game before it, it's more fun with more than two people. I haven't tried the Online function, given that there aren't any servers anymore, but if you have this game and at least two friends, I would say to give this mode a go.

Ratchet: Deadlocked isn't a terrible game, but so far it isn't the best one I've played. Despite the flaws I've expressed here, I'm not exactly sure how to feel about it. The gameplay is solid despite its repetition, even though all it seems to have going for it in terms of story are the nods it makes to its predecessor. If you are a fan of Ratchet & Clank, or you are someone who enjoys the challenge modes found in other games, I would still say to play this game, even though it's not for everyone.

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