Format reviewed: PS3
Other formats available: PS Vita
Developer: Insomniac Games
We need to make one thing clear: we love the Ratchet and Clank series. It has just about everything. It has great humour, exciting gameplay, loveable characters (with one exception...) and are generally fun to play.
This game however, released to commemorate the eponymous duo’s 10th anniversary, implements a radically different style of gameplay. This isn’t the first time a Ratchet and Clank game has done this (see All 4 One) mind you. So how does QForce (Full Frontal Assault in America... eww) hold up? Let’s find out.
The story is that Captain Qwark is feeling depressed getting used to life in the private sector until a strange masked villain appears who supposedly has a longstanding grudge with Qwark and tells him that his forces has shut down Planetary Defence Centres so that evil is free to roam across the galaxy. Qwark takes this as a cue to leap back into action alongside the eponymous duo. And that’s where the game begins.
The gameplay is what we can only describe as a mishmash of classic Ratchet and Clank, tower defence and real-time strategy.
You have the standard Ratchet and Clank style of free roaming third-person shooter gameplay of running around, cracking open crates to find money and ammo and blowing stuff up; but this game has a big variation on the formula.
You start off in an area of the map playing as Ratchet, Clank or Captain Qwark. Each level contains six generators that you must protect from the occasional wave of enemies. If all six are destroyed, then you must restart the level.
This is where the money comes in. You must use this money to buy turrets, mines and barricades for your base to help stop the enemies running in trying to wreck the generators.
The main goal in each level is to activate a series of ‘Key Nodes’ that open the way to the Planetary Defence Centre. After clearing out the enemies there, the Defence Centre is reactivated and you must return to base to hold out against one final onslaught of enemies while the Defence Centre reboots.
You also have weapon pods scattered around the levels in which you must perform a brief input sequence to select a weapon of your choosing. These weapons can be used to the point of upgrading one level, up to three.
At this point, ‘Alpha’ will be added to the weapon’s name (how original) and there will be a special effect added to the weapon such as shrapnel or cluster bombs. A welcome addition, since it means more chaos. This is always a good thing in a Ratchet and Clank game.
Now, this change in the formula is a very interesting one and it works out really well, but the main selling point is the ability to play these levels with a buddy or stranger off or online. We HIGHLY recommend you do this. Why? Because on your own, the campaign is punishingly hard. Even if you have every weapon upgraded to level three, it can be very difficult to obtain 100 per cent completion on every level in the game, namely on the penultimate level.
On the subject of the campaign, sadly, it is very short with only 5 levels, with one being a repeat of a previous level with a different coat of paint. We won’t spoil why, but this was quite a disappointing development. Of course, this is where the multiplayer aspect comes in, used to prolong the lifespan of this game. It may work well, but someone who prefers to play on their own will be sorely disappointed.
The controls work fine. No issues in controlling the character or in using the hoverboots, although with the larger characters such as Giant Clank or Qwark, seeing past them can be a bit of a difficult development. The graphics look beautiful, with great detail put into each aspect of the scenery. The frame rate online doesn’t chug much, so lag isn’t much of a problem.
The game also features a number of pop culture references, which gives us the impression that this game’s target demographic is tech geeks.
This isn’t a bad thing, since not getting these references doesn’t take away from the experience, but it can be a bit of a nerd bonus, which makes them doubly funny in the event that you get them. An example of such a reference, without spoiling anything, partway through the game, what plays in the hub level? The Trololo song!
The game also features player vs. player multiplayer. One player or team of two seeks to defend their base while destroying their opponent’s base, with the other team seeking to do the same thing to them.
There are three phases to this mode: Recon, Squad and Assault. In recon, both players go around the map fighting for control of seven command nodes. The more nodes captured by one player, the more bolts come in at once in roughly ten second increments, so more defences for nodes and your base can be purchased.
In squad mode, the players each focus on building their defences with their amassed bolts and building squadrons to attack the enemy player’s base. These squadrons consist of the enemy forces seen in the campaign which are sent to attack the enemy player in the next phase. Essentially, it’s preparation for the battle.
The final phase; assault, is where things get fun. This mode is pretty much the standard gameplay except your forces must destroy the generators of the opponent as they attempt to do the same to you.
You can also leave your base and fight the other player and wreck their base yourself. This mode is generally fun, but all weapons are at level 1 to start with. That’s right, they don’t carry over from the main game. So this is annoying, but fair in a way, since it ensures that there aren’t too many unfair advantages.
Ratchet and Clank: QForce/Full Frontal Assault (eww...) is a great game. The graphics and controls are great, the levels are fun, the multiplayer is fantastic and the pop-culture references are actually quite funny.
The main downsides to the game are that the campaign is just brutal when riding solo and said campaign also being very short, undoubtedly disappointing those looking for a solo-adventure in the series. But if you’re a person who like multiplayer, you’ll undoubtedly love this game. And with the low-ish price tag, who can complain?
Review by SniperToaster for BCS