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Ratchet: Deadlocked Review Rewind

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On 10/16/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

While it's not explicitly stated, Ratchet: Deadlocked marks the first spin-off title in the series. Drop in and see what's changed!

If you have a friend or family member who wants to play local co-op, there's fun to be had here - just don't expect the typical Ratchet & Clank gameplay, this is a third person shooter.

I'm not quite certain what Insomniac Games was going for when they created Ratchet: Deadlocked. It's clear that it wasn't meant to be a traditional Ratchet & Clank game, as the experience is something similar, but quite different at the same time. Rather than the typical action-platformer gameplay, Ratchet: Deadlocked is a third person shooter, through and through.

Instead of the lighthearted tales of past games, here Ratchet & Clank have been captured, imprisoned, and forced compete in arena battles to the death. Clank catches a lucky break and is forced into a unique role this time around, merely acting as an operator for Ratchet who must occupy the field.

Gameplay is most comparable to the sections of past titles where you are simply fighting enemies delivered by drop ships. Rather than fighting these enemy waves in a circular room like past arena battles, the landscape of each arena is open and varies wildly from planet to planet. With such a landscape, the objectives typically focus on getting from point A to point B, which incidentally requires defeating all of the enemies you encounter along the way. You'd think in an effort to get from point A to point B the game would toss in some platforming sections (like the other titles) to break things up, but that's rarely the case here.

Grinding sections seem to have taken the place of typical platforming. Of course, these are a returning series staple, so they aren't an unwelcome addition, but one that hardly supplants the platforming.

To accommodate this action-heavy gameplay and provide some more accurate control, Ratchet is granted a battle suit that allows players full control of a reticule. Essentially, this means true third person shooter controls, complete with the ability to strafe. Ratchet's wrench also makes a return, but its usefulness is extremely diminished, as it's now extremely weak and slow to use. These changes are seemingly minor, but in practice drastically alter the gameplay.

Along the way there are a number of save points, but no check points to speak of. Each save point acts as a mission break and missions must be completed in a single effort. As such, death will result in being booted back to the start of the level, though any experience points gained are maintained.

Surprisingly, the title reminds me of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. No, they're nothing alike in terms of gameplay, but like Rare, Insomniac had a game concept that could easily be shoehorned into an existing universe they created, reducing some of the overhead in creating the game and making it a more viable product on the market. By merging this shooter concept with the Ratchet & Clank universe, Insomniac picked up a few nice bonuses along the way.

Deadlocked applies a number of the gameplay elements from prior titles, which absolutely make it a more engaging experience. For one, a brand new arsenal of weapons have become available and they are incrementally obtained over the course of the game. Additionally, both weapons and nanotech will level up as you kill more enemies on the battlefield.

Despite the absence of Clank during the gameplay sequences, you have helper robots in tow that function similar to Clank's helper robots during portions of past titles. They will fight alongside Ratchet, twist bolts for him, shoot EMP blasts, and hack terminals. They're an interesting addition to what would otherwise be your more typical third person shooter.

Further differentiating the game are Alpha and Omega weapon upgrades that change various properties of the weaponry in your inventory. Most often, you'll be switching up the elemental effect of the gun to more effectively dispatch different enemies. It's not a major part of the game, but another nice touch to provide a bit more variety.

As I sit here and explain the game to you on paper, it all sounds pretty damn similar to the other games in the series, but the game feels drastically different. You wouldn't think that the platforming elements and extremely simple shooting gameplay were so important – until someone totally changes them on you. This is not to say that Deadlocked does any of this poorly. It's actually an extremely well-crafted experience. It's just not a well-crafted Ratchet & Clank experience. It may borrow the characters, but it loses the character of the series.

Despite this fact, I feel like cramming it into the Ratchet & Clank universe was the right choice. The third person shooting feels good and I love having a bunch of wacky, upgradeable weapons. Plus the cutscenes do a nice job of capturing the humor of the series. Furthermore, the included co-op and multiplayer modes are a nice addition to the series that haven't been able to otherwise exist.

If anything, the game grows a bit dull after a few hours. Weapon upgrades do wonders in making the game much easier, and once you have a nice little arsenal, better armor, and upgraded helper robots, it's easy to make quick work of the enemy-laden arenas.

While Insomniac tried their best to vary it up with vehicle-based arenas wherein you may use a walking tank, a hover bike, or a space ship, these arenas aren't enjoyable enough to provide a valid alternative to the typical arenas.

When looking at the series as a whole, Deadlocked sticks out like a sore thumb. It's nothing like the other games and while built on sound mechanics, is a mostly forgettable experience. It borrows some great concepts, but excising a few core competencies pulls the soul out of the game. If you have a friend to play through the game with, there's fun to be had here - especially if you like third person shooters - but once it's done, you won't likely come back for another round. 

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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