Ratchet Deadlocked released in 2005 and it appears to be a radical departure for the iconic series. Harsher tone, gritty visual style and complete disregard for the series platforming roots becoming full-on Unreal Tournament but with cartoony aliens. Appearances can be deceiving though and what we have here is a natural conclusion from what we got with Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3.
With this post, we will conclude our adventures with the lombax during the PS2 era and be ready to embark on future adventures in 2017.
After the grand success of Ratchet 3, how can you top that? Insomniac decided to push the series to its natural conclusion; a third person team-based shooter. They introduced shooting mechanics with Going Commando/Ratchet 2 and perfected it with Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3, with Ratchet 3 going further by having base missions, introducing online multi-player and more traditional shooting controls (FPS and TPS control styles).
Taking the Base levels, they made a game centered around Ratchet fighting waves and waves of foes in more arena styled locations but with the trademark Insomniac charm & polish. Meaning we get crazy weapons, tight controls, great humor and fun set pieces to go through.
Releasing Fall 2005 alongside Jak X Combat Racing, both showed the developers Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog going in more serious directions for their platforming IP. Despite this, both got strong reviews but Deadlocked got higher scores compared to Jak X and Insomniac went back to more lighthearted Ratchet & Clank with two future games; Tools of Destruction and over seeing production of High Impact Games’ Size Matters on the PSP.
The plot set up is that after the events of Ratchet 3, the gang is relaxing on Starship Phoenix with Sasha (a major character Ratchet 3) phoning in Ratchet, Clank and Big Al that heroes are being captured and killed. She warns Ratchet that he and Clank might be next but right as she finishes her message, robots invade the ship and capture the three.
After a humorous cut-scene with Ratchet commenting on his new battle armor, he learns that he is part of a underground Gladiator sector called the ‘Shadow Sector’ with the show ‘Dreadzone’ being the biggest show being covered. Gleeman Vox is the head of the show and tells Ratchet that if he doesn’t compete, the collar Ratchet is wearing will kill him.
Ratchet agrees to fight and with Clank being the guided voice & Big Al being the tech support (fixing up two awesome combat bots for Ratchet), Ratchet climbs to the top while he is bad-mouthed by some of the funniest co-hosts I ever saw in a game.
The plot here appears darker, and it is. People get hurt and its tone is more harsher compared to Ratchet 3. But the game really is light hearted and in many respects, a commentary on reality shows on TV back then and today. It is really funny and the game still has a lot of heart despite the more grim direction the games seems to go in.
Being able to skillfully blend light and dark elements shows how strong Insomniac’s writing team was back in the PS2 days. If you played the Jak & Daxter series and felt the jump lighthearted platforming romp too dark-futuristic adventure was a bit garring, then Ratchet balances things well.
This is where things change a lot, but not really. Remember, Ratchet 3 had big shooting elements despite being a proper platformer. So, the series fully investing itself as a shooter is logical and was a direction Insomniac felt was the natural evolution of the series formula up this point. Ratchet’s default control style is the TPS (move with left stick, aim with right stick, shoot with R1, jump with L1, R2 swaps weapons, L2 controls ducking/wretch throwing) and it works very well.
What makes combat fun is how tight the controls really are. They feel perfect and Ratchet moves smooth like butter. But what makes the game really fun is how powerful the guns are. Deadzone offers Ratchet with 10 different weapons and while that sound small, it really isn’t.
You have a mine gun that launches mines toward your foes and explodes when people go near them. A shot gun that is very powerful. Dual Pistols that can be used when grinding on rails and can bounce all over the place when upgraded. Ball & Chain weapon that has a lot of impact. Sniper Rifle that packs quite the punch.
The weapons are more traditional but they are a lot of fun to use and the game has an interesting way of giving them unique abilities. Ratchet can use the bolts he finds to not only buy weapons but buy weapon MODS. These allow you to give your gun elemental properties like Ice, Lighting, Poison or even non-elemental ones like Confusion and Sheep.
This makes your load out very flexible, as you can give your ball & chain the Ice Mod to have more splash damage with Ice being everywhere when it hits the ground or give your rifle shock mod to stun them from far distances. Gameplay is further enhanced with AI partners, co-op support and ride-able crafts. The AI robots you have following you around are very useful, as they can toss EMP Blasts to take away force fields, create a shield around you for when you are turning bolt cranks and even heal themselves when they take too much damage.
Fully supporting co-op local and online, so you can play the entire game with a buddy and with the large amount of skins you can unlock, it will be fun for you and a buddy playing as Ratchet & Clank. The crafts you can ride include an upgraded hovercraft from Ratchet 3, spider-walker that shoots missiles and a jet-bike that is tough to control at first but very fun to use after you get the hang of it.
Note how I ignore any platforming, as that is mostly gone here. And that is fine, as the game still is a blast being a shooter, so the lack of major platforming is okay. Despite saying that, the limited platforming that still is present is quite solid and results in a
This game looks great on the PlayStation 2. Animated character models, beautiful locations to visit, strong voice acting and stable performance. One thing I really take away from the game is the soundtrack, as it really is great. Haunting but action packed. Dangerous but still heroic. It matches the somewhat confused tone of the game itself, with it ‘looking’ edgy but really still having the heart that makes Ratchet & Clank what it is.
It is one of the series best soundtracks and as the series final mainline adventure on the PS2, it sends the series out in style as it transitions on to the PS3.
While you aren’t getting a platformer with this title, it is still a fantastic shooter. If you loved action titles, you should give this a fair chance. It might push away gamers looking for a platformer but if you are open to getting a shooter, this is a fantastic one. Insomniac knocks it out of the park yet again.
You can get the game via original PS2 version or from the 2013 PSN remaster but that has some odd graphical issues with cut-scenes and gameplay issues (frame rate problems for example). In a nice bonus though, the PS3 version fully supports the online features the original PS2 version offered.