Ratchet and Clank has always been one of my favorite PS2 franchises. Throughout the years, the series has maintained a great sense of humor, fun gameplay, excellent level design and fantastic graphics. The success of each iteration comes from the fact that Insomniac always finds a way to improve upon the previous version, adding enough new content to keep gamers interested while still holding to the fundamental characteristics of the game.
When I first heard about Ratchet: Deadlocked, I was both excited and worried. The absence of the name “Clank” in the title, coupled with the darker-looking box art and deathmatch gameplay I had heard about, had me thinking they had taken the series in a completely different, and much darker, direction. So it was with great trepidation that I accepted the role of reviewing this title. I had been so in love with Up Your Arsenal (review) that I didn’t want to feel the disappointment I believed to be inevitable. Yet from the moment I put Deadlocked in my PS2, I realized all my worries were for nothing.
Ratchet is still the same vibrant, humorous series it has always been. While the majority of the game does focus on arena battles rather than the puzzle-solving platforming style we all know and love, there is a story that ties the combat together: Ratchet becomes a “contestant” on a reality show called DreadZone, which ends up being a cross between Fight Club and this made-for-cable movie starring Rutger Hauer and Mimi Rogers called “Deadlock.” The similarities to this early-90s sci-fi B movie don’t end with the name, either. In the movie, prisoners are forced to wear an electronic collar, which is linked to that of another anonymous prisoner. If the two linked inmates stray too far apart, the collar, along with the head it is attached to, go kablooey. DreadZone is broadcast on Vox Networks, and the parody of real-life counterpart Fox Networks’ recent obsession with reality TV can’t be missed. The ability to satirize current pop-culture is something that makes this series so enjoyable.
Deadlocked plays like any other Ratchet game. The noticeable difference is that Ratchet’s whimsical weaponry has been confiscated and replaced with the DreadZone’s more-practical weapons. These weapons still make use of nanotechnology to receive upgrades with continued use; they just aren’t quite as fun. While the weapons menu appears to be similar to Up Your Arsenal’s, I didn’t find it to be as smooth. Clank is no longer an integral part of the game, as he has been relegated to the sidelines, and now acts as part of Ratchet’s support team.
The biggest change this year, besides the new take on the story, is the addition of cooperative play. You and a friend can take on the arena challenges together, defeating enemies and working together to complete the missions. The co-op is split screen, as opposed to games that use a shared screen, such as X-Men Legends. The players are still required to keep within a certain distance of each other; otherwise, those pesky neck collars are going to go boom. Did I forget to mention the contestants on the show aren’t necessarily willing participants? The co-op is a nice addition, since it is always more fun to beat down enemies using a wrench with a friend.
If you don’t have a friend handy, you can always take it online via a broadband internet connection. The online multiplayer has the same modes as the offline multiplayer, including the standard deathmatch, King of the Hill, Juggernaut and Capture the Flag modes. Up Your Arsenal’s siege mode has been renamed Conquest, but it still plays out in similar fashion: you and your team must fight to capture the nodes while trying to protect those you already captured.
Similar to previous titles in the series, levels are broken out into planets, each with its own challenges. The main event on each planet is broken down into sections, and after you complete each section, you are given a summary of your performance. There are 15 challenges on each planet, and some require you to go through the event again, either at a higher level or by killing a set number of enemies with a specific weapon. Once you complete the main course, you open up Dread Challenges, which vary from racing a Hoverbike through check points to using the Landstalker mech to cause as much destruction as possible in a limited amount of time.
The graphics aren’t a huge leap over last year’s game, but we aren’t complaining; Up Your Arsenal looked fantastic. Deadlocked looks a little crisper, but there really hasn’t been any huge strides made with the visuals.
The same could be said for the audio. Deadlocked sports great environmental sounds and top-notch voice acting, but nothing much different to distinguish one from the other. We can’t fault Insomniac for that, since there isn’t that much you can do to improve upon sound once it reaches a certain level of quality.
Ratchet: Deadlocked is a fun game that lives up to the high standards set by previous versions of the game. The action is a nice change of pace for the series, evolving from the action-platform genre to more of a straight-up shooter. Heavy weaponry is still the name of the game, but the absence of Clank takes away a little of the magic. As much as I enjoyed playing Deadlocked, I’m not sure that there is enough innovation and new content to keep the series going.
- Gameplay: 8.8
- The focus has shifted a little bit, but it is still the same Ratchet we know and love.
- Graphics: 9
- Once again, Insomniac delivers a great-looking game.
- Sound: 9
- Like the graphics, the audio portion meets the high standard of the series.
- Replay: 8
- With online play and the newly added co-op, fans will enjoy playing through this with friends.
- Overall: 8.8
- Ratchet: Deadlocked is a fun game, but it just doesn’t feel much different from Up Your Arsenal.
— J. Paradise