Well, since it’s been almost two years since I last made a blog post, I’d thought I would start afresh and renewed. Now with with a more hopeful, positive outlook replacing the try-hard too clever by half snark that made my last blog kind of embarrassing to re-read. It being the middle of May, why not just write about what I played during the first half. Also came up with the title Midway: May, only problem is it sounds like some video series devoted to a defunct company done by a guy who wears a hat and his friend who dresses up like Scorpion for bad skits. Unfortunately, I can’t make good on this idea, but if anyone wants to, go right ahead. But yeah, thanks to a recent PSN sale I was able to catch up on one of my favorite series from the PS2 era, Ratchet & Clank.
Back when this sequel to 2007’s Tool’s of Destruction came out in 2008, I was still a strong proponent of physical releases. I was tempted to import the PAL release, but decided against paying something like sixty percent more for a four hour game. So when it was on sale on the PSN recently I snatched it up.
So this game’s great, well some of it is...well the first hour and a half. Not the first fifteen though, the part after the introduction. A extended sequence where Insomniac strips away what the series has prided itself on since 2002. The Guns. Instead, you spend your time on Hoolefar Island exploring a decent size level, looking for towers to climb. The towers help power the shield generator for the island or something, I don’t really remember. What I do remember are some great sections of platforming as made my way up the tower to turn a bolt with a circular motion of the left analog stick. The series always, post one with its weird character momentum, had decent controls for platforming, but the level design never really took advantage. The platforming, at least after the original, was used as more of a break from the combat than the main obstacle. I never found R&C’s platforming challenging before, but I did find myself repeating some tricky sections dealing with the gravity boots in Quest. This isn’t Super Mario Galaxy quality here, but for a series that relied more on its shooting mechanics and quirky weaponry, it was refreshing to see such a focus.
Which only made the switch to combat all the more disappointing. With the smaller scale, it makes sense why Tools of Destruction's weapons and enemies are recycled, what with all the environments being original. Less understandable is the design of the combat scenarios, they’re just kind of lame. Often you enter a area, usually circular and fight a couple waves of enemies. Or during the intro set piece, where you jump from one pirate ship to a identical pirate ship, climb a ladder that always in the same spot and hit a launch pad to another ship. It’s not that great of section, so course they repeat it for the climax.
So the shooting sections aren’t that great, but it’s still a worthwhile experience because of Hoolefar Island. That level reminded me of 2004, back when 3D platformers that didn’t star Mario were still alive. Nostalgia for I-Ninja, or Vexx...if Vexx wasn’t garbage.
And whoosh, there goes all my warm fuzzies. This game is a straight up bummer. Following the template of games like Iron Brigade and Orcs Must Die!, FFA attempts to meld the tower defense genre with actions games, but with the inclusion of platforming and level exploration. It doesn’t work. Much like the lazy innuendo.
It seems like a decent concept, in between waves of enemies attacking your base, you explore the level, gaining more weapons and slowly overtaking sections of the battlefield from the enemy forces. Problem is, neither style feels satisfying. Maybe I’m just terrible at gathering resources(most likely), but I always found myself starved for bolts. There never seemed to be enough boxes around to give me a decent amount of bolts. Being the poor hero, I usually could only spring for maybe two turrets and a barrier on either lane. This frugal defense meant that I had to handle most of the enemies, hopping back and forth, holding down the R1 trigger to spray the enemies with blaster fire.
Yes blaster fire, not much point in getting use to the other weapons because of how efficient the weapon is and the way the weapon system works. You start off every level with only the wrench and charge boots, and have to go searching for weapon drop pods, and after playing a weak minigame you have a choice between (what seems) sorta-randomly selected weapons. The blaster is a given, and from the three levels I played, I always received it first or near first. It’s tedious having to rebuild Ratchet’s arsenal every time by wandering around the environment. This is half of the platforming/adventuring aspect of the game.
The other half being Ratchet gaining control of the map by attacking enemy outposts. There’s two mirrored outpost, one on the left and one on the right of the map. Pretty much Ratchet walks up, kills every enemy in the area, and turns a bolt. Maybe jumping across three slow moving platforms. Getting both of those, there’s one more enemy base directly across from you on the map. Much like the gathering of weapons, the act of gaining control gets tedious pretty fast as it plays out the same pretty much every time.
Remember when Insomniac said they weren’t going to focus on maintaining sixty frames per second before? Well, I was somewhat dismayed at the news, but I believed they would keep their games locked at a solid thirty. Nope. This is the first R&C game that I can recall dipping into the low twenties during regular gameplay. Well, Deadlocked did have slowdown, but that game was on the PS2 with a large amount of enemies and explosions onscreen, so I’m not gonna be as lenient for FFA. So yeah, I only played three levels of this game, so maybe the systems and designs work better later on. Maybe the multiplayer, competitive and co-op are good, but I’m not gonna see. Finishing that third level left a bad taste in my mouth, and I deleted the game from my HDD.