rane500's Ratchet: Deadlocked (PlayStation 2) review

A Fun Game with a Misleading Description

I don't like squad-based games. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I'm a lone wolf. Whether you're AI or human I don't really feel like delaying or altering what I need to do to cover you, bail your butt out, tell you what to do, or toss you supplies. I definitely do not want to have to deal with friendly fire. I'd rather face the hordes of hostiles all by my lonesome than have to even think about what you're doing. I can stand co-op in some games, but only because there's no real strategy. Both of us need to shoot everything that moves as quickly as possible, heads up I just tossed a grenade over there. That's pretty straightforward and honestly rather difficult to screw up. Am I worried about you screwing up? A little I suppose, but I think I'm probably more worried more about me screwing up. I will probably get you killed, and while I'm not going to feel guilty I probably will feel hassled – who likes saying oops over and over? Don't even get me started on AI squads...brain-dead automatons that barely manage to find their way from point A to point B without assistance. I know things are improving in that arena, but as far as I'm concerned if I have to tell the computer that it's important they aim for an opponent's head instead of just firing randomly with the sniper rifle then I might as well just do it myself.

The problem with not liking squad-based games is that it's put me at a disadvantage on a lot of new releases. Squads are in, squads are hip, squads are a great way for you and some friends to go win one for the Gipper as a TEAM, rah rah rah. Or if your posse consists of some AI drones, it's a great way to give orders, feel like you're the big boss man, and that your brains led you to victory. I mean, hey...it's not like those drones can even get their shoes tied without you hitting Shift-T or selecting “Tie Shoes” from the context menu you get from pressing the triangle button. Given all of this, you can imagine I was not very happy to hear that one of my favorite franchises would be a squad-based shoot-em-up on the next go-round. Sure, the Ratchet and Clank franchise had been moving to more and more of a straight shooter and sure, the missions in Up Your Arsenal where you assisted or saved squads of the Galactic Rangers were a lot of fun. Those guys were all on automatic, though. They were background noise, randomly shooting at the waves of bad guys and essentially none of your concern. All of the previews of the new game Deadlocked, however said that you would be giving orders and directing your squad, using teammates to ensure your victory in a pure arena-style venue.

Those idiots need to have their heads examined. Either that or they need to go back and figure out what the terms “squad-based” and “arena-style” really mean.

I suppose the fault is really mine – Insomniac Games has never let me down. They have put together a very entertaining (albeit somewhat short) game with Ratchet: Deadlocked. There's a reason Clank is missing from the title – he's no longer with you. Instead he serves as a sort of navigator from a remote monitoring station, feeding you hints and vague directions in such rapid succession that I started looking for a way to shut him up. Wait, I should back up a bit. Heroes all over the galaxy have been kidnapped, and Ratchet is no exception. Gleeman Vox has scooped them all up for a gladiatorial-style championship show where they are forced to duke it out against hordes of robots and then eventually each other, all on live TV with a rather colorful commentary.

The “arenas” are actually more like large zones in a real environment, giving you all sorts of cover and terrain options to work with, and your “squad”: two helper robots that hover just behind you shooting anything that comes near. You can give them a grand total of six orders, and that's including the auto-repair command when one of them is knocked out. You can tell them to turn cranks for you, set up explosives in predefined points you come across in certain objectives, hack security stations, shield whomever is doing any of the prior actions, or (drum roll) to return to you. These orders functions off of the d-pad with context-sensitive icons – you can only tell the bots to do things when it fits the objective or way point you come across. Like I said, I think some people need to review what the term “squad-based” typically means in a game. Other than the overall premise, the core features of the Ratchet and Clank series are still here. You've got upgradeable weapons (although less than even the first game...very disappointing), detailed and complex environments, hordes of things to shoot, and plenty of wise-cracks.

My only real complaints with the game would be it's length. It's about seven to eight hours long on the default difficulty setting and you have a somewhat anti-climactic ending. There's the now-standard ability to keep your arsenal and start over with harder challenges, and every stage contains a series of extra challenges and skill points to try for, but that can really be hit or miss when it comes to holding interest. You can't put a sizable portion of your content in optional mini-quests, because even if there's a ton of things to do a player will still feel a bit let down. That's perceived as extra content, something added on to a full gaming experience. I've read that the multi-player modes are quite good, however I lack both an online adapter for my PS2 and friends with enough free time to just drop by to help me test a game so I can't really vouch for it myself. Even so that would fall under what I've said already: in the console world at least – you shouldn't short change your single player experience for what most people see as extra material.

Overall, I did enjoy Ratchet: Deadlocked immensely, even though I was mailing it back to GameFly after beating it two days later. Do what I'm doing: consider it a definite rental, and then if you start jonesing after you've returned it you'll know you should at least pick it up used.

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