Review: Ratchet: Deadlocked (Playstation 2)

In this review, we hope for some great ratings in the Playstation 2 game Ratchet: Deadlocked. We find out how well this third person shooter game plays.

This game was released in 2005 and is the fourth installment of the series.

Our knowledge of the original series is now complete for the most part. We first played the original Ratchet & Clank game. That game got a great score. From there, we tried Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. That game also got a great score. After that, we tried Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. That game continued the upward trend and also earned a great score. So, we thought we’d try the last game in the original series to see how it plays.

The game takes place right after the events of the previous game. Ratchet is on board the Starship Phoenix, being the caretaker of the ship. He gets a call from a mayor of a planet, warning them that various hero’s from different galaxies have been disappearing. One of the hero’s, as it turns out, died. These hero’s are being kidnapped by Gleemon Vox who is taking them to an illegal combat competition known as the Dreadzone. Unfortunately, as Ratchet is being warned, he, Clank, and Big Al are subsequently kidnapped and forced to partake in the same competitions.

One thing that is very noticeable about this game right away is the control style. Rather than the standard adventure style controls, you are actually playing a third person shooter style game. What makes this transition work is that the previous series already had characteristics of a third person shooter. In this game, it makes the leap from an adventure game to a full fledged third person shooter game with a few adventure elements.

One thing that is new in this game is the use of two AI bots. While the directional controls used to control certain behaviors is nothing new in this series, in this game, it is compressed into the abilities of Ratchet. Clank is, in fact, part of your game, but is taking the roll of a Non-Playable Character (NPC) instead.

A feature that is more or less removed is the armor vendors. Your armor does change over time, but it appears to be more or less a paint job difference more than anything else.

There is a set of weapons you can buy. Each weapon is gradually unlocked, but the arsenal is definitely smaller in this game. Weapons include the ball and chain, duel pistols, a shotgun style gun, rocket launcher, and sniper rifle. Most of these weapons are from the previous games.

What is different is the use of mods. There are Alpha and Omega mods. Alpha mods get installed as you gain experience on each weapon. Omega mods, on the other hand, can be purchased and installed. Note that some skill points that you can earn on field can only be achieved with a weapon without an Omega mod.

The mods will give weapons an advantage. Alpha mods include increased ammo capacity, higher accuracy, and 50% increase in bolt reward to name a number of them.

Meanwhile, Omega mods that can be bought will increase the power of your weapon. These can include freeze capabilities, mods, bouncing mines, and electric damage. Generally, these mods will make your weapons more powerful. If you are less concerned with getting every skill point, these are highly recommended.

What is new is the use of two bot assistants. These bots can help provide cover fire and provide general combat assistance. Additionally, though, they offer critical features necessary for your survival. This can include throwing EMP grenades, hacking spheres, and planting bombs on critical infrastructure to name a few.

These bots can be upgrades at Big Al’s area on the station. While there are a limited number of ways you can upgrade these bots, upgrading them gradually becomes much more critical to your success as you progress through the game. Just know that some upgrades merely provide superficial appearance differences.

Like previous games, you are not only given a main mission on different planets, but also optional side missions. These side missions increase the number of dread points you earn and help unlock future missions. While it is possible to go a little less linear in your mission path, you ultimately need to complete a vast majority, if not, all of the missions to beat the game.

In addition, you can earn medals (6 in all) to also unlock different missions.

A number of features make a return in this game. This includes experience not only for your weapons, but also your overall health. Defeat enemies and your maximum overall health increases. Use a specific weapon enough and it will increase in power (through the alpha mods as well as through an overall improvement boost). In normal difficulty, the level cap is 10.

Bolts can also be collected throughout your mission. Typically, they can be obtains by defeating enemies, but you can also destroy a small number of breakables as well to earn an extra boost in bolts as well.

One final note about missions is the use of radar. This can work very well in pointing to where you need to go. This is thanks to the blue stars. Blue stars tell you an objective point. A flashing one either indicates the nearest or next objective point. Green circles indicate allies. Red circles indicate enemies.

One thing that is very noticeable is that this game is a much more compressed version of the Ratchet & Clank series. Along with the aforementioned features being compressed into a single character, there is also the overall length of the game being shorter. You could theoretically spend a weekend playing it and make it either close to the end or beating it outright. While different planets do have multiple stages, most stages clock in at around the 1 – 5 minute mark. There is the odd one here and there that will clock in at about 5 – 10 minutes, but that is it. In one mission, I managed to complete it in exactly 1:00 even.

A feature some people didn’t like is the fact that there are stages that explicitly limit you to a specific weapon. while that sounds annoying, a number of these missions also gives you unlimited ammo. So, it winds up being a training opportunity more than anything else. I’m personally indifferent with the different ways your armory is limited myself. On the one hand, it’s a bit annoying, but on the other hand, it adds variety to an otherwise somewhat bland game.

The level design is much more simplified than the previous games. For one, the hacking minigames are stripped out completely. For another, half the levels are little more than a single corridor that winds around a little to your final destination. Some missions are little more than a hallway and two rooms on either side of that hallway. Having played plenty of shooters in the past, I don’t believe the genre is an excuse for this.

On the upside, this game does manage to retain a lot of what made the previous games interesting. This includes the ability to train weapons and earn more maximum health. Story and writing, sadly isn’t one of them. There’s very little dynamics seen throughout the game save for a token scene or two. As such, a lot of the personality other games have is largely lost.

Generally speaking, while it is possible for fans of the series to be satisfied with the experience, this game just didn’t deliver to expectations other games gave. The compressed nature alone drops the quality of the game to the point that it almost seemed a tad rushed. I can definitely appreciate the series trying something different because experimentation is always a way to get more potential from a franchise. It’s unfortunate that the game simply under-delivers in the end. Whether or not this style works for this series is unclear after playing this game.

Graphically, this game still manages to look very solid. The intricate cartoon style 3D graphics and animation sequences work for the most part. There is plenty of good special effects all around. Unfortunately, with this game being as short as it is, there’s not much in the way of overall scenery. Because of this, the different levels wind up being more of a splash and dash rather than an immersive experience. A solid effort, but quantity does hold the game back on this front.

One thing I was looking forward to was how this game handles audio. Given that there is an overall trend of improvement throughout the series up to this point, the hope is that this game would also deliver here. Unfortunately, the only thing that is really notable is the voice acting. Even then, there is limited lines it delivers. The sound effects are OK, but nothing to get excited over. Finally, the music simply falls back into providing a good background sound, but never winds up standing out in any way. A passable effort, but nothing amazing.

Overall, this game simply disappoints given the bar set by previous games. It compresses so much into a shorter abbreviated experience. While the experimentation can breath new life into the game series, the under-delivery keeps the mystery of whether a third person shooter style works for this game. The length does this game few favors and the writing is simply not as strong here. The graphics are pretty solid, though the audio is only a passable experience. A decent all around game, but nothing to get overly excited over.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on normal difficulty.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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