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Ratchet & Clank QForce Review (PS3)

Ratchet and Clank Q-Force Logo
Video games can often be likened to the most surprising of sources. So it was to my surprise that the 10th anniversary release of the Ratchet & Clank series, Q-Force (known in the US as Full Frontal Assault), reminds me of the original Mass Effect game in places. Stay with me on this.

The series’ seminal title characters begin this new, futuristic adventure aboard their free to roam around spaceship, Starship Phoenix II. Q-Force’s purpose is to gain control of each planet’s defence systems, represented in a, albeit very low budget, Mass Effect-style planet/galaxy select screen. Once on each planet, you’re free to blast hostiles with acquired weapons, in fairly open areas, in order to restore parity to the galaxy. This is where the similarity ends however, but you’ll be wishing it didn’t.

Full-Frontal-AssaultDuring the campaign, touching base on each planet provides exactly that, a base with several generators to protect. You guessed it: Tower Defence. This is essentially the backbone of each level; should all your generators be destroyed, it’s back to the previous checkpoint.

This is however, only one part of each planet. Scour the surroundings outside of the base in fairly open areas, destroying scattered crates and loitering enemies and you acquire Bolts, the game’s currency. Said currency is used to bolster defences to protect your base and its generators. As well as upgrading base defences, Ratchet is required to seek out the guarded Grungarian generators in the areas outside your base, wiping out Grungarians along the way.

Each time this is completed, be prepared to head back to base for a tower defence-style show down, but as Ratchet, you can assist freely. Once all Grungarian generators are disposed of, each level culminates in a massive wave of enemies attacking the base in a final standoff. To be fair its frantic and exciting stuff, like Hordes mode in Gears of War, for example.

With its gameplay, Ratchet and Clank Q-Force makes a welcome return to its roots, with previous releases Quest for Booty and Crack in Time being more puzzle-based platformers. Third-person jumping, shooting and clobbering with Ratchet’s wrench are the common themes, with the opportunity to ‘level up’ additional obtained weapons, the more they are used.

Ammo and health are in abundance thanks to Nanotech boxes, usually dotted around combat-heavy areas. The controls are fluid, and quite often you’ll have Ratchet vaulting through the air whilst dispatching the bad guys. The Grungarians come in different shapes and sizes; typically the bigger they are, the more difficult to eliminate. It’s just a shame that every planet of the campaign is like this, each one taking little over 30 minutes to complete at the first attempt. It feels like slumping in front of the TV, watching a boring action movie you’ve seen ten times already; you know the plot, but you’re just waiting for the good bits.

So Q-Force is pretty standard, generic stuff on the whole, which is no bad thing. It’s very playable, but there is no driving force behind it, and very little to grab your attention.

You see, there is just very little plot in Q-Force. Cut-scenes play out well, and are fun with good humour, but all they serve as is a little break from the tower defence and baddie-bashing. Coupled with the fact that it’s also laughably short and easy, even hardened Ratchet & Clank fans will be wondering what could have been.

Thankfully, the redeeming feature of Q-Force is its multiplayer. QForce multiplayerIt feels that it is here the tower defence works a lot better, whether you are competing against, or working with another. It also makes more sense, such as in co-op; one player can do the scouring for weapons and currency, while the other boosts the base’s defences, for a much more tactical approach.

Co-op also gives the freedom to change the tactical approach, whether to go all out assault, or stay defensive. With one against another, it can often end in all out war, and is far more satisfying than a bunch of brainless enemies. Strange, I feel as though I’m reviewing a Call of Duty game…

Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force is a bit of a mixed bag. It borrows elements from other successful titles and performs them amicably. It’s only natural that after ten years, Insomniac tries something different with a franchise that is on to its thirteenth title. It’s a shame Q-Force is missing a soul and a purpose, because there is fun to be had here, particularly for fans of the series. The fact it was released at £14.99 softens these blows, and, most importantly, makes Q-Force a worthy purchase. If you have friends.

Ratchet & Clank is out now on PlayStation 3.

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