By Will Kostakis
Ratchet and Clank are back. To celebrate their franchise’s 10th anniversary, Insomniac has released a budget spinoff title that takes the series’ third-person platforming gameplay and applies it to a tower defence title. If that doesn’t sound like a fitting way to pay tribute to 10 years of Ratchet and Clank, then you’re right, because it’s not.
While it’s understandable that Insomniac want to keep the series feeling fresh after 10 years, the new approach takes the focus off what fans love about the series. Q Force features less humour, less plot and more repetitive platforming, and the new strategy elements, while interesting, aren’t refined.
It’s unfair to expect a fully-fledged Ratchet experience from a budget release, but taking the series in a new direction in a budget release has resulted in a spinoff that just feels half-baked.
And if there’s one thing gamers like, it’s an unrefined spinoff.
In the single-player campaign, controlling Ratchet, Clank or Captain Qwark, players must defend their base while attacking their enemy’s. The gameplay should feel familiar to fans of the series, but the objectives are limited to protecting or attacking nodes. Securing nodes will win you access to fan-favourite weapons from the PS3 incarnations in the series, and collecting bolts allows you to buy upgrades for your base.
Even over five short levels, Q Force stretches its premise a little thin. Each one is completed the same way (you take down the enemy shield generators, destroy the base, returning back to yours intermittently to keep it from being destroyed).
What really strikes you while playing, though, is how few "wow" moments there are, moments that the Ratchet games are known for. It's a disappointing case of jack of all trades, master of none – Q Force has one foot in platforming and the other in tower defence strategy, and the resulting product does neither of them particularly well.
After five hours, the campaign is over, but it’s in multiplayer where the game really finds its groove. There are three phases to the matches – Recon tasks players with securing nodes (and in turn, bolts and weapons), Squad sees players building up armies and defences, and Assault, where the players clash. The first player to take out their opponent’s six generators wins.
It’s overwhelmingly fun, both online and off, but it’s restricted by the game’s small scope. As enjoyable as it is. without additional DLC or new modes to shake things up, we can’t really see gamers returning after a few weeks with the game.
And that’s a shame, because there’s a solid multiplayer title here. If it were a little less predictable, this spinoff could have been a worthy addition to the Ratchet and Clank family, and even a potential series in its own right.