Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been ten years since the lovable duo first graced our consoles and these Playstation exclusive heroes are always a welcome sight for fans. However this is not Ratchet and Clank as we know it and unfortunately for developer Insomniac Games, the change in formula may serve to alienate rather than endear.
Unlike its competitors, Ratchet and Clank chose to stick to its guns (no pun intended). Similar franchises (such as Jak and Daxter) made a point of altering the tone, theme and even play-style with each addition. Insomniacs popular IP adopted a more traditional approach in its early years and simply expanded on a winning formula. This brought success for a long time but as the industry matured, so too did the audience and the decision to try new ideas has eventually found its way to our furry friend and his robot pal.
The last title in the series, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, placed the emphasis on multiplayer and received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Q Force once again changes things up placing its main focus on tower defence. But it seems that Ratchet and Clank may have been a victim of their own success. Although the idea to try new things is a commendable one, for this ten year anniversary a return to the franchises roots may have served as a better celebration.
As always, Q Force opens with Ratchet and friends on routine patrol, cautiously awaiting a new threat or villain to thwart. It is not long before the galaxy is once again thrown into peril by the appearance of a new bad guy and our heroes must once again take up arms and make the galaxy safe once again.
Although never the pinnacle of narrative construction, this series has always managed to create a great world and atmosphere that is unfortunately lacking in Q Force. The dialogue is still snappy and the characterisation is as great as ever but the story itself feels a little rushed and under developed. This in turn gives the whole experience a somewhat under-whelming feel that almost serves to remove the plot from the players concern altogether. Sure there are some familiar faces and humorous sequences that are sure to please fans, but they are all forgettable and don’t drive the narrative in any particular direction.
Unlike most other titles in the Ratchet and Clank back catalogue, the idea here is not to explore planets and solve individual problems, but to solve the same problem on all planets, albeit with slight variations. Each area will consist of several nodes to activate along with a planetary defence network to turn on. Areas will also consist of a base for you to defend. At both random and scripted points throughout the level your base will be attacked, forcing you to rush back and defend it. You are also able to build fortifications and defences for your base by spending bolts collected (as always) through exploration.
This interesting but ultimately repetitive structure is not without its pluses, but unfortunately is a concept that requires a lot of balancing. As you progress further through the game it soon becomes clear that not enough time has been spent getting this element right. Tower/base defence is always supposed to be a challenge, especially for those who struggle with multi-tasking. However there is a fine line between challenging and stressful when it comes to this genre and the later levels of Q Force only qualify as the latter. It seems no matter how many defences are built the enemies will almost always get through, meaning that careful planning counts for little if you are made to return to your base and manually defend it regardless. This in turn gives you very little time to enjoy the small amount of exploration on offer, as you are constantly worried about the next attack.
One thing that Ratchet and Clank has always been about is weapons and I am happy to say most of the favourites return here. Unfortunately however, like most other staples of the franchise, they feel like they have been pushed in without much thought or planning. Like almost every element of Q Force, it feels like Ratchet through imitation rather than innovation.
Graphically Q Force is also a step backwards from All 4 One, looking good but not great. This seems to have been done to bring it in line with its Vita counterpart, which is free with the PS3 version. Unfortunately the jury is still out on how the vita version runs, as it was not released simultaneously as planned. Vita owners will have to wait till at least mid-February to try it out.
Depending on how the two interact, the Vita version could be the make or break for Q Force. Tower defence is a genre much more suited to portable gaming and the repetitive structure is best played in bite-sized chunks. This in turn means Q Force may have been a better game if it had only been released on Vita. Still with a RRP of £15-£20 at most for both versions you are already getting great value for money.
Ratchet and Clank Q Force is not a bad game, but it’s not a great one either. If you are a fan of the franchise there is definitely something here for you however you may be under whelmed. A ten year anniversary is not something that should be taken lightly however this reuse of old ideas coupled with some under developed new ones makes Q Force feel more of a missed opportunity than a celebration.