By Dene Benham
With the franchise now a decade old, it’s somehow comforting that Lombax mechanic Ratchet, along with his metal buddy Clank, are still together throwing spanners, collecting nuts and bolts, and saving the galaxy from alien invaders.
In Ratchet & Clank: QForce, the boys, along with Retired Galactic President Qwark, have to defend three planets from alien invasion.
“Three planets? Easy,” I hear you say. Not so fast, because the planets are defensive outposts, and if they fall the whole galaxy is in trouble.
So, it’s business as usual for Ratchet & Clank - get some cool weapons, try not to let Captain Qwark make an idiot of himself, and wipe the floor with the alien invaders.
But, Ratchet & Clank: QForce is different to most of the titles in the PlayStation exclusive franchise. Like 2008’s Quest for Booty, QForce is designed to be downloaded from the PlayStation Network. While it is available on disk for around $40, it’s fairly light on story, concentrating instead on co-op and multiplayer online.
The way it works is you choose to be Captain Qwark, Clank, or Ratchet, and head down to the surface of a planet. Essentially a tower defence game, you have to protect half a dozen generators within your compound, while battling alien attackers, finding and knocking out alien tech, and finally reactivating the planet’s automated defence systems.
Although many of the familiar Ratchet & Clank elements are there, it feels lightweight. It’s as if a tower defence game had a checklist of things from Ratchet & Clank to add to it. A bit of humour, some platforms, the groovitron gun, and the always awesome Mr Zirkon. It’s all there, but we’ve seen it all before.
There are a couple of entry points to your compound, and a few boxes lying around. Breaking the boxes get you bolts that you can use to place mines, turrets, and force fields. To get more bolts you have to leave the compound. But, if you go too far without building a strong enough automated defence, your generators will be destroyed by the aliens before you can get back. So, the game is a balancing act between collecting bolts, building defences, and racing around the map trying to find the alien strongholds you need to destroy to clear the level.
The story mode is short, despite the option to play two-player co-op and the presence of a few difficulty spikes - especially when the alien tanks start rolling in. QForce looks good, plays well, and fans of the franchise will definitely find it both familiar and enjoyable.
The maps are compact, but have enough complexity to keep things interesting. You also start each level unarmed. So, you have to search for weapon caches to build up an arsenal powerful enough to take out the aliens. From the Warmonger rocket launcher to the electrified Thundersmack, if you can find them there’s more than enough firepower to keep those aliens in line.
Once you’ve dealt to the aliens, it’s time to head online and deal to the humans. QForce lets you play 1v1 battles or in teams of two, with each side defending a compound containing six generators. The game consists of three stages. In the first you zap around with your hover boots, fighting robots, collecting bolts, and trying to capture waypoints that will generate extra bolts. When the second stage begins you can use your bolts to pay for an attack force, upgrade your health or attack power, or add to your compound’s shields, mines, and turrets. In the final stage you can stay and protect your base, while your small army attacks your opponent, or you can trust in your defences and head out to blow up the enemy generators.
The online contest works well. You can set up a custom game or just jump straight into a quick match. Although waiting for a match can take a bit of patience, playing a game is a nice blend of getting to know the maps, tactics, and just blasting everything in sight.
Unfortunately, despite being fun, there’s just not much to it. It’s a quarter of a story and just one online mode. And while the whole tower defence thing works, and the game looks, sounds, and plays perfectly well, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen it all before.
Ratchet & Clank: QForce
:: Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
:: Developer: Insomniac Games
:: Format: PlayStation 3
:: Rating: PG