Just how well do tower defence elements fit in to the Ratchet and Clank series?
Ratchet and Clank have never quite had the same mass appeal of other platforming icons. They’re certainly a very important part of the Playstation canon, but they aren’t exactly riding the same fame waves as someone like Mario. Ratchet hit the ground running when he debuted on the PS2 with his robotic partner, but the two have struggled to maintain the same level of relevance as the seventh generation of home consoles has progressed. The most recent entry takes the form of a smaller title that, whilst very radical with its treatment of the series’ mechanics, is all the better for its attempt to try something new.
Known as Full Frontal Assault in America, Q-Force sees the eponymous heroes joining with captain Quark and his Q-Force once again. This time, the captain is threatened by a mysterious bad guy who keeps turning off the planetary defence systems at various locales across the universe, forcing the Q-Force into action. The paper thin structure is bolstered by some amusing character interactions, even if the dialogue is a bit hammy. That said, it’s more a vehicle for the new gameplay additions than anything else.
When entirely new genres are introduced to a series, it’s normally a bad sign for the franchise in question, but Q-Force’s tower defence elements work suspiciously well with the pre-existing combat and platforming Ratchet and Clank are known for. Levels take the form of the Q-Force setting up a base of operations, from which you have to activate various power nodes to open up, and ultimately reactivate each planet’s defence system. It is thus, that Qforce becomes a game of two parts for, whilst accessing the planetary defence system requires the usual mixture of combat, gadgetry and platforming we’ve come to love, you also have to keep your base protected while you venture off. Your base will have a number of generators that keep it up and running, and you need to make sure at least one remains to keep your operations going.
So what you get is traditional Ratchet and Clank, but with bursts of turret building and rushing back to base in order to stem a particularly aggressive horde. It sounds far more ramshackle on paper than in reality, with this new gameplay element blending in fairly well to the traditional platforming and combat elements of R and C. The usual elements are here as well, with a wide variety of different guns and gadgets to sink your teeth into. A persistent upgrade system exists where you level up your weapons, and various side objectives can be completed in order to gain additional skills for your hero. Sadly, this particular part of the game seems half-baked with the upgrade options being rather limited. It’s a decent idea regardless, just one that could have done with a bit of fleshing out.
Despite the more complex game mechanics, the game retains its family themes. The graphics offer a cartoon vibe, with furries and robots coexisting vibrantly. Likewise, the music and sound effects coalesce to mimic the action on screen in a fun, albeit predictable manner. The voice acting has the typically kid game delivery and lets the presentation of the game down ever so slightly. All this would make you think Q-Force was made for the younger audience alone, but the game actually packs quite a punch in terms of difficulty. Even the earlier levels offer a decent challenge and, whilst the later stages suffer from an unpredictable difficulty spike, the game consistently puts you through your paces. It makes each level a satisfying accomplishment, even if later sections ramp up a bit too quickly.
It’s no surprise the learning curve is so jumpy, as the game isn’t long enough to really justify a more conventionally pleasing difficulty progression. Coming in at roughly six hours, the single player campaign isn’t exactly much to look at. That said, the inclusion of local and online co-op for two players makes for a welcome game lengthener. Not a lot changes with the inclusion of a second player but, as the maps incorporate multiple lanes from which your base can be assaulted, having two hands on deck makes a lot of sense. Despite how short and occasionally repetitive the action can get, Q-Force comes at an appropriately lower price point than your average title, regardless of whether you opt for the physical or digital version of the game.
A risk has been taken with Q-Force, but it has paid off. Whilst some of Ratchet’s PS3 outings have been marred by a disappointing lack of ideas, Q-Force deploys them in force, and rather effortlessly to boot. It’s a shame that some of the ideas are not brought to total fruition, often touching on greatness without ever truly grasping at it. One such example is the game’s veritable lack of content but, considering the price point, Q-Force offers a quality over quantity package that remains good value for money.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Tower defence elements work well, Persistent upgrades keep things rolling, Visually engaging, Amusing characters, Great in co-op, Offers a good challenge
Awkward difficulty spikes, Formula can get repetitive, Quite short as a single player outing, Upgrades could have been better, Lame voice acting
An interesting hybrid of multiple genres, Q-Force offers a creative take on the Ratchet formula that feels surprisingly cohesive. A short, repetitive campaign spoils what is otherwise a stellar mash up of tried and tested ideas