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Ratchet: Deadlocked (or Ratchet: Gladiator in the EU for no ful­ly explained rea­son) is an odd one out when it comes to Ratchet & Clank games. The last game in the series on the PS2 takes an evo­lu­tion­ary off­shoot from the pre­vi­ous three titles, and instead becomes an are­na chal­lenge based third per­son action game. The first three games, which we have already ded­i­cat­ed an arti­cle each on, very close­ly fol­low a for­mu­la that works very well for them. Ratchet: Deadlocked keeps some famil­iar ele­ments from the past, but makes the most changes in one title of any sin­gle game in the series.

First of all, it isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly a Ratchet & Clank game; you spend the entire game sep­a­rat­ed from Clank with your usu­al robot­ic back-pack reduced to a sup­port role along with Big Al. This severe­ly lim­its your plat­form­ing abil­i­ty, as well as alters the feel of your usu­al mobil­i­ty. Ratchet is snap­pier than he is in pre­vi­ous games, and you soon get used to not being able to stretch-jump or glide, but it is a lit­tle dis­con­cert­ing at first. Deadlocked for­goes the usu­al explo­ration and plat­form­ing ele­ments in lieu of a whole host of sep­a­rate chal­lenges.

Think of it kind of like Annihilation Nation and the Galactic Ranger mis­sions from Ratchet & Clank 3 fleshed out into an entire video game. Instead of Clank you are out­fit­ted with a pair of com­bat bots, Merc and Green. Their names don’t come up too much, but they have a decent amount of per­son­al­i­ty and dia­logue of their own.

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Merc & Green, your trusty Combots

Why were all the­se changes made? Well, it most­ly stems from the premise. As you could prob­a­bly guess from the EU title, Ratchet has become a Gladiator, with all the forced com­bat and defac­to slav­ery that comes with it. Ratchet is kid­napped straight off the Starship Phoenix and is trans­port­ed to the Shadow Sector where he is forced to fight for­mer heroes in order to sur­vive in front of an audi­ence of bil­lions in a show called Dreadzone. Clank and Big Al are tak­en as col­lat­er­al dam­age, but are put to work as Ratchet’s sup­port team, feed­ing him infor­ma­tion and upgrad­ing his gear. All of them are fit­ted with Deadlock col­lars, the name­sake of the game in US ter­ri­to­ries and dead­ly con­trol devices which will explode at the push of a but­ton, or if a con­tes­tant tries to flee. The founder and own­er of the Vox Network, Gleeman Vox, serves as the game’s main antag­o­nist, as do the top glad­i­a­tors who you must bat­tle through to sur­vive in the show/blood sport called Deadlocked as you try to find a way out of it all.

Your bots do more than help fight. They are also your main gad­get, deploy­ing grind-cables, tak­ing down shields of mount­ed tur­rets, and hack­ing points for you. All in all, apart from the sling­shot, Ratchet has no active gad­gets of his own this time around. All of this means the game lives and dies on its core com­bat and var­i­ous vehi­cle sec­tions.

You can also take a ride in the Landstalker, an all-terrain walk­ing tur­ret with a suit of mis­siles to wreck your opponent’s day. It’s a lit­tle slow, but is sat­is­fy­ing to dri­ve. The Hovership has been upgrad­ed to a com­bat space-ship, but func­tions rel­a­tive­ly the same as before. You will also encoun­ter a few Hoverbike cours­es, as well as pilot­ing a high­ly mobile tank-like vehi­cle called The Puma on some of the big­ger maps. These are the most var­ied and best imple­ment­ed vehi­cles in the series; I sup­pose they should be since you will be spend­ing quite a lot of time with them.

Repetition is the main weak­ness of Ratchet: Gladiator’s sin­gle play­er. The main are­na sec­tions that punc­tu­ate the plan­e­tary sec­tions are a wel­come break as they some­times include more var­ied chal­lenge mod­es and offer some actu­al plat­form­ing. Planets tend to be: get all the points, destroy all the things, Landstalker/Hovership, may­be a grind-rail, rin­se and repeat. The action on dis­play here is good, but I wish some of the usu­al explo­ration had been brought to the table. As it is, the action can be numb­ing and you find your­self focus­ing on just tick­ing off chal­lenges rather than ful­ly enjoy­ing the game.

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The Landstalker and the Puma

The game style is the least bright and “car­toony” look of the series so far. It still looks styl­ized, but resem­bles more of a dark­er graph­ic nov­el or comic book. This look wouldn’t be retained in fur­ther games, and whilst the game looks pret­ty good for a PS2 release it means loca­tions are far less mem­o­rable than in the pre­vi­ous three titles. The sound­track also had an over­haul; it most­ly con­tains syn­th and synth-guitar stings as the glad­i­a­tor show’s sound­track. In a an emerg­ing pat­tern, some parts of it can be too often repeat­ed like the music stinger for win­ning a match. You will end up remem­ber­ing some of the sound­track, but that will be down to raw rep­e­ti­tion rather than mem­o­ra­bil­i­ty. It’s not ter­ri­ble, and it serves the game well enough, but it just isn’t quite as evoca­tive as the themes from the pre­vi­ous titles.

Despite the­se short­com­ings Ratchet: Deadlocked is by no means a bad game. Its strongest points are the weapon and upgrade sys­tems, and the tight­ness of the com­bat. There is a slight­ly slimmed down ros­ter of base weapons, but all of them are sat­is­fy­ing to use and effec­tive — bar­ring the ter­mi­nal­ly use­less Holoshield Launcher. Why Insomniac kept giv­ing us the­se anaemic shield launch­ers I will nev­er know, but the rest of the weapons are top-notch.

They can be cus­tomized by a sys­tem of Alpha and Omega (get it?) mods, and each aug­ment and alter the func­tion of the weapon in sub­tle to not-so-subtle ways. For instance the Napalm Omega mod spreads burn­ing gel every­where and sets ene­mies on fire which is very use­ful for area of effect com­bat. The Alpha mods add things like extra capac­i­ty, longer range auto-aiming, faster fir­ing, even extra XP, health, and Bolts when ene­mies are killed. Each weapon unlocks new upgrades as it lev­els up, as well as hav­ing the abil­i­ty to buy mods at ven­dors. Most mods can be used on most weapons, espe­cial­ly Alpha mods, which can lead to some inter­est­ing setups and com­bi­na­tions.

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From right: the Magma Cannon, B6-Obliterator and Dual Vipers

The game also fea­tures co-operative and com­pet­i­tive mul­ti­play­er; you can go through much of the sin­gle play­er with a friend in co-op. The sys­tem is inter­est­ing because only one of you can use a weapon at one time so it encour­ages diver­si­ty in load­outs. Playing it this way made some of the chal­lenges feel a lit­tle bet­ter, and some a lit­tle worse. The mul­ti­play­er was sat­is­fy­ing to play — for what lit­tle I man­aged to play of it. It’s impres­sive all the­se mod­es were accom­mo­dat­ed, but they demon­strate the fragili­ty and tran­sience of online mod­es in some games. When Ratchet & Clank titles focus on pure­ly single-player expe­ri­ences the results tend to be bet­ter (with the excep­tion of the freak­ish­ly good Up Your Arsenal). You can kind of feel the game creak­ing a lit­tle under the weight of all the­se fea­tures this time, but it man­ages to retain that core of qual­i­ty and has ele­ments of its own unmatched in the series.

I think it would be unkind to call Ratchet: Deadlocked a “failed exper­i­ment,” it cer­tain­ly changes things up a bit in the series. It offers enjoy­ment if you can put up with a lit­tle rep­e­ti­tion, and it suc­ceeds at what it sets out to do. The game hasn’t aged as well as its con­tem­po­raries, but I still had a blast with it and I didn’t find myself dis­lik­ing the replay for this ret­ro­spec­tive.

I’ve heard the game be derid­ed as the runt of the lit­tler — it cer­tain­ly seems like the most fre­quent­ly for­got­ten Ratchet & Clank game — and I feel that is a lit­tle unfair. The action/adventure gen­re has had a lot of devel­op­ment in the inter­ven­ing years whilst the 3D plat­form­ers have some­what fal­l­en by the wayside. Perhaps this is why Ratchet: Deadlocked hasn’t stayed quite as fresh, but if you like the Ratchet & Clank series and want a decent action game then you can do much worse than Ratchet: Deadlocked. I wouldn’t call it a clas­sic, but it’s still a wor­thy and inter­est­ing entry in the series.

Favourite Weapon: The Dual Vipers, Rata-tat-tat

Favourite Gadget: Is say­ing the Combots cheat­ing?

Next time we ven­ture into the future, and locate some Tools of Destruction. 

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ratchet-deadlocked-header.jpghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ratchet-deadlocked-header-150x150.jpgJohn SweeneyConsoleConsole RetrospectiveConsole Retrospective,Deadlocked,Ratchet & ClankRatchet: Deadlocked (or Ratchet: Gladiator in the EU for no ful­ly explained rea­son) is an odd one out when it comes to Ratchet & Clank games. The last game in the series on the PS2 takes an evo­lu­tion­ary off­shoot from the pre­vi­ous three titles, and instead becomes an are­na chal­lenge based…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.