Ratchet: Deadlocked Preview
By: Andy Levine

The Ratchet & Clank series has always been one of Sony’s success stories, and this October gamers can expect yet another great adventure with Ratchet: Deadlocked. Unlike other titles in the series, Deadlocked leans more towards shooter elements than platform, which, although a departure for the series, makes for a great change of pace. We at GamersHell managed to get our grubby hands on a demo of Ratchet: Deadlocked, to gather preview impressions of both single-player and multiplayer modes.

Deadlocked’s premise begins with ‘Dreadzone’, a thrilling TV show run by the notorious Gleeman Vox. Vox’s particular brand of reality programming consists of captured gladiators who must fight through different battlefields and environments to stay alive. As expected, Ratchet and Clank are summarily captured and forced to compete, but with an added twist—the duo are separated right from the start. While Ratchet more or less goes it alone against hordes of exterminators, Clank still pops up frequently to offer mission information and advice.

Deadlocked has adopted an open-ended mission structure where the player selects which foes to fight against. Completing certain objectives in each level will bring victory, but you can still expect a lot of robot mashing mayhem throughout the various battlefields. As the adventure continues, Ratchet must use his resourcefulness in order to overcome different tasks and defeat powerful bosses.

Fans already familiar with the previous Ratchet & Clank title Up Your Arsenal were probably astonished by the sheer number of weapons it made available—but sometimes less is more. By contrast, Deadlocked will only contain 10 different weapons, but all are fully customizable to fit every style of gameplay. Essentially, the two classes of weapon modifications are Alpha and Omega. Alpha mods consist of basic weapon enhancements like an increased rate of fire, higher damage, and a wider attack range.

While the basic mods can make any weapon more effective, the Omega mods offer different elemental effects that create an entirely different feel for the gun. For example, the ice upgrade freezes opponents on impact, allowing Ratchet to nonchalantly walk over and smash them into shards with his wrench. Other upgrades include a lava mod that adds fire damage to your shot, and a lightning mod that shocks foes in the immediate vicinity along with the targeted enemy. Weapons and upgrades can be purchased via any of the shop-like interfaces scattered throughout the levels.

The best part about upgrading is that once a mod is installed, it lasts for the entire game. By adding an ice upgrade to a gun, every subsequent shot will carry the same freezing capabilities, making the Omega mods a truly valuable investment. Deadlocked also plays on the convention of experience by rewarding Ratchet with increased proficiency for using his arsenal in full. Basically, the more a weapon is used, the better chance Ratchet has of earning further upgrades. This approach adds an RPG-esque feel not only to weapon management, but gameplay as well. Despite the decrease in the number of available weapons, Deadlocked easily makes up for this with deep customization options and upgrading possibilities.

The support characters have undergone a similar overhaul. Without trusty Clank by his side, Ratchet is instead able to obtain two robot sidekicks that obey his commands. The bots respond to a variety of commands that range from basic orders such as ‘regroup’ to more context-sensitive requests depending on the task at hand. Bot A.I. is fairly sophisticated, allowing your faithful buddies to take out foes, maneuver around objects, and accompany Ratchet with ease. To add even more robotic madness, Deadlocked introduces a whole load of new vehicles, including a spider-tank with unlimited lasers and lock-on missiles. Although the beloved Clank doesn’t offer much of a presence throughout the game, there is still more than enough content to take his place.

Gameplay flow has been somewhat altered in comparison to prior Ratchet titles, but Deadlocked still maintains the giddily chaotic philosophy that fans of the series have fallen in love with. The level we tried out had a wintry landscape, matching nicely with the ice blaster gun. Our first task was to order the two accompanying bots to hack nodes that controlled an electronic magnet. Then, after fighting off tiny beasts with our dual pistols, we found a shop selling a variety of weapons—and an Omega ice upgrade. After buying and equipping the ice mod, every enemy we shot either froze completely or slowed to a crawl.

In the next area, a spider-tank came in handy against some bulkier enemies while also providing transportation to nearby nodes that needed disabling. Here we used context-sensitive commands to order the bots to disable the nodes, thus unlocking the last section of the level. The screen then filled with a swarm of robots, beasts, deployable turrets, and even spell-casting foes. At this point we had acquired a powerful shotgun, but opted for the trusty spider-tank instead…which completely obliterated everything in our path.

Throughout the chaos of battle, running low on ammo never became an issue thanks to the amount of enemies who posthumously provided fresh supplies. Yet despite the potential of becoming a mindless shoot-fest, a mild element of strategy was involved. The spider-tank’s limitless ammunition helped mow down baddies—until it was blown up, which prompted a swift switch back to more traditional Ratchet shooter and platform action.

Ratchet still comes with the same platformer moves he’s always had, including back flips and side jumps. With this familiar movement set-up, combined with upgradeable weapons and modifications, Ratchet’s arsenal selection manages to stay fresh and effective throughout his entire journey. Yet the best part about Deadlocked’s single-player mode is that it doesn’t just involve completing a few arbitrarily random tasks while taking out the odd enemy here and there. Ratchet is always outnumbered, but with the help of his trusty bots and an extensively adjustable arsenal, Deadlocked promises to easily live up to its own expectations.

The multiplayer aspect of Deadlocked is sure to surpass its predecessors with an array of new game modes, including a co-op campaign. The cooperative mode is just like its single-player counterpart, with the addition of another player-controlled Ratchet—giving play more of a defined squad-based shooter feel. The multiplayer modes include the expected basics, such as ‘Capture the Flag’ and ‘King of the Hill’, but will sport some new features as well. ‘Conquest’ mode sees gamers scattered across maps attempting to secure as many nodes as possible without having their own captured. By gaining possession of more nodes, game extras like defense turrets and access to teleporting devices become available, offering even more incentive to come out on top. The established brand of humor set down by the Ratchet series can still be found in the multiplayer component, with touches like the announcer yelling “Humiliation!” after a player is killed by a wrench. New game modes aside, the classic ‘Deathmatch’ section is shaping up to be a blast, filled with explosions, elemental effects and, most importantly, complete and utter chaos.

Ratchet: Deadlocked’s presentation is similar to its series brethren though its use of brilliant colors and ground-shaking sound effects to amass an overall solid package. The environments are both sharp and highly detailed, their textures conveying hardly any rough edges. Combined with a high destructibility factor, Deadlocked’s arenas are endlessly pretty and make for a frantically vivid experience. The weapon effects were the preview’s standout graphical feature, with fiery explosions, chilly ice blasts, and electrifying lightning shocks catching the eye. These presentation aspects coupled with a smooth frame rate certainly contribute to an impressive aesthetic appearance. The audio is filled with silly character voices and an oddball soundtrack, crafting an enjoyably absurd atmosphere. Exaggerated weapon sounds add another layer of cartoon appeal, so you can expect those blistering rockets to boom and the frazzling lasers to zap.

Ratchet: Deadlocked is sure to be yet another hit title in the popular series. The October 25th release will mark the 4th Ratchet game to date, and with Deadlocked shaping up to be an inspiring third-person shooter/platform hybrid, it’s likely to prove a solid library addition for PS2 owners everywhere.