Ratchet & Clank: QForce Playstation 3 and Vita Developed by Insomniac Games Released in 2013
So now I am scared. I have had quite the rollercoaster with the Ratchet and Clank-series, despite most of the games getting high praise. This one, however, got a mediocre to lukewarm reception and seeing as how a game such as Quest for Booty got decent reviews while I hated it, this terrifies me. However, it was coming out during Ratchet and Clank’s 10 year anniversary, so does it at least have something for fans?
So for some reasons I am not entirely sure of, Qwark, Ratchet, and Clank have started the Qforce, which is basically a superhero team. Just when Qwark is bored with the quiet life, an ex-fanboy swears revenge upon him for being a lousy hero. There is not much else to the story, it’s simply a way to setup the campaign. It is short, with mixed humor, but at least is not a focus so let’s start looking at the meat of the game.
After choosing which of the trio you want to play as, you will be placed in Qwark’s ship, which functions as the hubworld. From here, you can select between 5 stages, each being unlocked in order. When you have selected your stage, you will be set in a big arena with multiple pathways, a base where you start out and that you must protect from evil creatures, and an enemy base that is also guarded. In this tower-defence/moba take on Ratchet and Clank, you start out each stage naked and won’t have much time before you will have to do a lot of stuff.
First, acquiring guns will be important as your 3-hit combo and boomerang won’t get you far at all. Each gun-panel will require a short QTE where you can score some bolts, which I will come back to later. After unlocking the gun-panel, you will be able to choose one out of 3 guns in each stage, except for the first one where you will be given one of two starter-pistols. The guns will level up as you use them, with level 5 being the highest. Despite starting out without a gun in each stage, you will have them at the same level you got them to the next time you acquire them, which is a smart design-choice. Due to the slight randomization of what guns you will be able to acquire, it is a good way of strategizing on what guns you want to use and level up, as well as mixing up to become stronger. This is a great idea that is strengthened by different enemies that call for different guns. For example, areas with shields, might need the bomb-gun for launching them over obstacles, while the buzz-saw is good for crowd-control.
However due to the multiple paths and that you need to take over the opponent’s base while guarding yours, you will need some support. While co-op with another friend is a good and enjoyable option, there is one that is even more useful. By collecting bolts from fallen enemies and boxes, you can purchase defensive tools for your base. Each panel in your base can provide something to purchase, such as different versions of mines, turrets, and barriers. Some are stronger and more expensive than others, but it is up to you to decide what to buy and none of them feel useless.
This can make the game sound quite hectic, and it is. Helping you however, is a very handy minimap that can be unfolded to a big one, and a meter on the side showing you how many enemies are approaching your base, what kind, and from which direction. This is very handy, as you won’t know when they will try to attack and you must hurry back if it happens. There are multiple pathways in each stage and with your hoverboots and the dash-panels laid out in the levels, you can take some very sweet shortcuts to get back, if you remember the stage-layout and plan ahead. After each stage, you will be given medals for taking over the base, how many generators you have left on your base, and for how long it took to finish the level. As you acquire more medals, you will rank up your team and get different perks, such as regenerating health, giving you a good reward for striving for perfection.
Sadly, there are only 5 planets to visit. The first 3 have great designs to them, with multiple pathways and secrets to support you, 1 is based on the second stage with a more unique way of taking over the base, and the last is a straightforward shooting stage that is quite enjoyable, despite ending on a lackluster final boss. This is a huge problem as it shows so much promise in its level-designs and even one fun way to vary up the concept, but because of few levels that can be beaten within 3 hours, it feels like it just started the adventure. A great start, if nothing else.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
At least it is not as dark as wars can be
It is odd to say this about a Ratchet and Clank game, but graphically this is quite a poor title. The models can be very pixelated, with lackluster animations accompanying them and the rest of the game can be very dated with undetailed textures. Even the fire looks like something out of a previous-gen title, if even that. Adding to this is a framerate that often takes a dip and little variation in enemy-designs. At least the levels, as few as there are, have unique designs to them, despite being the generic jungle, snow and fire-areas, and I do love that the characters get different costumes as you level up the team. The guns and their different ammo and explosions are a treat, so while the game can feel lifeless at times, the satisfying carnage does help.
Michael Bross returns to deliver a very enjoyable soundtrack, that has a bit more symphonic tone to it, but still has beats of techno put in. It is a very cool soundtrack that fits each stage and is as intense as the action. I do sincerely hope he gets more recognition for his work. Besides the music, the guns have an incredibly satisfying sound to them, making firing weapons more exciting, so nothing lacks in the sound-department.
Presentation Score: 5/10
Reasons to reload
While there is not much to the single player, there are some fun aspects making it worth replaying. Going co-op is always a good time, skill points return and by doing what they require, you get some fun unlockables such as cheats that are entertaining. Going for all the medals is also a good way of expanding the replay value, despite it not being hard to do so. There are also hidden Golden Bolts in each stage that are fun to hunt for, especially since they give you costumes for the multiplayer.
Speaking of which, the competitive multiplayer is a blast, with so much focus on base-building, being aggressive, and doing your best to defeat the opponent. It is quite entertaining, but it unfortunately could have used more options. It is only online with just 4 players, with only 5 stages to play on. What is here will be worth picking up from time to time, but not on a regular basis.
Extra Score: 5.5/10
I actually had fun with Qforce, but it is such a shame that it is so short and does not get to fully expand upon its concept in singleplayer. Multiplayer is better with fun competitive matches, that are sadly online only and limited as well. If there were just a few more stages or more randomisation to their layouts, it could have had a great lasting-appeal. As it stands, it barely scratches the surface of something that could have been more. If you happen to find another friend with a copy and a console, it is definitely worth owning for a cheap price.