This isn’t the greatest analogy, but it’s all I got this early in the morning and with only one mediocre cup of coffee to keep my membranes ticking: Ratchet: Deadlocked is the adopted kid in Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series. You can just tell that it’s not naturally comfortable around its older siblings, what with their love of platforming and exploring open planets. Instead, Deadlocked focuses on shooting and mission-based objectives, giving the game a quick sort of feel; there’s no wandering around, looking for hidden secrets; there’s just the more or less same-same missions on various planets, divided up by hilarious sports-like faux commentary and jesting cutscenes.
Initially, I was a little put off. The missions were so straightforward that I found myself annoyed that I couldn’t wander around as I pleased. Instead, I had to go from point A to point B, shooting all enemies, and so long as I lived to tell the story, that was good enough to make it to the next mission. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. These aren’t really missions…they’re events in a reality TV game show that…um, let me start at the beginning.
In Deadlocked, Ratchet and Clank get kidnapped by Gleeman Vox, the head-honcho behind Dreadzone, a reality TV game show that shares some links with our very own American Gladiators and The Running Man. In order to earn their freedom, Ratchet will have to fight his way to the top of the show’s leaderboards and prove himself worthy. Otherwise, his explosive collar will go ka-boomie. It’s not as interesting of a plot as previous titles, but it works well for the mission-based format, with each planet in Dreadzone acting as an arena filled with challenges to conquer. These range from tiered rounds of enemy swarms, to piloting a huge mech called the Landstalker or hovership, to fixing generators, to boss battles. With Clank on the sidelines, Ratchet gets some new help from two assistant fighter-bots; I can’t recall their names, but they make funny comments and can help with some objectives though I found myself repairing them more often than not.
When you’re not doing main story missions, you can complete challenges to earn more Dreadzone points and currency, which will help you buy upgrades and visit other locations. I ended up buying every mod and every weapon save for one: the Harbinger, which costs 2,000,000 bolts. Eep. I still love that weapons upgrade the more you use them, which is a nice way of getting me to try guns I’m not really interested in. Like the Holoshield Launcher. Still, my favorite weapon is the Miniturret Glove with just about any kind of crazy mod on it. Try it with the Morph mod for a laugh.
The cutscenes and voiceover work for the Ratchet and Clank series has always been top-notch, and there’s no exception here. The commentary during main story missions would usually get a snort out of me, and I still can’t get the way Dallas says Juuuuuanita out of my head. However, I was still surprised to hear Gleeman Vox curse–well, they bleeped it out, but the intent remained there–and it just goes to show how much darker this entry is than others. Kind of like how Jak II was drastically different than what came before it. Not necessary, if you asked me.
After you beat the game, the option for New Game+ opens up, which I both love and hate. I love it for the fact that I could play the game again with my weapons already kicking bolt butt and the chance to earn enough currency to buy the Harbinger, and I hate it for the fact that I don’t really have the time to play Ratchet: Deadlocked for a second time. Sorry, Insomniac. There’s too many other games demanding my love and praise (or wrath), but I had a great time on one playthrough, and that certainly counts for something.