Review: Ratchet: Deadlocked HD (Sony PlayStation 3)

ratchetdcoverRatchet: Deadlocked HD
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Idol Minds
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: 05/21/2013

(Note: I couldn’t find HD screens of the game for the life of me. The images in this review are of the original game. Sorry.)

While the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection was a success, diehard fans couldn’t help but wonder where Ratchet: Deadlocked was. After all, it was the the last of the games on the PS2, and was well received in its own right. Well, it appears that Sony wasn’t completely deaf to the demands of fans, as Deadlocked HD is now available on PSN! Does it hold up as well as its fellows? Did the HD conversion go well? Is the online multiplayer functional? These questions and more need answers, and this review will gladly give them.

First up, it’s worth noting that this game is ten dollars. That’s five dollars less than the other R&C HD titles, which is pretty sweet. However, if you have a disc version of last year’s Full Frontal Assault, you can use the disc benefits option and get this game for free! It’s a nice gesture to fans who had to wait six months for the Vita version of FFA to be released. Best of all, FFA is twenty bucks new itself, so you might as well go buy that game and get Deadlocked for free.

The story of Deadlocked is pretty straightforward. Ratchet, Clank, and Al are kidnapped by a man named Gleemon Vox. This creepy dude runs a reality show called DreadZone, where heroes from around the galaxy are forced to compete in a series of obstacle courses and gladiatorial bouts until they drop dead. The gang is outfitted with collars that will detonate if they step out of line, so they have no choice but to participate. Ratchet is left to fend for himself in the arena, with Clank and Al left to supporting roles back at the base. While this affects gameplay quite heavily, it doesn’t hurt the story at all. There’s still plenty of interaction between the guys, and the humor is as on point as ever. It’s not a strong story by any means, but it’s funny enough to keep you going.

ratchetd2Obviously the HD overhaul is a big part of the appeal here. However, the improved graphics came at some pretty big costs. Sure, things look cleaner and crisper throughout. In many ways the game has never looked better. However, cut scenes are fraught with glitches and bugs. For example, Vox’s gum popped through his lip, which was bizarre. A close up of Ratchet revealed a soup of eyes, nose and mouth. Many of the scenes skipped and jumped constantly, which was distracting. Gameplay has also taken a hit. The performance is abysmal. It gets downright unplayable when things get chaotic. Since this game features a near nonstop barrage of a dozen enemies or more and constant gunfire, things get chaotic a lot. As such, the framerate pretty much dies. It’s even worse when you’re playing co-op, as it feels like someone is constantly pausing the game. The bottom line is that the conversion didn’t go well at all.

The voice cast does a bang up job as usual, and the new guys shine as well as the old. Gleemon Vox has the perfect oily voice to fit his pencil thin mustache. He’s just a slimy individual. The announcers for DreadZone are also spot on, though they do repeat themselves just a bit more than I’d like. Likewise, the music is classic stuff, with just the right mix of sci-fi influence. All of the weapons sound great as well. The problem is that the audio has also taken a hit during conversion. Different aspects will pop in and out at various times. The weapons suddenly make no sound, the announcers disappeared during co-op. It was frustrating. Overall, it’s a nice aural package. Too bad it’s got some wrinkles that weren’t ironed out.

While your typical R&C game can be called a platformer, I find that term to not quite fit Deadlocked. Sure, there are some jumping sections, and a smattering of grind rails to traverse, but a vast majority of your gameplay experience will be running and gunning.

ratchetd3Deadlocked comes from the bygone age before all third-person shooters were required to have a lock on cover mechanic. What little cover can be found requires you to actually stand behind it if you want to avoid being hit. Beyond that, it controls as you’d expect. You move with the left stick, turn with the right stick, manage weapons with the shoulder buttons, switch weapons with triangle, melee with square, and jump with x. The controls work well, and become very easy to use after a few minutes. It will certainly feel natural to veterans of the series and the genre.

This game is also different from its predecessors in that you actually play a series of levels for each planet you visit rather than one cohesive area. These levels are very short, often lasting no more than a few minutes, but are packed with all kinds of shooting action. The game tries to mix things up by throwing in vehicle missions, but there’s not much variety here. It’s usually just run to one location, shoot a bunch of things, and then command your robots to interact with some gizmo that will get you to the next location where you can shoot things. The exception is co-op, where you get no robot buddies, and have to work with a teammate to interact with the gizmos.

Speaking of the robots, they represent early squad based mechanics. You have very little control over what they do, but they prove invaluable at times. They basically hover around you and take shots at enemies, often taking hits for you as well. You can order them to perform context sensitive actions, such as hack orbs, plant explosives, throw EMP grenades, and launch grind rails. You can also revive them should they fall, order them to regroup, and have them shield you when you’re trying to perform some actions. They can be upgraded at the hub to become smarter and stronger. You can also fuss about with different paint jobs and head parts if you like.

The real king of this series is the weaponry, and here is where the game doesn’t disappoint. At first glance the ten weapons you can buy may seem like nothing special, but you can equip various mods to them to trick them out. Upset that the bouncer hasn’t returned for this game? Simply equip the explosive mod to a weapon and watch as each shot causes a bunch of tiny bombs to spread across the battlefield. The lightning mod turns the boring old turrets into machines that will quickly take down big crowds of enemies. There’s a good weapon for every range, and you can always rely on your trusty wrench if need be. Heck, there’s even a weapon mod that turns it into a morphing weapon in case you wanted to turn enemies into cartoon animals. Weapons get upgraded as you use them, unlocking extra mods and boosting damage. The final level changes them in some meaningful ways as well, such as creating ricocheting shots for the pistol or increasing the size of the shield projector. Beating the game unlocks a bonus mode, where you can buy a new upgrade for each weapon that allows them to continue leveling, increasing their damage even more. This lets you say your arsenal is fully upped by the time you finish this game.

ratchetd1Online multiplayer has returned, and it made the jump quite well. The only issue is that there aren’t many people online, and there likely won’t be anytime soon. It’s also worth noting that co-op is split screen only. Still, there are typical modes such as team death match, king of the hill, and capture the flag, for those that can find people to play. The action translates well to the online world, and it’s a shame that I haven’t been able to join a game with more than a few people at a time.

With all of the modes, and the short length of the levels, this is probably the best game in the series in terms of replayability. That’s good, because the campaign can easily be completed in four or five hours, which might even be shorter than the PSP games.

At the end of the day, this game will probably still be worth it to diehard fans. However, said fans are likely going to be the ones getting the game for free thanks to the deal with FFA. For anyone else interested, I’m not sure I could recommend this one. The conversion didn’t go well at all, to the tune of the game having a fit once or twice each level. While it’s only ten bucks, I’d still recommend grabbing FFA and getting this for free that way.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Ratchet: Deadlocked HD is a mixed bag. While it still plays well and has plenty of charm, the port job is terrible. There are a number of visual glitches and performance hiccups that threaten to spoil the game at any time. Playing co-op was a nightmare because the game couldn’t keep up with two characters running around and shooting things. Still, if you’re someone who’s gotten the game for free because you picked up a retail copy of Full Frontal Assault, this is still a game worth playing. It just won’t be as good as you remembered.

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