After what must seem like countless titles to many of you, Ratchet & Clank are back for another jaunt through space, and once more Insomniac are tinkering with gameplay that’s new to the series. A Crack In Time had Clank’s mind bending time puzzles, whilst All 4 One had four player co-op play at its core, but what does Q-Force (known as Full Frontal Assault in the US) offer to fans of the series?
In the single player and co-op campaign, Captain Qwark is no longer the president of the galaxy, and understandably a little down because of this. Ratchet and Clank try to comfort him and find him a new purpose in life and, as luck would have it, an all new menace threatens the galaxy. Eager to leap into action once more Qwark gets the old band back together for a Q-Force reunion tour!
Being primarily a PSN title, this is more of a whistle-stop tour, with a few venues spread across three planets. Rather than the linear level design that we’re used to, the levels here will task you with defending a Q-Force base from waves of enemies. Simply put, this is a twist on the tower defence genre, with two paths that you must try to defend using towers, barricades and mines, getting between your base and the incoming Grungarian forces.[drop]Naturally, you’ve got guns and can supplement the defence effort yourself, but unless you’re playing co-op you can’t be covering both lanes at the same time. So there’s a bit of strategy involved with setting up towers and defences on one side whilst manning the other, or having both fairly evenly defended and hopping back and forth as you need to. It’s up to you to find the method and strategy that works to your play style and against the incoming hordes.
Just to keep you on your toes, the various minions have different strengths and weaknesses. The Grungarian Marauders, for example, will actively target and are strong against turrets but take a lot of extra damage from mines. If you see those coming down a path on the enemy progress indicator, then depending on what you have placed, you might need to dash over. Although, if you see a Tank coming you’ll want to break out the big guns and get stuck in no matter what you’ve got placed!
Which leads me to another of the key changes to the gameplay: weapons are now found in the wider battlefields of each level rather than being purchased or unlocked. Venture out beyond your defensive choke points and the world opens up with multiple paths and places to explore. Getting around is a mixture of zipping to and fro on the Hover Boots from A Crack In Time, and traditional R&C platforming and fighting sections.
The harder and less beaten the path you travel along, the greater the weaponry rewards at the end, which are then locked up in a node with a little timing based mini-game for you to overcome. There’s some really tasty stuff out there, as you’d expect from an R&C game, and after a bit of exploring you’ll know where you want to head first in order to get the best goodies. That should add a little bit of replay value to the title, too.[videoyoutube]If you’re thinking that all of this sounds like it would lend itself well to a return of competitive multiplayer to the series, then you’d be right! From the gameplay mechanics in the campaign, Insomniac has crafted a battle arena multiplayer for 1v1 or 2v2 matches, so that for the first time since Up Your Arsenal you can go head to head against other players over the internet.
It’s a set up that will be familiar to players of Defence of The Ancients or League of Legends, where you must defend your own base, whilst pushing forward to destroy your opponents’. The first phase of gameplay is the recon phase and there’s a lot to do: get your defences set up, pick what minions to send out to attack the enemy base, head out to the battlefield and capture strategic nodes, which will then start earning you bolts with which you buy all these things, and rush to grab the best weapons that are out there.
After a few minutes this then rolls over into the battle phase, where both sides’ minions are dropped in and start attacking in waves. It’s at this point that all your plans come to fruition, but the best way to get things done is to do them yourself. It can be tricky to know where to be in a 1v1 battle but with 2v2 you can split your efforts or go all out in attack, along with your troops.
Luckily for those on the front line, you’re able to warp back to your base at any point, just in case you need to rescue a bad situation. Helping you do so is a single-use panic button in the centre of your base. Hitting it grants you 30 seconds to clear out the enemies that are damaging your generators, as they sink under ground for a bit of protection. So you’ll need to work quickly to be able to have a shot at turning things around and making it to the next recon phase, as the match alternates between the two.
This style of gameplay is pretty popular at the moment and combine that with the recent news of a PS Vita version this could be a hit. Q-Force is Cross-Play, sharing the same servers and leaderboards as the PS3, and letting both platforms play against one another, so you can just get a quick battle going whilst on the go (naturally, only via WiFi). It’s also got Cross-Save functionality, so you can pick up where you left off in the campaign, wherever you are. Finally, it’s part of the Cross-Buy promotion, so you’ll get the game for both platforms at the same time. As if R&C fans would need any further convincing!
– Ratchet & Clank Q-Force will be hitting the digital shelves to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the series this autumn.