I’m all for shorter game experiences – the likes of Journey and The Unfinished Swan have shown that if you can build a ninety-minute game that’s packed with quality moments and stacks of character, people will flock to them. And, whilst the recent Ratchet and Clank titles have been shorter in length than they were last generation, this latest one – QForce (or the much better titled Full Frontal Assault if you’re in the States) – is shorter than most.
After under an hour with my first playtest I was one of the five main levels down. Be wary of extrapolating that to a five hour game because it’s one designed to be played over multiple times, and in multiplayer, but you get some idea of how much Insomniac have put into this title. And, even then, don’t be thinking this is your regular Ratchet and Clank platforming adventure – it’s not, it’s a tower defence-esque battler with a third person viewpoint.[drop]It’s a interesting design decision, though, albeit one impossible to test at this point beyond solo play because – well, it’s not out yet and we didn’t get any multiplayer sessions – but the potential is there.
Ratchet is tasked with helping out three planets by restoring power to certain nodes and activating a defence network, which obviously lends itself to key submissions and strategic sections – it’s modular gameplay broken into chunks, but works quite well.
Essentially you’re moving from one area of the map to another, taking out enemies in the classic Ratchet manner (with plenty of your favourite weapons from the series making an – upgradeable – appearance) but all the time being aware that certain events trigger of one of several attacks on your own base at the start of the map. Dash (or teleport) back and you can place turrets and mines to help keep the encroaching enemies at bay, along with your own melee and weapon attacks.
This to and fro approach takes a little patience, but it’s crucial to how the game works. If you don’t push forward with the tasks the game won’t move on, and if you don’t defend your base it’s game over. Attacks can be sudden and powerful, so you need to ensure you’ve collected enough bolts (found in boxes, on the map and from downed bad guys) to buy the towers and other items to place around your base. Tower points are pre-determined (think PixelJunk Monsters) but variable enough to ensure there’s a key tactical element at play, especially when you learn some enemies are more vulnerable to some weapons than others.
This works better in co-op, with one team member able to tend to the base whilst the other proceeds with the objectives out on the battlefield, and in this case QForce is something of an unexpected pleasure, seemingly out of nowhere.[drop2]On your own you’ll need to be prepared to be constantly on the move, although you can quickly shift from one part of the map to another once your abilities start to rank up. The game rewards the player constantly, with new skills and upgrades all the time. The controls work as you’d expect from a Ratchet game, with the same close quarter swings and long range projectile weapons present and correct.
Ammo is collected from pick-up points and new guns are bought in the same way, again giving a tactical edge to how you choose to spend your bolts. It’s not a visually strong game though – the image quality is a bit rough and the frame rate is half what you’d expect, running at 30fps.
It’s not a disaster by any stretch, but it’s unlikely to wow you.
The game promises a decent enough competitive multiplayer too, meaning that when the game launches this week at a relatively decent pricepoint (with a strong emphasis on digital downloads, from what I can gather) it’s probably not bad value for money. It’s true that there’s not a massive amount of maps (there really isn’t) but perhaps that’s not really the point – played over for better scores and upgrades (and with a friend in tow) and QForce has its own agenda – and the new twist on gameplay might be up your street.
We’ll try and do a proper review once we’ve properly tested multiplayer in a few days – it would be unfair to do so at this point.