Ratchet and Clank games have been one of the few platform adventure games to survive a generation change, reaching as far back as 2002 on the PS2 and ever since, each outing has been a visual pleasure supported by some fantastic humour and action that follows through to the more recent Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One and now the latest, all-new adventure, Ratchet and Clank: QForce.
Following on from the story in All 4 One, three months later and Qwark is bored, very bored; having being struck of his position of Galactic President and now just wondering the stars looking for trouble. Out of the blue a new threat emerges, capturing a group of local planets and leaving it down to the very keen Qwark and the newly reformed QForce to defend and eradicate the threat of a Grungoid invasion from these planets; though you quickly learn all of this is just a ploy as Qwark and his blas attitude towards the galactic taxpayers money he has inadvertently created a weapon of mass destruction, an item this new threat desperately wants.
So what exactly is Ratchet and Clank: Qforce? Best described as part platform game, part real time strategy, part tower defence; a strange beast indeed and though being a mixture of genres it all comes together rather well. Missions will start with the QForce (Ratchet, Clank and Qwark) landing on a planet, automatically setting up a base of operations with six Power Cells in close proximity that are your main priority to protect. The early missions main aim is to venture out into the hostile planets and ultimately turn off the emeries power supply, allowing you to then power your own defence grid, however it's not that easy, with frequent drop ships bringing in plenty of enemies that swarm your base as well as you having to collect new weapons and most importantly, Bolts.
Bolts are your main currency, with you running around as Ratchet (Clank and Qwark are also playable) and are collected by defeating enemies and smashing crates. When you have enough you are able to visit your base and set up defences on pre-selected build pads. Though your base of operations is quite large, the maps are laid out so that there are only a couple of bottleneck entrances for enemies to enter through, making it easy for you to set up some of the many defences on offer that come in three categories, mines, barriers and turrets. Starting off with a simple selection you will gradually unlock more varied defences including Electro Barricades, Chrono-Mines that slow down enemies, Warmonger Turrets and Pyro Towers.
To aid in the protection of your power cells during a Grungoid attack or when adventuring to the outskirts of the planet Ratchet has plenty of weapons to use, each of which are upgradable the more you use them. Starting off with nothing but his trusty wrench, weapon pods are dotted around each planet to locate and complete a quick minigame to earn more weapons including the Groovitron, a disco ball that makes all nearby enemies stop what they are doing and dance, the Doppelbanger and Pyro Blaster. Ammunition is sparse in the actual weapons clip but with plenty of ammo drop boxes you should never be too far from a reload, if you do though there is Ratchets rocketboots to zoom out of harm's way.
Once you have carried out the initial mission requirements you then have to start charging your bases shield battery and this is where all of your hard work collecting Bolts and setting up defences really pays off as the remaining few minutes is a full on charge of the final remnants of the enemy, throwing all they have at you, leaving your turrets and mines to slow them down enough and you running between the bottlenecks trying to sway the fight into your favour, making it to the final countdown and the planets freedom.
The three planets offer a different style of enemy and environmental hazards from suicide bombers, tanks and flying fortresses to acid lakes and gaps that only a grapple tool can traverse. Each level will take between 20 to 50 minutes to complete, each with three challenges like time attack goals and making sure all of your batteries survive the onslaught. These last challenges are made easier as you can replay any level which by then you would have levelled up most weapons and also a healthy supply of base defence items.
The mixture of platform and tower defence works most of the time however you really cannot leave your base for too long which is a shame as the defences are just far too weak against the ensuing horde of Grungarians and the cost of replacing mines and barriers is so high, especially since Bolts are not exactly forthcoming. The only real way to proceed is to venture outside quickly and as soon as the alarm rings, leg it back to base otherwise if left alone it is likely you will return to utter carnage.
The main campaign can be played as solo, split screen or online with the multiplayer aspects making some of the later challenges a lot easier. There is also a decent online versus mode with QForce Competition. This mode can be carried out as 1vs1 and 2vs2 modes and are a lot more balanced than the main campaign. Each game is split into three phases, Recon, Squad and Assault. The first Recon phase allows you to venture away from your base and start to collect Bolts and also capture nodes. These are lightly defend by Grungarians and once converted to your team they will grant you a weapon and also slowly generate Bolts. Once the Recon mode is over you need to rush back to your base for the Squad phase. Here you build your defences just as you would in the campaign, with build pads littered all over the base and in both of the tunnels, allowing you to prepare for the incoming invasion with barriers, turrets and mines.
The final phase is the Assault, where your troops will automatically venture out into enemy territory and try to destroy all of the power cells; here you have two choices, go out with the troops and join in victory or hang back at your own base and defend. With plenty of ammo and health packs to grab and the constant influx of Bolts from the nodes you are able to purchase new defences and repair old ones or even visit your ship to purchase upgrades for the troops, defences and even for your character, allowing for regenerating health or a stronger melee. If the enemies attack becomes too much you are able to trigger a one off Panic Button, a large red button in the middle of your base that will grant you 30 seconds of relief by hiding the generators and activating force fields. The winner is ultimately decided when all of the opposing team's power cells have been destroyed.
As with a few choice PS3 releases of late this title also comes with the tasty addition of cross buy with the Vita, with a purchase granting you to access to QForce on the mighty handheld; though as you may have heard this version has been delayed. You can still link the download to your PlayStation account, all ready to grab when the Vita version arrives on the store. Irrespective of delays, taking into consideration of the reasonable asking price of Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force, being able to play at home or on the road will be a lovely extra treat.
Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force is a fun little budget title with top end presentation that will entertain you for its short life.
Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)
Reasonable priced game.
Colourful graphics and humour you come to associate with the Ratchet and Clank games.
Very original gameplay.
The tough challenge may put players off.
Light on content.