What happens when you cross tower defence, a third-person action-adventure, a hack and slash button masher and a real-time stategy game? A horrible, muddled mess appears to be the answer if Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force is anything to go by.
Fans of the Ratchet & Clank series are going to be familiar with the setting at least. Newcomers to everyone’s favourite intergalactic dynamic duo might be left scratching their heads and wondering who everyone is and what exactly is supposed to be going on.
Not that plot or characterisation are important parts of the Q-Force experience. There are flashes here of the series’ trademark humour, but more often than not the jokes fall flat (or get repeated too often to warrant a laugh).
At the core of the game sits a 3D action-adventure wrapped around a pretty standard tower defence set up. You have a number of nodes you’ll need to protect from the attentions of the bad guys, and some then find the enemy’s nodes that must be smashed to bits in order to win.
This balance of attack and defend is a well-trodden path, and works best in the game’s multiplayer. That’s because the campaign mode, as it’s very loosely called, prefers to switch between offence and defence instead, so ruling out much need to implement any kind of strategy.
Thus the single-player component of Q-Force is rendered pretty lifeless. Small maps and repetitive design see you mashing buttons over and over without ever really feeling like you’ve achieved anything. Completing a level just moves you on to the next, and you never feel like you’re progressing so much as dawdling on regardless.
At least the multiplayer mode manages to hold on to your attention for a while. The game here is split into three distinct parts. First you take over nodes, then you spend cash and credits on defensive and offensive units, then you fight it out with your opponent to see who can smash the most of the other player’s base before time runs out.
All the while you’re controlling a member of Q-Force – Ratchet, Clank, or one of the other members of the rag tag band. You can add your weight to the army you’ve sent to your opponents base, or choose to hang back and defend your own. Power-ups and health boosts litter the playing area, and grabbing them can mean the difference between success and failure.
Bouts are fast and furious, and the extra tactical layers and chance to breath between button mashing sessions make them far more appealing than the uninspired drudge that makes up the solo campaign. The same design flaws in the stages are still present though, while lazy design can often see your character leap off a ramp only to end up dead in a pool of toxic sludge. So prompting a teeth-grinding delay until you’re able to respawn.
Q-Force tries to squash together genres in a similar way to Brutal Legend, but where that game was at least rich with theme; this is an altogether iffier affair. There are enjoyable moments, especially in the multiplayer, but there’s just not enough meat on these bare bones to tide even the most ardent Ratchet & Clank fan over until the next full release in the series.
By Harry Slater
Format: PS3, PS Vita (inc. as downloadable extra with PS3 version)
Developer: Insomniac Games