System: Playstation 2
The fourth game in the Ratchet & Clank series takes a rather sharp philosophical departure from the previous games; instead of an open world-based exploration platformer, Deadlocked is a mission-based tactical shooter. If you've read my review of Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, you probably recognise this as the same type of comment I had to make about that game, but there's a difference; this time around, it's explicit. Deadlocked makes no bones about its shooter-mission setup, and even goes so far (as the title may allude) as to remove Clank from the action entirely.
The action is great fun, with interesting (and highly customisible) weapons and robot sidekicks to help you slaughter hordes of robots and giant lizards and whatnot. On the default difficulty level, the game's not very hard, but there are five skill levels to choose from, so feel free to turn it up. The difficulty's adjustable on the fly, also, so if you're getting bored, you can reload your game and turn it up. Alternatively, if a particular mission is proving itself a serious pain, you can turn it down. This is a nice feature to have, especially since the game includes a suite of vehicles, all equally unfortunate, and each with its own irritating missions. I found the vehicle controls to be especially cumbersome, but those more accustomed to complex vehicle-sim games may not have this issue; nonetheless, it seems odd to include complex vehicle controls in an action platformer that only includes vehicles as an afterthought. At least this time, you don't have to fight the final boss while coping with a strange vehicle.
Despite the game's no-bones-about-it shooter mission motif, there's actually a fair amount of pretty serious platforming to do; more, I'll wager, than in Up Your Arsenal. On top of making jumps on rotating platforms over chasms of endless death, there's a good amount of old-fashioned grindbooting to do. I'll go on record as saying that the Grind Boots were one of my favourite Ratchet & Clank elements, and I'm quite glad to see their return. There's a bit of a change, however; in previous games, Ratchet is limited to fighting with the wrench when on a Grindrail, but this time around it's the blaster-type weapon; this, combined with the fact that mobs can now drop ammo when they're killed fairly completes the process of making the wrench useless. Actually, in all honesty, there's little reason ever to use any weapon other than the blaster ("Dual Vipers") other than desire for variety, but that's neither here nor there.
The cutscenes and voice acting are fully up to the standards of the previous games, and the villain (Gleeman Vox) is superb. There's a very large amount of incidental voice work during the missions, courtesy of a pair of announcers whose banter is frequently triggered by specific events (Ratchet getting hit, bots going down, waves of mobs spawning). This banter is fairly listenable, and there are enough different voice clips that it won't become too repetitive. Many of the cutscenes in the game devote themselves to making fun of Fox News, which actually doesn't manage to get old, and I pretty much found myself looking forward to them all throughout, as the quality is very good. In particular, the ending is excellent, which is a nice return to form after Up Your Arsenal's rather disappointing final scene.
I'll confess I had reservations when Deadlocked was announced, since it seems to concentrate many of the things I didn't like about Up Your Arsenal, but that isn't really the case. In many ways, despite the new direction, Deadlocked is a return to the form of Going Commando, and is quite worth the time.
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