It may not have been shouted from the rooftops, and in the case of QForce, is actually hidden away rather well, but believe it or not, Ratchet & Clank: QForce, the 11th title in Insomniac’s much loved series, represents the tenth anniversary for the wisecracking duo…..the tenth. A bloody decade. When the hell did that happen? However it happened, the fact remains that Insomniac’s PlayStation platformer has now been around for quite some time and, despite a couple of missteps, remains a relatively key first party franchise. Will that continue for another decade? Well, based on the quality of QForce, I for one am not so sure.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like QForce is a terrible game, it’s just that, like their previous outing, All 4 One, QForce has that overriding feeling of a square peg being forced into a round hole. I, and many others out there, are keen for Ratchet & Clank to get back to their core action/platforming sensibilities, and while most of their spin offs have involved at least a nod to the series’ roots, QForce feels like the first game in which Insomniac have truly began to lose sight of why the series was so much fun in the first place.
After the relatively ill-advised co-op mayhem ofAll 4 One, QForce represents yet another step away from the series’ past by shoehorning the Ratchet & Clank universe into a basic tower defence template. Yes, it’s a mostly passable take on the tower defence genre, but as a full release in the Ratchet & Clank series, proves middling at best.
The thing is, Ratchet & Clank game or not, seen exclusively on its own merits, QForce isn’t even that great a tower defence game. All the fundamentals are there for it to be a fast paced, high intensity combination of solid combat and resource management, but instead, thanks to a few poor design choices, it turns into something of a grind…..at least when playing on your own.
In the single player campaign, you are tasked with keeping enemies from attacking your base via any of the two choke points that each map provides while attempting to complete a collection of offensive manoeuvres culminating in the activation of the nodes required to get each worlds planetary defence systems on line. It makes sense on paper, and certainly provides a more robust goal than the standard tower defence fair. The problem is, thanks to the relative weakness of most of your defences anf scarcity of the nuts and bolts required to buy defences for your base, the whole experience turns into a brutally difficult slog that has your tearing back and forth between choke points to battle against the waves of enemies strolling through your paltry defences.
To make matters worse, you are forced to start off with just your plain ol’ wrench, meaning that, beyond all the crates you’ll be smashing for a handful of measleynuts and bolts, you’ll also find yourself sprinting around like a madman in an attempt to find a weapon that can actually do some serious damage. Add to that a collection of maps that are far more complex than they need to be and you’re left with a recipe for frustration. Of course, the most frustrating this of all is that so many of the problems in the single player campaign could be so easily remedied – a few more nuts and bolts and turrets that don’t disintegrate like paper mache would go a long way towards making QForce a much more enjoyable experience.
As annoying and downright stressful an experience QForcecan be though, it’s truly amazing how quickly things change with a second player in tow. Be it online or locally, the addition of a second player allows for a more tactical, less panic-induced approach. With one player defending the base while the other attacks objectives and forages for weaponry and funding, taking on the enemy hordes becomes a much more interesting, infinitely more balanced experience. Insomniac may not have pushed QForce as a primarily multiplayerexperience, but based upon my time withthe game, it feels like it was developed with multiple players in mind.
This argument is enforced no end by the hugely enjoyable competitive multiplayer. Available for up to four players, this mode is split up into 3 separate rounds in which each team of two can collect nodes to provide steady income before building your defences and employing alien grunts before finally, in round 3, beginning your assault on the opposing team. The maps are better, the objectives easier to follow and the balance between combat, platforming and traditional tower defence much more balanced than it is in other aspects of the package.
Ratchet & Clank: QForce then proves the very definition of a game of two halves. On the one side you have the ill-advised, poorly balanced and largely infuriating single player experience. On the other, you have the far superior co-op and competitive multiplayerelements that all but do away with the minor but highly frustrating niggles that serve to undermine the solo experience. Good or bad though, QForce never feels like a game that belongs and does little more than strengthen the idea that Insomniac has lost sight of their long-term aim for the Ratchet & Clank series. Yes, it looks great (like all Ratchet & Clank games do) and yes, when played with others can be a great deal of fun, but the fact remains: this isn’t the Ratchet & Clank experience fans are looking for.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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