Ratchet: Deadlocked is the fourth installment in the highly successful franchise Ratchet & Clank by Californian developer Insomniac Games. The series started off as a platformer initially, but has always been set apart by its shooter elements and unique personality. The previous games have all been moving more and more into the shooter genre, but at their heart still platformers. DL breaks out of the traditional Ratchet & Clank mold by moving almost completely into shooter territory, leaving few platforming elements. The move by Insomniac has shown some controversy among Ratchet fans, so the question is, \'How does Deadlocked measure up?\' Let\'s find out, shall we?

Game Play

As I just stated, Deadlocked has moved into shooter territory. So what exactly does that mean for the game play? For one, the game is more combat-oriented than ever before. Missions now are strictly arena/gauntlet matches reminiscent of Annihilation Nation from Up Your Arsenal. Of course, one\'s first assumption after hearing that is probably that there\'s going to be some real potential problems with the levels being too repetitive. Thankfully, this is not so. Isnomniac has done a good job of implementing a variety of mission types. Also, two similar missions on two different planets result in two different play experiences, thanks to different course layouts and enemy distribution on each planet. The result is that each is at least somewhat fresh, and it keeps the play interesting throughout.


The story in Ratchet: Deadlocked is overall pretty straightforward. Ratchet and Clank, plus an allied character from previous games named Al, are captured onboard the Starship Phoenix by a guy (robot, actually) named Reactor. They are flown to a point in the Shadow Sector in the Solana Galaxy to the home of a reality combat show called DreadZone. They are held captive by means of \'Deadlocked\' collars, which can be detonated remotely to blow off the wearer\'s head if he/she performs unfavorably. Ratchet is forced to compete as a contestant on DreadZone by fighting his way through gauntlet-style missions. Clank is given the role of Ratchet\'s mission coordinator, and Al is Ratchet\'s technician. You take control of Ratchet as in all the predecessors, and you\'ll blast your way through all the missions assigned to you by DreadZone\'s founder and CEO, the evil media mogul named Gleeman Vox, for the entertainment of a trillion viewers. These missions will take place on many different planets, several of which may be familiar to old fans of the series, as well as coming back to your Containment Suite at the DreadZone space station for tournament battles and fighting DreadZone\'s Exterminator bosses: Ace Hardlight (the all-time DreadZone champ), Reactor, Shellshock, and the Eviscerator.

The story overall is entertaining and surprisingly has a bit of depth to it, which (as Ratchet fans well know) is a rarity in these games. The story actually gets almost dramatic at points, and there\'s a fairly big surprise about two-thirds of the way through. The story is progressed through cut scenes as always, though this time through CNN-style DreadZone news updates, and a look into what\'s going on with Vox back at the DreadZone station. Dallas and Juanita provide funny commentary during your missions and narrate the news updates. Humor has always been a resounding element in the Ratchet & Clank series, and Deadlocked is no different. It\'s a mixture of slapstick comedy and straight jokes. (Some of them are sexual in nature, though.) Most characters provide at least some funny content, mainly through characters Dallas, Juanita, Green, Merc, and Al. Deadlocked also continues the tradition of Ratchet stories poking fun at elements in the modern world. The humorous news updates are done in mock CNN-style. One of the Exterminators, Shellshock, speaks with a strangely familiar Austrian accent. Pop star Courtney Gears (catch that one?) is back after surviving an \'attack by two deranged members of her fan club.\' During a preview for a Gleeman Vox movie that is a biography for Reactor, Courtney Gears rejects the then-soon-to-be Exterminator because he\'s a lowly math teacher. Then as she turns away, the backdrop of a classroom abruptly changes to piles and piles of gold in front of a large mansion. Gears stops and turns with surprise in mid-step, and then cries, \'We\'re rich? Oh, I love you, Reactor! I was always there for you!\' An overall funny reference to the celebrity relationships in our world.

Clank\'s New Place In The World

One of the more controversial changes made was the removal of (as the game\'s title suggests) Clank as a (semi) playable character, reverting him to a pretty much strictly story-only role. This, of course, means that players will no longer be able to take advantage of Clank\'s strategic abilities, namely his jetpack/helipack features. This could create several potential problems, as these were more or less essential to the platforming gameplay of Ratchet & Clank. However, Insomniac has again avoided a potential problem with the transition from platformer-oriented to shooter-oriented gameplay. So, basically, while you will not have the traditional advantages of playing with Clank on your back, you won\'t really be needing them, and, after a bit of playing, probably won\'t be missing them much, either. So where has Clank gone? As you may have heard through earlier game preview from IGN or GameSpot (for example), Clank is now Ratchet\'s mission coordinator. He sends you help through secret messages that are \'vital\' to completing your missions. Unfortunately, while previews have tried to make this feature sound really significant, it\'s really nothing more than a glorified version of the Help Desk from previous Ratchet games. Storywise, Clank\'s role is essential to getting himself, Ratchet, and Al off of DreadZone alive. But while the role of Clank has been largely cut from the game play, you get two new robot companions to take his place: Combat bots named Green and Merc. You receive them from Al shortly after surviving the \'qualifying round\' of combat at the beginning of the game.

What separates your new friends from Clank is that these two are combat-trained. (They\'ve even been through boot camp.) Both of your hovering companions - apparently their legs were blown off in combat - will follow you around through the game\'s combat courses and provide fire support with their assault rifles and a special Ravager attack, which is built up through experience gained from your bots taking and giving hits. Having combat robots providing combat support is not a new concept in the Ratchet & Clank universe. The previous game, Up Your Arsenal, featured \'Galactic Rangers\', who helped you out in several missions. However, while Galactic Rangers were there solely for comedic and story purposes - in actual combat, the only thing they could really kill were the smallest of enemies - Green and Merc are very effective in their support roles. By destroying enemies I couldn\'t get myself, they\'ve saved me approximately 127 times. Well, you get the idea.

While their role isn\'t strictly comedic like the Galactic Rangers, that\'s not to say that they aren\'t funny. Green and Merc both have two separate but humorous personalities. Green is the scared but brave soldier who is fond of his boot camp memories. Merc is the cocky, Ramo-like soldier, always wanting to blow something up and be where the action is. Both provide funny in game action comments. < h4>Squad-Based Combat Continuing the subject of Green and Merc, probably the biggest change from previous Ratchet games is the addition of the squad-based combat system. This is exactly what is sounds like: The player enters a command to Green and Merc, and your bots execute the command faithfully. However, don\'t freak out, Ratchet fans. While your initial assumption might be that Insomniac is trying to copy games such as the popular military franchise SOCOM: US Navy SEALs, I can assure you all that that is not the case. This new system is designed specifically for the game\'s needs. Meanin instead of it being used for realistic, tactical military combat, you would use it to have Green and Merc hack an orb, deploy a grind rail, spin a bolt crank, or have one provide shielding to the other or you while you/other bot perform one of the above tasks. These tasks are more than just a gimmick. While having the bots do something that you yourself can do may seem a bit tacked on, it\'s actually very useful. Instead of spinning the bolt yourself while having your bots try and hold off swarms of powerful enemies by themselves (they\'re not that good) and be vulnerable to attacks as soon as you finish and try to return fire, you can have Green or Merc perform the task while you use your far-more-powerful weaponry (and mad pwning skillz) to demolish the baddies, leaving a clear path after your bots have finished.

Weapon System

Yet another significant change in Deadlocked is the weapon system. Arguably the central element of the series, the weapons have evolved from their original state with the addition of a RPG-style upgrade system (more on that in a minute). But if there was one problem with the previous games and their weaponry, it was that there was just too many weapons. Ratchet & Clank had twenty different instruments of destruction, and Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal had forty weapons apiece! Understandably, several gamers told me that the sheer number of weapons being thrown in your face was a bit overwhelming.

Insomniac has found a clever way to address the problem by adding a mod system. A new and improved mod system, too: This isn\'t the simple gimmick system found in Going Commando as a bonus feature. Why is this clever? You take ten weapons (a sizable cutback, as many Ratchet fans have pointed out), and apply two types of weapon mods to them: Omega mods and Alpha mods.

Fans of the old weapon system complained about the weapon number cut because they felt it knocked out the creativity of the weapons and made the remainder too \'realistic\'. But this is not true, thanks largely to the new Omega mods. Omega mods are upgrades that add a new feature to the selected weapon. This allows the player to change each weapon to have whatever wacky feature they want. (Within reason, of course. Little machine gun bullets won\'t toss out huge, bouncing bombs.)

Want a pair of Uzi-like weapons that turn enemies into barnyard animals that charge into other enemies, kamikaze-style? Take a pair of Vipers and equip the Morph Mod to them. Want a rocket launcher that shoots out three rockets at a time, with each rocket sticking a more powerful time bomb to an enemy when it hits them? Take the Arbiter and give it a Timed Bomb Omega mod. Want to set up a field of gun turrets that deal out a healthy dose of brainwash to your enemies, making them turn on each other? Attach a Brainwash mod to your Turret Launcher. Most of the wacky weapons fans of the old system want can be found somewhere in the many combinations of weapons and mods. And while not all older wacky weapons are back (the Rift Ripper is very much missed), one could make many new creative weapons of their own. Add in the Alpha mods (which upgrade ammo, rate of fire, area of effect, etc., with a max of ten per weapon), the number of possibilities can at least be almost as high as Insomniac had claimed. To sum up, the overall system is good for naysayers and lovers of the old system alike, as you only have ten weapons to manage, but make them into anything you want almost. The RPG upgrade system is also back for both weapons and for Ratchet\'s health. With each enemy you kill, you receive XP for both the weapon that made the kill as well as to your Health Experience Bar. Weapons receive power upgrades every level, and can now be brought up to a maximum of level ten your first time through. When your HEB is full, you receive an extra Health Point, with a maximum of 100 as before in UYA the first playthrough. (Both, of course, can be upgraded further in Challenge Mode, but we\'ll get to that in due time.)


The vehicles of UYA have had their use expanded a bit in Deadlocked. The hovership is back (and looks much cooler) for certain flying missions, most of which take place in outer space. The Puma land rover vehicle from UYA is also back, with upgraded lasers and a new chargeable cannon. The two newcomers are the hoverbike and the mighty Landstalker. The Landstalker is impressive: It\'s basically a walking spider machine similar to the KG Deathbots found in the Jak series but with a different array of weaponry. You have the basic laser cannons, but there is also the plasma-bomb feature. where you charge a blast of plasma, which shoots out in multiple projectiles at targeted enemies. It packs a punch; as Dallas smartly put, the Landstalker carries enough firepower to take out an entire star sytem.

There is also the hoverbike. While my initial impression was that it was a copycat of the zoomer bikes of the Jak games, I found out that it is actually much different, mostly with its controls. You push forward on the left analog stick to speed onwards, and back to slow down and reverse; pushing right or left cause the bike to strafe from side to side. The right analog is used by pushing it right to left to turn the bike likewise for steering. It takes a little getting used to, but with a little practice I was able to dart through the hoverbike missions like a pro. It also features laser cannons for those tougher obstacles that you just can\'t really dodge.


One of Up Your Arsenal\'s bigger problems was the fact that it was too easy. Insomniac has addressed this by adding a new difficulty system to Deadlocked. The system consists of five levels (four intially and one after unlocking Challenge Mode): Couch Potato, Contestant, Gladiator, Hero, and Exterminator. The lower level, Couch Potato and Contestant, are designed to be more suitable to newcomers to the series who might need help with adjusting to the gameplay. The upper levels, Hero and Exterminator (Gladiator is more of a middle ground), should give a Ratchet veteran a nice workout. Exterminator especially was hard. It wasn\'t uncommon to find my abilities seriously challenged, with many of the game\'s battles being flat-out intense. In comparison, I would say that UYA was about at Contestant level.

I would also like to note that the AI in Deadlocked has improved a bit. While you certainly won\'t see your enemies pull off stuff as advanced as something you\'d see in, say, FEAR, they will still exercise a few tactics during the game that will add to the challenge a bit, particularly if you like using the Holo-Shields. (Essentially shield walls that block enemy fire but not yours and eal damage to any opponents that wonder into it.) One example of this is during one bonus mission I had to keep waves of enemies from reaching an \'endzone\'. Since about ninety percent of those enemies were Swarmers, little enemies that could be killed with about one hit with the Holo-Shield, I decided to raise a barrier of Holo-Shields across the \'field\'. While I couldn\'t completely cover the whole field, I was able to strategically place them so the majority of the field was covered. The results were a bit surprising. Initially, my plan unfolded as I had planned it. After a little while into the match, however, I noticed that some of the Swarmers were actually moving around the barriers to get to their goal, instead of charging through blindly like I would have expected of Ratchet enemies. Also, sometimes in regular combat, enemies would move around the shield to get a clear shot at me; a definite step-up from UYA. Given the simplistic AI found in Ratchet games, these moments were welcome changes.


Finally, continuing from the topic of difficulty, there\'s the subject of the game\'s longevity. Ratchet: Deadlocked took me about eight hours to get through once on the harder difficulty levels, and probably a hour or two less on easier difficulties. But that\'s just one playthrough, and Deadlocked does continue the Ratchet tradition of Challenge Mode, complete with Bolt Multiplier (multiplies the amount of bolts you pick up for every enemy defeated without taking a hit up to x20) and additional weapon levels and health limits. Both of the latter are upped significantly from previous games. Weapon levels go from v10 before Challenge Mode to v99 after, with the upgrade screen and power upgrade boosts every ten levels. Don\'t take that last part as there is really only ten upgrade levels, and the rest of the levels are a simple psych-trick. Weapons will still receive power upgrades every one of the eighty-nine additional levels, with additional power boosts every ten levels through to v99. The max health limit is also increased. How far it goes, I can\'t say for sure myself (right now I\'m at nearly 200), but I\'ve been told the limit goes to a whopping 999! Health also upgrades slower, so you\'ll be at it for quite a while if you\'re one of those grinders who insist on maxing everything out.


Multiplayer is also back in Deadlocked. The multiplayer started in UYA was hugely popular and was a large factor in the game\'s success. The mode has seen several changes here. I\'ll only be able to review co-operative and offline multiplay matches, as I don\'t have a PS2 Netword Adapter. However, the modes are mostly similar, and I\'ll give you some basic stats of online where it differs from offline. Co-operative is pretty big, and is my new favorite part of Ratchet multiplay. It\'s only offline, so you\'ll have to bring a friend over to play it. It\'s actually pretty original, and really does forces co-operation between players. For example, you and your partner are forced to share ammo and health-pickups, and you can\'t both be using the same weapon. You also cannot wonder so far away from each other, as if you do, a countdown timer will start. If you let it reach zero, Vox detonates your Deadlocked collars and you both die, failing the mission. One of you can die at a time; a respawn timer will start, and the surviving player must continue to stay alive until his partner respawns. If both players end up dead at the same time, the mission is a failure and you get to start over again. Also, instead of having Green and Merc there to take care of tasks, you and your partner must work together to do them. A door may have an orb on either side of it, and instead of ordering one of your bots to hack both orbs while the other bot covers them, you and your partner must simultaneously hack both orbs. (Note that you also will not have any protection hacking these orbs because your partner will be also preoccupied. Guess you\'d better get moving!) All of these force co-operation between players and makes it quite fun and challenging.

I think Ratchet fans have been waiting a while to see a co-operative mode, and Insomniac delivers in high style. Now the full multiplayer mode. Returning from Up Your Arsenal is Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. The three new modes are King of the Hill, Juggernaut, and Conquest. King of the Hill is a contest of who can stay in a glowing area longer than any other player. Juggernaut is where a single player is powered-up above the rest, and everyone else has to work together to take that player down. Conquest is similar to UYA\'s main multiplayer mode, Siege, where the players split up into two sides and try to capture nodes to take ground. (A few variations from Siege are also tossed in.) Overall, all of them are fun to play and should give you and your friends plenty to do during a lock-in or something. Online is pretty much the same as offline in terms of game modes and such, though it does support up to ten (up two from UYA) players during a single match compared to four split-screen on offline, so it should definitely be more fun to play. The different tweaking options for a match are back, so players can make their own new style of play should the default setup become boring. There are a total of eleven maps. They serve their purpose, though they definitely seem smaller than UYA\'s maps, so battles are much more up-close than before.


Graphically, Deadlocked looks pretty much the same as previous Ratchet games. While they have initially made good use of the engine loaned to them by their friends at Naughty Dog (Jak & Daxter), there hasn\'t been much noticeable improvement in the graphics over the course of the Ratchet series except for a few cut scenes in UYA and DL, especially when you look at what Naughty Dog has done with the Jak games and the significant improvement that franchise has seen graphically.

But that\'s not to say that the graphics aren\'t bad in the Ratchet games, Deadlocked in particular. (Though I would still like to see Insomniac go further when to go to the Playstation 3.) The game boasts colorful environments, characters, weapons, weapons blasts, etc. The environmental details and level design vary, so you won\'t experience repetitive worlds. Character design is still as great as always. Enemies, friends, whatever are all unique and creative looking. Game cut scenes are well-animated, and characters express themselves very well visually. The levels are all bump-mapped well, which is always nice. If there\'s one area where graphics in the Ratchet games truly excel, it\'s with the quality of the explosions in the games. There aren\'t many games out there right now, especially on the Playstation 2, that can bring an explosion to life like a Ratchet game. Not only are they visually spectacular, with fantastic particle effects, but you can also actually feel the explosions in the game. Not literally, of course, but the visual detail of the explosion, the booming sound effects, and the visual \'shaking\' done combine to bring the game\'s high levels of destruction to life. These wonderful explosions come at a price, however, and in that lies the biggest problem with Deadlocked graphics. The sheer amount of destruction going on at once result in definitely noticeable frame rate slowdowns. (Interestingly, though, these slowdowns usually occur when the combat is so intense that playing at the normal game speed would be a bit overwhelming, and the slowdowns actually become somewhat welcome.)


Insomniac keeps up its high standard of quality in the sound department. Weapon blasts especially bring combat in the game even more intensity and immerse the player in the ferocity of the game\'s missions. The original voice actors are back to give their characters their trademark personality, and newcomers to the voice cast perform equally well with bringing their new characters to life. The music, again good as usual, takes on a new hard-rock theme in keeping with the game\'s increased focus on combat. < h4>Controls/Interface The controls in Deadlocked have evolved a bit in conjunction with the game\'s transition to the shooter genre. The Lock-Strafe control scheme from Up Your Arsenal is now the default control configuration. The traditional Ratchet controls are still available for those who want to go old-school, but you would be wise to go with Lock-Strafe. Lock-Strafe, for those who don\'t know, is essentially a hybrid of shooter controls and traditional Ratchet third-person controls. This allows for the combat precision of a FPS configuration (very necessary in the intense, new game play), but third-person controls and view for better overall visibility and for better control for the occasional platforming segment (mostly rail-grinding).


The controls at both ends are precise and well-done, and probably the best-suited for Ratchet: Deadlocked game play. The Deadlocked interface is simple and elegant. Changing menu selections and moving from menu to menu has the satisfying look and feel of a futuristic computer interface. Navigation is a breeze, and there is plenty of extra content to be found in their depths, including a monster-kill counter very similar to the Monsterpedia in Going Commando and humorous character back stories. The in-game \'HUD\' is simple, gets the job done, and doesn\'t interfere with the game. The HUD includes a health counter and weapon/ammo displays in their traditional spots (upper-left and top-center), with a bit of a visual make-over. In the lower-left and lower-right corners, there is now a squad-command menu (for Green and Merc) and a mini-map that shows enemies, objectives, and your bots.


The game is almost entirely stable, with not major bugs, glitches, exploits, crashes, whatever. The only thing I experienced was a minor bug where the objective marker on your mini-map points in the wrong direction of the actual goal.



- Killing non-human, fictional beings (Ex. Robots or Aliens) (-3.5 pts)
- No Blood (-0 pts)
- No Gore (-0 pts) As you may have guessed, there\'s a lot of destructive violence in Deadlocked. The violence is almost entirely against robotic creatures, with a few alien creatures spread out here and there. Ratchet (you) never kills out of cold-blood and only to save himself and those he cares about, and to stop an evil menace. There is no blood or gore at all.


- Swear words found in a PG-13-rated movie are used in the game (Ex. A-word, B-words, S-word) (-4 pts)
- The game censors swear words in the game (allows them to be disabled) (+1 pt)
- Sexual references are made throughout the game (-3.5 pts) Swearing has normally not been a problem at all for the Ratchet games, with only one bleeped-out word at the end of Going Commando. So initially, when I saw the \'Mild Language\' rating, I was a bit surprised. Basically, there\'s one definite use of both the S-word and the A-word, with the S-word possibly being used a second time. Another time in the game, Ratchet almost says the A-word but is cut-off before it actually comes out. There is also a good amount of sexual jokes in the game just like in UYA (though overall probably a little less). On a more positive note, the swear words are all completely bleeped out, with no syllables still able to be heard like the half-baked efforts you\'d see on Primetime TV. They also aren\'t blaring beeps that proudly declare the presence of a swear word, like on TV. The bleeps are very subtle, and in fact, I noticed them more because there seemed to a word missing than actually hearing the bleep itself. Very good efforts at censorship, and kudos to Insomniac.

Sexual Content

- Characters clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (Ex. tight clothing or low cleavage) (-1.5 pts)
- No Sexual Content (-0 pts) Several female characters in the game (Sasha, a fellow contestant named AquaGirl, and Courtney Gears), were tight, form-fitting clothing, and in Gears’ case, a bit revealing by showing off the belly a bit. There is no other nudity in the game, nor is there any sexual content of any kind.


- There is no occult or supernatural environment in the game. (-0 pts) - There is no occult or supernatural in the game. (-0 pts) There is no occult or supernatural environment in Ratchet: Deadlocked. Nope, zip, natta. Forget about it.


- No authority issues involved with this game. (-0 pts)
- No prejudicial bias in the game. (-0 pts)
- A few instances of gross humor are in the game. (-1.5 pts)
- No poor value decisions are required to progress or promoted in the game. (-0 pts) Deadlocked has a few instances of gross humor, noticeably when Juanita comments on how she loves it on skater videos when they smash their…er…sensitive areas on the railing. Other than that, the game is clean in this area. There is a lot of destruction in the game, but it is done in the interest of stopping an evil madman and protecting yourself, your friends, and innocents. I wouldn’t call that poor values.

Bonus Points

- This game shows the consequence of evil. (+3 pts) - The story in this game delivers a good, moral lesson. (+3 pts) There is actually a very good moral lesson delivered in this game about selfishness. Evil is portrayed as bad, and not in the comic way that it was in previous Ratchet games. There is a part where Ratchet and Clank sit down and realize, okay, these people are evil. The point, I thought, was delivered very well, and in a way that’s becoming more and more uncommon in today’s gaming world.


Ratchet: Deadlocked is another very solid entry into the Ratchet franchise by Insomniac. Any fans of the series should very much enjoy the game, and newcomers will also be well-pleased. The game packs intense, addictive action with a humorous storyline, giving the game the trademark humor that fans of the series have come to know and love. In short, forget what anyone’s told you, folks; Insomniac’s got another winner.

Final Score

Game Quality

Game play – 19/20
Graphics – 8/10
Sound – 10/10
Stability – 5/5
Controls/Interface – 5/5
Total Game Quality Score – 47/50


Violence – 6.5/10
Language – 3.5/10
Sexuality – 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural – 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical – 8.5/10
Total Appropriateness Score – 37/50

Bonus Points +6

Total Score – 90/100

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