Ratchet Gladiator – Naughty Dog - Sony

Gladiator is the fourth offering in the highly praised Ratchet & Clank series; while previous games have been centred on platforming and exploration with a liberal amount of weaponry thrown in, Gladiator changes direction somewhat and focuses squarely on action and creating carnage. So, does this represent a refreshing change to the series or will they have long term fanboys up in arms for not being faithful to the roots of the series? Let's find out…………

Story

The story begins with our intergalactic hero Ratchet taking it easy in his spaceship with pals Clank and Al when suddenly they are taken prisoner and forced to take part in the hit TV show 'Dreadzone'. Dreadzone is a Running Man type show where numerous intergalactic heroes and villains compete for fame, fortune and ratings. The game plays out very similarly to the Running Man in that the network initially attempt to make Ratchet look like a bad guy but as you progress through the game, the viewing public warm to him and the network realise they have a hot commodity on their hands – leading to an eventual confrontation with the current number 1 exterminator Ace Hardlight. Throughout Ratchet, guided by Clank, is looking for ways to escape the show and bring the Network down.

The story is interspersed with numerous cut scenes which hold the game together well and also add some humour, typical of the series, into the mix.

Overall it is a fun story even though it seems to be a rehash of Running Man and/or the classic arcade game Smash TV, albeit with a furry alien in the lead role.

Graphics

The graphics in the game are very good, all of the planets you visit all look suitably futuristic and all have a distinct character/theme. Ratchet and his two helper bots look and move well and the weapons and related effects are all very detailed. At times the screen can be flooded with enemies and bullets but the game handles this well with no noticeable slow down. Overall a very good job in keeping with the games history with an updated layer of polish added.

Sound

The voiceovers for the main characters are all well done and fit the roles. The presenters of Dreadzone have very annoying 'US game-show' voices though they don't feature too heavily. In game, your ears will be dominated by the sound of the various guns/bombs/mines etc going off – all have a unique sound with the power and effects of each well conveyed. Background music is included but to be honest I can't think of anything to say – it is generally drowned out by the action underway. Again a good job has been done by the developers on the audio front.

Gameplay/Controls

As mentioned above previous Ratchet games definitely had their platform roots – while an element of this still exists in the game it is largely overshadowed by the all out combat. The game takes place across a number of planets which act as hub levels within which there are between 4-6 main missions/sub-levels. Objectives vary between destroying certain objects and opening doors/arenas usually culminating in a boss battle. In addition when the main missions are complete extra Dreadzone challenges become available. Missions take place both on foot and in various vehicles which lead to a good variety of challenges on offer. Also on each planet are a number of skill challenges which can be performed at any time to gain more cash. These usually require you to use specific weapons or give you a time limit to complete a challenge and definitely add to the replayability factor – even though some can be frustratingly hard.

The aim is to accumulate Dread points by completing missions and move up through the ranks and unlock other planets. Along the way you will also collect stacks of bolts which can be used to upgrade your weaponry and ever present bots.

Weaponry in the game is diverse but there is actually less weapons in Gladiator than other Ratchet games. This is offset though by the mods that you can allocate to weapons – these range from power, ammo and speed upgrades to weapon effects such as freezing, acid and lava which add a potent kick to your arsenal. Not only does ratchet himself level up throughout the game but each weapon can be levelled up 99 levels!! The weapon mod feature allows you to customise your arsenal to best suit your style of play, in my opinion another great touch.

In addition to the weapons Ratchet is also flanked by two bots that not only help him out with the fire fights but have a number of other skills which help you progress through the levels. This adds a layer of strategy to the game as sometimes it means you guarding you bots while they undertake an assigned task.

Controls in the game are well done – the left analogue controls Ratchet's movement and aim and the right stick controls the camera, which for the most part behaves itself. The shoulder buttons control your main weapons, the buttons control other actions including jump and melee strikes and your bots are commanded by the d-pad. I found the controls easy to learn and responsive – you can't really ask for much more.

The game features 5 difficulty levels ranging from ridiculously easy to the supremely difficult – this allows you to find your level and enjoy the game whilst also adding to the longevity. The main game lasts between 8-10 hours depending on how important all of the skill challenges are to you but there is more than enough to keep you coming back even after you have completed the main story. The game has a co-op mode and action can also be taken online and death matches played with others around the globe.

Conclusion

Ratchet Gladiator is a great addition to the series, it looks and sounds great and the story adds an interesting background to the action. The game offers a good challenge and kept me playing for hours on end. The only real drawback I could see was that to some all of the shooting may seem a bit repetitive if this isn't your type of game. Also for those that were expecting an updated instalment of the Ratchet series may be disappointed as Gladiator is a departure genre-wise from the previous games. The lack of Clank on your back and the Clank jet pack is also sorely missed!!

Overall I give Ratchet Gladiator ……………………….

8 out of 10

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