Ratchet & Clank is an iconic franchise. But like all long-running franchises, it must eventually seek to reinvent itself, hopefully without abandoning too much of what made it great in the first place. I felt like All 4 One , despite the solid concept behind it, was too much of a departure from the classic style and gameplay. Now, while I have similar feelings about the new Full Frontal Assault (this series was never meant to be about tower defense, in my opinion), I have to say that the latest effort from Insomniac retains much of that old R&C flair fans enjoy.
First of all, the basic mechanics have returned (without the ability to crouch, it seems). We return to the traditional camera view and Ratchet can once again jump, attack, and execute a standard combination attack with your trusty wrench. That was a pleasant sight when I first started playing the beta, let me tell you. But you’re immediately introduced to the new tower defense element, a gameplay mechanic that has never interested me. That being said, Insomniac has done this well; they make the action both strategic and accessible, and a lot of the action still feels like R&C.
It helps a great deal that the beta offers some explanation via tutorial, because I’m a novice when it comes to this type of thing. But before long, I was zipping about, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and thinking, “gee, you know…tower defense ain’t so bad.” There are three rounds through which a standard match progresses and it all starts with Recon. In this Phase, you have to capture various Nodes while raking in the familiar bolts for the sake of purchasing and upgrading weapons. As I explored and attacked enemies that showed up to defend the Nodes, I realized that I had access to a nifty pair of Hover Boots; holding R2 sends me sliding around at top speed. Cool.
Anyway, after taking out my first base (which involved a little mini game that was simple enough), I entered the Squad mode, and that’s where you bring in NPC assistance to help you play defense; the Main Camp features a bunch of different generators that you must protect. The more bolts you spend, the more allies you’ll have to help; I spent a lot because I find protection in such games to be intensely annoying, but some tower defense veterans may approach the situation differently. So yeah, I had quite a few mines and turrets and at one point, I even splurged and purchased the crazy expensive Grungarian Tank. It was worth the expense.
Finally, you’ve got the Assault phase, where it’s your turn to attack the enemy. Any NPCs you picked up during the Squad section show up in dropships to help you out, and that’s a tremendous boost (and also entices you to spend bolts more liberally). If you can get into your foe’s Main Camp and take out all their generators, the match is over and you’ve won. That’s also where the tutorial ends, by the way. Obviously, this game will be best played with friends, as the final product will support vigorous competitive play. The beta only let you try two-on-two but I’m assuming the game will support more players when it arrives later this fall.
Also, don’t forget that Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault will have a story mode, which I didn’t really get to see playing this beta. It seems clear that the multiplayer aspects will take center-stage, though, so bear that in mind when Insomniac’s new title lands on the PSN. Oh, and don’t forget that it’ll support cross-play with the PlayStation Vita!