To coincide with the franchises 10th anniversary Insomniac Games presents Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (Q Force in EU/UK). When it was announced we were told FFA will return to the classic mechanics while still implementing some new and innovative features. The return of the third person camera, something since removed for All 4 one. The introduction of a multiplayer mode, missions based on the Tower Defense RTS platform and as with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, PS Vita cross-play. The question remains, is Full Frontal Assault truly a homecoming for the series?
The plot of Ratchet & Clank games has never exactly been Oscar worthy. This one is based on the demolition of Planetary Defense Systems known as Q-Force Bases Thanks to Captain Qwerk, the galaxy is in danger of antagonist Zurgo destroying the universe and it’s up to Ratchet & Clank to save the day (and Qwerk). FFA does detract from the traditionally stale story lines, however. That is to say the cinematic are still innuendo-ridden and faithful to the form of humour from previous iterations. Being an anniversary release however, there are a number of jokes that will make franchise veterans chuckle, a nice nod to longtime fans of the series.
Following Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, the gameplay in FFA is a breath of fresh air. The third-person gunplay and Tower Defense system work great and result in a fun and unique experience. The game is still set up in a similar manner but upon landing on each planet you’ll need to collect bolts in order to erect defense systems to protect your base. Drop ships will invade your stronghold and you’ll need to fortify your defenses as well as fight off enemies in the traditional manner. Your objective on any given level is to take out enemy nodes while protecting your own and surviving through the waves of increasingly difficult enemies. After which you can activate the planet’s defenses and move on.
You’ll also need to scout outside of your base in order to collect items, bolts, weapons and complete objectives. Timing it right can be the difference between success and failure as you’ll be required to leave your base defenseless as you rocket-boot yourself across the planet searching for goodies. You also don’t start the level with a weapon and you’ll be required to go out in the field and collect one.
The game is of decent length, consisting of five stages on three planets and clocking in at around 5 hours. Enemies are varied and this helps split up the gameplay but the game is still plagued by repetitiveness. Battles become a grind and the endless encounters with overpowered tanks and helicopters and enemies that can only be thwarted by specific defenses, gets old quick. The real causality of this comes in the replay value as the aforementioned annoyances are the sole reason players like me feel less inclined to replay missions.
Multiplayer is a whole different beast and will likely consume most of your time in FFA. Utilizing the elements of the single player campaign, multiplayer is split into three phases. There are a select few crates to collect and nodes to capture, during the scout phase you vie for power over the nodes to earn bolts. In the squad phase you spent your bolts on fortifying your base as well as recruiting units. The final phase, Assault, is the attacking phase in which your objective is to overwhelm your opponents while protecting your base. It’s a great system that has seen success in many other titles and it’s executed surprisingly well here. The downside is there are only three maps available to the multiplayer mode, hopefully some future DLC will see that number increased.
The Vita cross-buy port has unfortunately been delayed until January so the jury is still out on that one. The console version is not a stranger to some screen tearing but overall the engine fires on all cylinders like the well-oiled machine you’d expect. The animation quality is impressive and with some pretty incredible visual effects, I for one will be interested in how the Vita handles a game that is already pushing the limits of its big brother.
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault does a lot of things well; it implements some great features and adds an innovative multiplayer experience. But with a limited number of maps to play with friends and a repetitive single player campaign, it will fail to hold your attention long enough. With one of the main selling features in Vita cross-play being delayed until January, the dynamic duo’s anniversary celebration feels cut short. Nevertheless, FFA is still a worth addition to the franchise offering a fresh experience to new players and veterans alike.
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