THIS IS DREADZONE! Ratchet Gladiator: HD Review

“You can’t read that book!”

“Why not? I could read it last time!”

“That’s the problem – you’ve changed since you read the book. The experience will never be the same”.

 

That exchange, or something similar, from The Neverending Story 2 raises a good point – you are not the same person, so when you try redoing something, it will not be the same. That was my experience when playing Ratchet: Gladiator HD on the PS3.

 

Game: Ratchet: Gladiator HD (known as Ratchet: Deadlocked HD in the states)

Price: 21.99 AUD

Platform: PSN, original on PS2

 

I first played Ratchet: Gladiator on the PS2, and it was (and probably still is) my favourite Ratchet and Clank title. It was also the first console game I finished. I thought this game was great, and if you asked me to review it back then I probably would’ve given it a 10. How times, and ourselves, change.

 

Ratchet: Gladiator is just one of those games which a fan of the series will love or hate. Some people consider it an awful title not worthy of being in the series, whereas others, such as myself, love it and consider it the best. It is the black sheep of the Ratchet and Clank family; exchanging platforming and puzzles for challenges and arena battles seen in Locked and Loaded (Going Commando) or Up your Arsenal. It’s very different, and perhaps this is why it’s either loved or hated.

 

Note that this game is a direct sequel to Up your Arsenal, and as such contains spoilers for the ending of that game. We’re not going to spoil it here, but if you do go buy the game, you have been warned.

 

After the events if the third game, Ratchet is contacted and warned about how heroes have been kidnapped for something called “Dreadzone”, a gladiatorial style of battle broadcasted live on TV. Ratchet is warned that he could be next, and sure enough, he’s kidnapped and transported to the Dreadzone facility, where he dons a gladiatorial suit and is forced to compete. From here the story develops, with several twists and turns, until its epic, thrilling climax. This game has one of the greatest stories ever told in gaming media, and I’ll explain why a bit later.

 

The style of play in Gladiator switches between arena battles and more open planet levels. The arena battles feature waves of enemies and occasional platforming sections, while the planet levels feature around five or so levels, or challenges, all of which are unique and are often suited to the planet they take place on.

 

Some of these levels feature vehicles, which are brilliant. There is the landstalker, a crab-like or spider-like vehicle which features E.M.P missile (or something like that – it’s difficult to tell sometimes what weapons fire in the Ratchet and Clank universe). There’s also a flying hovercraft, which fires several smaller missiles, and a hover-bike, which is just as cool as it sounds. The final vehicle is the puma, a four-wheeled vehicle with a single, damaging, blast missile. The vehicles all handle really well, and exactly like they should: the hover-bike is speedy, the landstalker is slow and tank-like, and the puma is speedy, while still packing serious firepower. The Hovercraft can be difficult to get used to, as it uses L2 and R2 (the bottom trigger buttons, in case you’re unfamiliar with the PlayStation layout) to control height, with one making it go up and one making it go down, but once you get the hang of it, it is very fluid and works just as well as all the other vehicles.

 

The weapons are brilliant and crazy at the same time, which is a must-have for all Ratchet and Clank games. There’s a medieval mace weapon, a mine-launcher, a shotgun, and all other sorts, but this game all edits them to fit into the universe, and it works. This game takes weapons to the next level, with each weapon being able to level up to a level cap of ten, where it becomes crazily good. In addition to this, you can change the weapons with mods, which alter the weapons and can perform additional damage, such as the acid mod, which does additional damage once the weapon hits. Unfortunately, I found myself only using the first weapon, the Dual Vipers, although, that is admittedly what I did on the PS2 version. In addition to this, you have 2 bots at your command, which can be upgraded. Although they don’t do much damage, it’s a nice thought, but it could have been implemented better.

 

There are several things to critique about this game, however. First thing: the frame rate. The frame rate in this game drops to very low levels when there are over 6 enemies on the screen, which doesn’t happen often (enemies attack more in a wave format than all at once) and usually only happened when large amounts of enemies spawned – as opposed to ones that load with the level. This didn’t happen at all on the PS2 version, so it’s a little weird to see it occurring here. The game’s cutscenes are also weird; half of them have been redone in HD; the other half haven’t. I think the developers should have made all of them HD, as opposed to just half. It would just make the game all that more coherent. In addition to this, I found the battles slightly boring, but I was playing on the easiest difficulty. Playing on a harder difficulty is the way to go for this game, but it is nice to see that the game is easy enough on a lower difficulty for younger gamers; something some developers miss these days.

 

Although the game has these flaws, its story is brilliant. It’s almost worth paying the $22 just for the story. The story is simple enough for someone young to understand, but the story is also deep enough for experienced gamers to understand. It’s a story about manipulation, an unlikely hero, the corruption of the media and other such themes. In addition, it deals with reality TV. People watched Gladiator battles in ancient Rome for entertainment, what’s to stop TV stations today doing the same thing, just with Reality TV? The Declaration of Human Rights, that’s what, but if an apocalypse or something similar happens, then what is to stop them?

 

The game also features local co-op, which I unfortunately didn’t get to try out, but I remember it being good fun on the PS2, and online multiplayer, which I couldn’t try out either, because no-one was playing during the times I checked. The modes sound like good fun though, with modes similar to Capture the Flag and Deathmatches, as well as original modes just for the game. It could be a good purchase just for the online multiplayer with friends, but as I haven’t played it I’m unable to comment.

All in all, Ratchet and Clank is a very good title, but unfortunately just lacks some of those things which make a great game amazing, and for that reason I find myself not looking back at it that fondly – but fortunately, the memory of the PS2 version, which in my mind is still fast paced and brilliant, lives on.

 

Positive

 – Wacky Weapons

– Crazy Vehicles

– Great character + weapon levelling up

– Amazing Story

– Nice HD Graphics

Negative

 – Noticeable framerate drops

– Easiest mode is very easy, so play on a higher difficulty

– Short

– Several cutscenes not in HD

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