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Ratchet | Deadlocked | review | game | Lollipop
(Sony for PS2)
by Mike Delano
Last year's Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal was one of the best action games ever created. The fast-paced blasting and platforming made it the true next-gen successor to the Contra series, while a pseudo first-person shooter feel and outstanding comic writing gave the whole affair an appropriately modern sheen. Nobody was left cold: Those demanding a story got a hilarious one with sharp-witted characters, action fans were given a death match arena where they could endlessly hone their skills, and platforming fans were treated to traditional gameplay seamlessly integrated into a fresh, exciting game that wasn't some botched attempted update of an old series.
This year, the creators chose to take the series down a much simpler path. Like this season's Jak X, the combat racing game spun off of the Jak series, which also reached its peak in 2004, Ratchet: Deadlocked focuses on one aspect of the series rather than attempt to craft another grand adventure. Action fans, rejoice, because Deadlocked is certainly the most intense game in the series, leaving behind most of the platforming and story elements in favor of nonstop blasting.
Deadlocked finds Ratchet trapped in a Smash TV-like futuristic game show called Dreadzone where unwilling contestants fight hordes of enemies (and each other) to the death. Although the story elements have been dialed back in this installment, the writing is as funny as ever, with the wisecracking announcer making a welcome return, while the Deadzone hosts and main baddie, Gleeman Vox, get in plenty of good gags.
The new areas and enemies aren't too far removed from those of Up Your Arsenal, and the general flow of the game will be instantly familiar to fans of the series. For a series that prides itself on having some of the most outrageous and creative weapons in all of gaming, the big guns in Deadlocked are hit or miss, with the mace-like Scorpion Flail being the most gratifyingly destructive.
Unfortunately, some of the things from last time that could've been corrected, haven't been. The ground and air vehicle challenges still feel out of place, their horrendous control is unchanged, and this time, you need to complete them to advance. Hover bike challenges, which seem ripped straight out of the Jak series, are similarly frustrating. And while the gameplay is rock solid, the control is still too complicated. Weapon selection hasn't been streamlined this time around, the buttons have just been moved around a little.
With gameplay addictive enough to warrant Mega Man comparisons and always-entertaining storylines, it's hard not to recommend any entry into the Ratchet series. But with so little to distinguish it from last year's title, Deadlocked is best avoided by the newly curious, who should start with Up Your Arsenal, while fans without $50 to burn should be able to blow through it in a rental.