Retro Monday – “Ratchet & Clank: Gladiator”

Well it is convention season…

This week was Gamescom. I have yet to go to a Gamescom convention, even though I stood outside the convention centre last year but didn’t go in. I have family in Germany so I end up there about this time of year so going would kill so figurative birds with one trip out of the country. Although I don’t think it would be the most interesting place for my 60-year-old, not that interested in video games, dad. Except if there was a “Flight Simulator” booth. I didn’t even know about GenCon going on right now but I neither live in the US or Indianapolis, or am clued into table-top games although being somewhat interested so it was bound to pass me by. I, the sites humble press money, will go to any con’ in London if it gets me out of the house. As long as I get a press pass and they actually tell us they’re there, then why not? For once I’m not addressing my editor/boss. It’s the figurative person who may or may not be reading this. You can throw stuff at my email box. Just don’t aim for the head.

Title: “Ratchet & Clank: Gladiator

Developer: Insomniac Games

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Released: October 2005

Ratchet & Clank: Gladiator” (“Ratchet & Clank: Deadlocked” if your American or just “Ratchet & Clank 4” in Japan) was the 4th game in the main canon of the Ratchet & Clank series and the penultimate game before ‘Future‘ was added to the titles and they moved to the PS3. At least, the penultimate one if you consider the PSP – PS2 port of “R&C: Size Matters” the last game or not. Considering it was a) made by High Impact Games instead of the lead developer Insomniac Games and b) build for the PSP, so the PS2 version was never going to that great because the PSP was terrible.

‘Gladiator’ ended up being the forgotten child of the PS2 Ratchet & Clank series. When the HD re-release of the PS2 era games came to the PS3, it was only 1 through 3 that made it into the bundle. Surprised that “Size Matters” didn’t make it because it was the closest thing to a sequel to R&C 3. To bad it had to be on the PSP because as aforementioned the PSP was crap which is sad because the game was alright. “Gladiator” has more in common with the series spin-off “Secret Agent Clank” because most of the areas end up just being liner corridors rather than the usual ‘place in an area and left to explore’ style of levels. Another chunk of the levels are made into battle arenas like the side-mission section from the previous games. It can be very limiting and, after a certain point, really easy to finish.

As the subtitle says, Ratchet in this iteration is a Gladiator, an unwitting participant with a “Battle Royale” style bomb collar called a ‘DeadLock collar’ on a “Running Man” style TV show called ‘Dreadzone’ for the thinly veiled evil parody company called Vox. Oh yes, it is time to rip on the Fox network and the quote-unquote ‘reality television’ boom. You may think that such an easy joke would get run into the ground only after one mention but they were sly and only slid it in as a sub-joke rather than having it as the headliner so it doesn’t become too grating. It also means that there is space for more parody’s of other TV things. One of the more obvious parody’s are the two commentators that say witty dialogue while you play and fight. The first talker is called Dallas. He is a hammy sports commenter who sells the idea that you are on television because I started thinking of him as a esports commentator. The second is Juanita, that’s Yuan-ita if you’re looking for the right pronunciation, who is one of the best characters in the whole game. She’s one of the few characters that has a character arc. Considering it is the 4th game Ratchet and the other regulars couldn’t have much of an arc because most of them have already had them in previous games. At first she bays for Ratchet’s blood in the most sadistic but delightful way and by end she’s calling for his help and saying he is a true hero instead of “the Butcher of Bogon ”.

When I said there wasn’t much of an arc to be had with the regulars, Ratchet has some development as a character that continues from the previous games. At first Ratchet enjoys being on the show, being out of action since the third game is pretty boring. But after he meets the head of the Exterminators (the level bosses) Ace Hardlight and sees that he revels in killing other heroes that get pulled into the show, Ratchet starts to question why he enjoys it. Yes, it the usual warrior questions why he fights plot, but considering this is a game designed for young teens, it gets dark pretty fast. And it is awesome! May critics when it came out questioned the new dark-ish side of the game but I love it. It really shows where the characters would go and what they would do if they were put into this situation.

One of the more drastic changes is the loss of Clank (in backpack form) and the addition of two combat drones that aide Ratchet in his battles. With the loss the Clank backpack means that there are no stretch jumps or any complicated platforming but the addition of the bots mean that you can order them to turn bolts and other tasks while you concentrate on shooting stuff. It can be a god send at times when the increase in difficulty means just adding more enemies. But if you don’t want the bots you can go into a co-op mode locally. That is one thing that I miss from the PS2 era, local co-op and multiplayer. The co-op is just the normal single player campaign, they don’t even change the cut-scenes or dialogue, but is really well laid out. Going into a split screen can be disorientating but everything it placed just right that it become easy to drop in and out.

With the more liner levels and darker nature, this is why “Gladiator” ended up being the forgotten child of the PS2 era Ratchet & Clank games, but that does not mean by any stretch that the game is bad. I really like the game and would make the guess that most fans of the series probably do to. It’s just different to the usual way of doing things. Considering this was only the start of what the branding of “Ratchet & Clank” started to go it was ok. But there are a few different games that the brand ans gone on to that are really not that good, (I’m looking at you “All 4 One”). But as a trying something new style of game, I liked it. Enough was kept from the original style to keep it familiar for those coming back from the previous games while what was changed took the series to a new area rather than wallowing in the mythos.

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