Ratchet: Gladiator PlayStation 2
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Insomniac Games
Release Date: Out Now
Ratchet: Gladiator, an introduction.
The last few years have seen a release of a Ratchet & Clank game. Having a game year after year can often be a bad thing but in the case of the Ratchet & Clank series, it's been a good thing as the games have been great. The games have offered a great mix of combat, action and platforming elements and when you couple this with two great lead characters with real personality it makes for a very entertaining mix. Ratchet: Gladiator is the latest title in the series and it sees quite a marked change in direction for our two heroes.
What's the game about?
The game begins with Ratchet & Clank receiving word that heroes have been disappearing in the Shadow Sector. It appears that a lunatic media mogul by the name of Gleeman Vox has been abducting these heroes and using them as contestants on a TV show called DreadZone. DreadZone is a TV show featuring illegal combat sports. The captured heroes are made to fight a variety of enemies until they are eventually killed. All of this is horrible of course and just as Ratchet & Clank have finished listening to the message, they themselves are captured with Ratchet becoming the latest competitor in the aforementioned DreadZone.
What's good about the game?
Should you not be a fan of platform games and prefer all out action then Ratchet: Gladiator will appeal to you, even if the previous titles in the series haven't. The combat model in Ratchet: Gladiator is practically identical to the one used in previous games so if you were happy with how that felt then you'll have no problems here. Ratchet has two battle assistant droids that follow him into battle and these can be used for a variety of purposes. Even if they are destroyed they can be repaired and put back into battle. Orders can be issued to these two droids through the directional pad. They can even be upgraded too. Ratchet only has 10 weapons this time around but all 10 can be upgraded (and have a variety of mods), so although the game has fewer weapons, the weapons themselves are far more complex than they were in previous games. Ratchet also has access to a variety of vehicles that can be used. Ratchet will battle on a variety of planets and of course the DreadZone arena itself. There are 4 difficulty levels (and a challenge mode which can be unlocked) so there should be a difficulty mode to suit everyone. The game also features a co-operative mode and online (up to 10 players) and offline (up to 4 players if you use a Multitap) multiplayer options.
What's not so good about the game?
Those who enjoyed the previous Ratchet & Clank games for the great platform games they are, might be left wondering why this latest title has done away with the platform game elements and switched to just being an action game. The developers have obviously gone in a different direction this time around and the result is fine, unless you were expecting a platform game that is. The single-player game isn't that long and you'll have completed your first play through in 10 hours at the most. Finishing the game does unlock a few extras though and you can play the game through again to take advantage of these. However if you're the kind of person who doesn't return to games once you've played through them once, this isn't going to appeal. I was personally disappointed to see Clank have a lesser role this time around. He still appears in cutscenes and gives tutorial advice (which isn't something deaf gamers will be aware of as we'll mention in a moment).
How does it look?
Ratchet: Gladiator looks fine, although you'll notice the graphics are practically identical to those found in Ratchet & Clank 3. This is a good thing of course as Ratchet & Clank 3 looked great. The various cutscenes in the game have all been nicely done and as per usual are both humorous and entertaining. The series to date has been well known for its slick presentation and Ratchet: Gladiator is no exception. The character models and the environments all look as good as they possibly could on the PlayStation 2. The frame rate is superb for most of the time, although there are a few spots where slowdown is noticeable (these are few and far between though).
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Ratchet: Gladiator does offer subtitles but they are turned off by default. Despite the fact that subtitles are available, the game is far from being great for deaf gamers. As far as the cutscenes go deaf gamers will have no problems as they are subtitled (with white text placed on a darkened overlay) so you'll be able to enjoy the games story. However Clank's instructional messages and messages from your two battle assistant droids are not subtitled. As a result any tutorial tips (from Clank) are not shown in text. Text appears to show you what the controls are but all other instructions are not shown in text. There are other items of unsubtitled speech too, which is disappointing. Overall it's a mixed experience for deaf gamers. There's nothing that provides an insurmountable obstacle as such, but the game is far from ideal.
Ratchet: Gladiator is a fine game but it feels like a big departure from the previous games and this is something to definitely be aware of. It's not completely deaf gamer friendly, although you will be able to follow the story. The game still remains enjoyable and proves to be an entertaining action game. However the single-player game is too short. Thankfully though the multiplayer modes manage to save the day and make the overall package good value for money. If you're not interested in the multiplayer modes though, then you will definitely not be impressed with the game's brevity.
Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Ratchet: Gladiator isn't your usual Ratchet & Clank experience but it's still an enjoyable game. It's a shame such a mess has been made of the subtitling though.