Ratchet and the band put out one too many B-sides
Recording artists have a tendency to tease and torture their fans in between mainline album releases. Hip-hop stars churn out bootlegs and B-sides, while rockers tend to slide into side projects that leave no doubt why they didn’t become solo stars (Slash’s Snakepit, anyone?). Hell, some country crooners even fashion fictional Australian rocker alter egos and try out for the San Diego Padres during their downtime.
Suffice it to say that Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault is the series’ Chris Gaines moment.
Since 2009’s Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time—considered by some to be the pinnacle of the franchise’s action-platformer incarnations—developer Insomniac’s poured their resources into experimental side projects, with varying degrees of success and critical acclaim. While last year’s Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One—a four-player romp in the vein of Konami’s arcade classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time—missed with many players (though I loved it), at least you couldn’t say that it departed from the formula too much. After all, it still revolved around stockpiling future tech and blasting through varied environments. And, of course, it included perhaps that most important Ratchet staple: some of the funniest, most entertaining dialogue in the game industry.
Full Frontal Assault, on the other hand, takes our intrepid Lombax hero…and reduces him to doing endless busywork in a tower-defense game.
While tower defense isn’t my genre of choice—and I think it’s a bizarre choice for Insomniac to build a Ratchet game around—I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with a well-done take on the concept. At its core, though, tower defense is about just that: defense. But Full Frontal Assault doesn’t offer the necessary tools to do the job, instead presenting the player with sprawling maps filled with a small amount of defenses that cost an exorbitant amount of bolts to upgrade to any degree of effectiveness. Most of the time, it simply makes more sense to throw up your hands and attack the enemy’s spawn points head-on just so they’ll stop invading past your half-baked ramparts.
Let’s put it this way: When I’ve set up several flamethrowers around my base that should, in theory, scorch anything that moves, I shouldn’t have to stand guard and pummel the enemy myself—yet that happened constantly during my time with Full Frontal Assault. What’s more, the trademark Ratchet arsenal is in short supply here, as you’ll need to unlock every single weapon again once you start a new level.
Well, at least playing through these levels leads to hilarious hijinks with Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark, and co., right? Well, to an extent. While the narrative gets off to a suitably goofy start—with the egomaniacal Qwark finding himself in a position similar to a post-election Mitt Romney—and there are laughs to be had throughout, the tower-defense format doesn’t offer the same continuous narrative as other entries. Instead, Full Frontal Assault feels like it’s rationing its jokes to save for a later date—perhaps the next mainline Ratchet entry?
I’ll concede that Full Frontal Assault is certainly more enjoyable in co-op and competitive multiplayer—but not enough to salvage the experience in any meaningful way. With only a handful of maps, there’s just not enough variety to continue playing unless you’re really into this game’s (subpar) execution of the tower-defense genre. Plus, enjoyment’s also highly dependent on who you’re playing with and against, and if you can’t find a partner or opponent near your ability—well, your match will likely be exceedingly short.
I’m all for experimenting with side projects—it’s how you improve as a creator, after all—but it’s clearly time for Insomniac and Ratchet to get back to what they do best: blowing things up in the craziest ways imaginable…and without any silly busywork.
SUMMARY: Aside from some moments of classic Ratchet & Clank humor, Full Frontal Assault fails both as a tower defense game and as a means to hold fans of the franchise over until Insomniac delivers a new mainline title.
- THE GOOD: Multiplayer portion adds some enjoyment; goofy Ratchet & Clank humor (mostly) in full effect.
- THE BAD: Ratchet and robo-buddy Clank aren’t suited for multitasking.
- THE UGLY: A fire-spewing flamethrower that can’t even take out a single charging enemy.
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault is available on PS3 and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was for PS3.