Ratchet and Clank: QForce

August 10, 2013

Ten years. A rather long time, isn’t it? Think of all the games that have come and gone in that timespan and if you’re really daring, the number of them you played. Just think then, of the milestone that the Ratchet & Clank series has reached this year as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. A huge congratulations to Insomniac Games and the other developers of the series, especially given the consistently high quality of the games. With this legacy in mind, we enter a new era of Ratchet & Clank games, and don’t the devs know it. Their new title, Ratchet & Clank: QForce (aka Full Frontal Assault in North America), combines the series’ familiar action-platforming elements with tower defense gameplay, with mixed results.

The plot of QForce is very simple, to the point where you get the impressions it wasn’t really a priority in this game. Captain Qwark, no longer Galactic President due to his defeat in the elections, goes back to his life of hero work. It’s not fun and games for him though; he is bored and complains of nothing to shoot or do in space. It all changes when Qwark and the QForce team receive a transmission from a masked villain claiming that several Planetary Defense Centres throughout the galaxy are about to be taken over by Grungarian invaders. That, of course, is where the gameplay comes in, with you playing as either Ratchet, Clank or Qwark. You have a home base which must be protected throughout the course of the level from the Grungarians, which attempt to invade and destroy your generators at various intervals. In true tower defense style, your attempts at fighting back are heavily supplemented by the purchase and placement of various turrets, mines and barriers which slow and, if powerful enough, defeat the invaders.

Ratchet and Clank: QForce

In order to successfully repel the Grungarians once and for all, you need to capture the enemies’ nodes scattered around the level. Cue a lot of exploration – the levels are quite large and sometimes it’s not overly clear where your next objective is. Sometimes QForce offers visual cues; for example, the tutorial tells you to follow the pipes along the stage, but there’s no such indicator for the main energy node you must activate to proceed through the level. The mini map is effectively useless as well, appearing more as a cluster of dots and lines that don’t really mean anything so for the most part, you’re on your own. However, there are definite advantages to exploring a level. Weapons other than the OmniWrench (which believe me, you WILL need) are only available by discovering and unlocking the weapon pods found throughout the stage. Similarly, you WILL need a lot of bolts to lay down an adequate defense network which, trust me, doesn’t come cheap. Given how little enemies drop on defeat, you’ll probably dedicate a good amount of time scooting around the stage looking for breakable crates and gold bolts.

Ratchet and Clank: QForce

This all sounds very well and good on paper (or in this case, on a screen) but it’s kind of… well, boring. The typical flow of a game runs like this: run around the level, beat up enemies, capture nodes to restore power to your base, occasionally run back to repel invaders, rinse and repeat. The actual combat is quite repetitive too, especially against larger plane enemies. With that in mind, it’s also worth noting that weapons level up the more you use them – in other words, just keep firing the Combuster and you’ll be sweet! That being said, the platforming elements can be quite fun, although their presence in levels is minimal. The final Assault phase, during which large numbers of Grungarians commence a massive all-out assault on your base can be quite thrilling as well, although it skates a very, very thin line between being overwhelming and exciting. The difficulty does spike a fair bit during this phase, with several of the tougher enemies giving it all they’ve got, and it’s more than likely that you will die a few times. However, if it’s because you have inadequate base defenses, they do, along with your money, remain after you die and have to restart from a checkpoint just before the assault starts, allowing you to roam the level for more bolts. In other words, you’ll get there… eventually. On one hand, I suppose it’s the developer’s way of giving you a handicap, but on the other, it feels like a cheap and easy way out. Why not just make sure the final assault is a bit more well-balanced? With that said, QForce does offer both local and online co-op modes, which do make tackling the tough tasks easier.

Ratchet and Clank: QForce

QForce only has five levels, spread out between three worlds, but considering the price (AUD$20) and the high replayability, it’s great value for money. There are medals up for grabs depending your performance during each level, such as for completing a stage in under a certain time limit or making sure all generators are online by the end of the level. Collecting these medals allows your characters to level up, unlocking new perks and armours for them. Also noteable is the game’s competitive multiplayer mode which, alas, is online only. This mode is a bit more strategic compared to the campaign, with each player having to protect as well as launch attacks on other the other player’s home base while balancing resource use. It feels more fun too; you’re not dealing with AI anymore, but with other people who use cunning and wit.

Overall, QForce is a neat little experiment in branching out the typical Ratchet & Clank gameplay we’re used to seeing. The kinks in the fabric are still there and Insomniac Games has a way to go before they get the balance needed to make their take on the genre fun, but as it stands, it’s not a bad way to spend $20.


Great value for $20 | An interesting twist on Ratchet and Clank | Fun multiplayer


Repetitive level design | Imbalanced difficulty

Overall Score: