One of the best features from previous Ratchet and Clank games were the arenas. Shooting and destroying tons and tons of enemies and bosses was great, and the third entry even had some platforming-stages that were enjoyable. So making a spin-off featuring nothing but the arena-segment sounds like a recipe for something fun. Is it though?
Worse than any soap opera
Ratchet, Clank and Al are now running the Starship Phoenix, the hub-world from the last game. Many heroes have disappeared recently and suddenly robots overrun the Phoenix, taking Ratchet, Clank, and Al as prisoners. Ratchet meets Gleeman Vox, the creator of DreadZone, a gladiator-style game show where contestants must fight and kill each other. He forces Ratchet to participate and puts a “DeadLock”, a collar that will explode if he becomes uncooperative or boring, on him and his other companions. Ratchet must compete in DreadZone, having Clank and AI be passive supporters, become the best gladiator and maybe get out of there alive.
Ratchet has seen some changes in his personality, being much more aggressive and hotheaded, which makes him try too hard to be edgy, and he instead comes off as an ass. The plot is simple and doesn’t have anything to really talk about. The same can be said for the characters, they don’t get much screen-time and feel like they are simply there. There are some fun commercial-segments, but these are short and don’t tie in with the story too well, only giving some sense of atmosphere. It might not seem like the story is a focus, but they have a bunch of cutscenes that don’t tell anything new or interesting, only what we already know. The concept is kinda neat with a gladiator-TV-show, but with an uninteresting plot, characters that have become one-dimensional and the story being forced down your throat, it makes me happy that the cutscenes can be skipped.
Story Score: 3/10
Pew Pew Pew!!!
This time Ratchet takes on a much simpler concept, where levels are linear and don’t have much room for exploration. Even the big and collectible bolts from previous games are gone, with only skill-points being left. You choose stages from a hub-world and simply go from point A to B, killing whatever you see on the way. What has seen some updates are the controls: Ratchet is now always strafing, with the shooting and even the jumping and selecting weapons being done with the buttons on the back.
You are not alone on your missions either. You acquire two robots to support you, which are a decent help. They can both attack and do objectives for you (such as turning bolts), and are never unreliable.You can even purchase upgrades for them from a store and if robots aren’t your cup of tea, a friend can join in for local Co-op throughout the game.
You once again acquire XP for weapons and health by killing enemies. Upgrading weapons is more fun than before, having more mods to work with that can be acquired both from purchasing and leveling up weapons, with level 10 being max. They can be tweaked with different elements, such as fire-rate and and ammo-capacity, and even effects such as acid and electricity. This makes it easy to personalize the weapons and have a lot of fun with them. There are much fewer guns than before, but what is here is good and the guns differ from each other well. However, the enemies are a bore and never change up, being mere target-practices. The boss-fights are just as poor and almost a joke, having no special patterns and being easily be killed due to your weapons being so strong.
As the title suggests, Clank is not joining in on this journey and the platforming suffers from both this and the stiffer controls.The platforming is limited, with small jumps and no creative layouts. The closest this game comes to any decent use of the platforming are the rail-grinding segments, which are simple, but at the very least have you dodging and shooting as you ride along the rails. You can also once again swing with your hook and it is terrible.You have to aim and press the same button you use to shoot, and it is really finicky, making me waste ammo and even fall and take damage from hazards. The game has surprisingly a lot of platforming-elements, but being so limited in its creativity and diversity, it comes of as an odd addition.
The “optional” missions are really repetitive, having you shoot more stuff and not really adding any interesting in-game mechanics, makes them become tiresome. The worst part is that you will have to do most of them to unlock more stages and getting to the final level, which makes them a drag. This all contributes to making Ratchet Gladiator a repetitive bore. They tried to add some variety with vehicles, but they fall flat. The giant Landstalker, a tank that almost resembles a giant crab, is really strong, but not interesting to play, due to it being too powerful and taking out any challenge this game could have. The battle-car is even worse, being usable only for traversing giant areas with weak weapons. The hoverbike is more used for racing and maybe crossing areas, but is also a bore due to uninteresting level-design and bland objectives. All these segments feel like something that was added at the last second. The Hovership fairs a bit better, with different controls and harder enemies to fight, but is also not something to write home about. What is the worst problem with all of these vehicles, is that they take away the opportunity to use guns that you can upgrade. They are really only there to try to make the battles seem huge or cool.
Using your selected weapons is fun and being able to customize them makes them a great addition, even if there are less weapons this time. But having the platforming being such a bore, flat levels and objectives being uninteresting or neglecting the use of the fun weapons, it can only hold my interests for a minute until I want play something else.
Gameplay Score: 3/10
Have seen better games
The presentation has taken a downfall, with poor details, clipping-issues being constant, animation-hiccups, freezes, and bland and unimaginative design to both the levels and characters. There is even a constant problem with the glasses, where you can see through the person’s head. It is not terrible, since the action and weapons look satisfying, even if the framerate chugs often. But that is the nicest thing I can say about it: it is at least not terrible.
What seems to be the issue, is that the more technical issues are in the port for the PS3, with even some cutscenes that are still in 4:3, which is odd. However, even if the PS2-version fairs better, this is a bleak-looking game, with few colors and uninteresting layouts, trying to be dark and edgy without it being imaginative or visually pleasing.
The music is generic with rock that is somewhat cheesy, but gets too repetitive to be humorous.The characters have good voice-work, even if the dialogue isn’t anything to really care about. However, they repeat many sentences they say in-game and it can be annoying. The weapons are at least satisfying, but explosions and gunfire sound-effects also get stale.
Presentation Score: 3/10
Must the show go on?
There are challenges that might be left to tackle, as well as skill points and an unlockable difficulty-mode, skins and more upgrades for weapons as well. However there is simply not a good enough reason to go for another round, even the first runthrough is difficult to recommend. The multiplayer is standard for a third-person shooter vs-mode, with the weapons being a somewhat highlight at least, due to using the same ones from the campaign. The co-op in the main-campaign is also a nice addition, but it all needed something more than being a simple shooter.
Extra Score: 5/10
Being shallow can surely be a guilty pleasure and having imaginative guns to play around with is a blast. However, when there is nothing that changes up the formula and nothing that makes the next level more interesting, there is really no good enough reason to get through this repetitive bore of a game. If you are a huge fan of Ratchet and Clank, you might get something out of a rental with a friend, but I can’t in good conscience recommend Ratchet Gladiator. It is at least not terrible, but that is the nicest thing I can say about it.