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Ratchet: Deadlocked: The Running Lombax

Last year, Insomniac introduced multiplayer elements into the Ratchet & Clank franchise to critical acclaim. Perhaps so much that both the single and multiplayer aspects of the next installment of the series is actually built around the multiplayer elements rather than taking the familiar platformer route.

The single-player Story mode begins with the disappearance of several of the galaxies' greatest heroes. Ratchet and Clank soon discover that the heroes are being kidnapped and forced to compete in the galaxies' most popular, and deadliest, game show -- Dreadzone. This discovery leads the duo to the Shadow Sector, the roughest region of space, to confront media mogul Gleeman Vox, the show's producer. While en route, the duos' ship is hijacked and the two are taken hostage. Given Ratchet's status as a hero, and Dreadzone's lagging ratings, he is forced by Vox to compete in the game show. And, in order to make sure Ratchet complies, both he and Clank are fitted with deadlock collars that can be remotely detonated if the wearer ever becomes uncooperative or boring.

Ratchet is soon fitted with an ill-fitting suit (apparently Dreadzone isn't used to having constants with tails) and forced to compete in live competitions.

One major change to the game's familiar format is that Ratchet will no longer have Clank strapped to his back. Instead, the diminutive robot will take the role of Ratchet's advisor during the game. Other characters will also show up and help out, such as Al (of Al's Robot Shack fame), who will act as Ratchet's technology advisor. Deadlocked will also introduce new characters to the series like current Dreadzone Champion, Ace Hardlight. Although Deadlocked will put more emphasis on the shooter side, Insomniac is promising that the humor that made the series so entertaining will return.

Ratchet won't find himself in the battlefield alone. During combat, he'll have a set of A.I.-controlled bots that will follow him into battle. The bots will run on their own A.I. if you want, or you can issue commands if you want them to do specific things. The command system is context sensitive and will adapt orders based on what is going on during gameplay with orders issued through the D-pad. Bots provide not only fire support, but gadget support by shooting grappling lines (which Ratchet can then grind across), hacking computer terminals or by tightening bolts to capture nodes on the field.

Every Ratchet game finds a new way to evolve the weapons system; the same holds true in Deadlocked. Compared to past games, the weapons system in Deadlocked is deeper and a little more complex.

As you use weapons during battle, they'll gain experience points, which eventually add up to level-up bonuses that enhance the weapon. Unlike Up Your Arsenal's system, leveling up only enhances a weapon's stats. In order to modify a weapon, you must purchase mods from vendors. Weapon mods come in two variations: Omega and Alpha. Omega mods enhance a weapon's attributes and add things like freeze lighting and homing mods to weapons. Alpha mods, on the other hand, further enhance each weapon's stats. The goal of the system is to allow players to completely customize weapons however they want, giving the game that extra bit of personal touch gamers are starting to expect to see in games. Weapon mods can be switched out on any weapon at any time.

Since his two allies now act as his gadgets, Ratchet's weapons are limited mostly to things that go bang. Aside from his trademark wrench, his main weapons are a set of dual-wielded machine guns called Twin Vipers. By collecting bolts during matches and visiting vendors scattered across each arena, Ratchet can purchase other weapons like missile launchers, shot guns and a sniper rifle. Judging from the demo, none of the guns from past games are present in Deadlocked. Instead, all of the weapons are modified versions of previous weapons. The demo only featured a handful of weapons, but I wouldn't rule out some kind of barnyard inspired weapon popping up in the full game.

Collected bolts can also be used to modify your two sidekicks. These modifications, which can only be added between matches, include new weapons, functions, body parts and paint jobs.

As if the modifiable weapons and robot squads weren?t enough firepower, some levels will even include vehicles. The demo featured a four-legged walker called a Land Stalker. This spider-like tank came armed with twin-machine guns and a mortar cannon. The final game will include a number of different vehicles like hover bikes, tanks and jeeps.

On the multiplayer side of things, Deadlocked will include both off and online multiplayer modes. All of the typical multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag and Deathmatch will be available. A new multiplayer mode will be introduced in Deadlocked that plays like an enhanced version of Siege mode. The mode is team-based and centers on winning points for performing certain actions on the battlefield.

It's a bit of a change for the series, but sometimes you need a little change. Ratchet: Deadlocked is slated for release later this year.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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