Even though it’s the 10th anniversary of the R&C franchise, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault fails to recapture the magic the series once had or feature it in a small way that would’ve served as a nod to fans. A nice level of humor is still present thanks to good writing, but the action oriented gameplay leaves a lot to be desired as only a few key mechanics show up with little to no major context or thought put into making them actually be fun to do. The multiplayer mode does provide some good moments, but the simple basis of it does make it far from being the next big thing to hook people in from a long-term point of view. The Ratchet & Clank series has had a lot of good moments in the past but Full Frontal Assault is far from being one of them.
+ Art style and graphics are still superb.
+ Voice acting and writing is top notch as expected thanks to the talents of James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye.
+ Multiplayer mode handles action well without being too overwhelming.
- Single-player feels weak as far as content and direction goes.
- Ratchet & Clank not being at the forefront of the story is both disappointing and frustrating.
- Certain gameplay elements feel under utilized, thrown in for the sake of it, and recycled.
- Lack of platforming, or sections that are unique in their design and accompanying mechanics, is disappointing.
- Multiplayer mode doesn’t have a load of content in it.
- Some of the expected Insomniac craftsmanship is missing as evident in unexpected technical issues.
Injecting a bit of variety into an existing game series is something I think gamers as a whole can appreciate. At times we can be a bit fickle as to what advances or additions are made in a sequel to a popular gaming franchise since tampering with the perfect recipe can often lead to disastrous results. But at the end of the day I think most people don’t mind a little variety here and there as long as the core remains the same.
Take for example the Ratchet & Clank series from Insomniac Games. For years Insomniac has given us the same broad humor in a game that at it’s core is a mixture of platforming and shooting with guns whose origins lay deep in the imaginative minds of the Insomniac staff. Over the last few years the R&C games may have leaned more towards the straight up action side of things, but the franchise never felt like it sold out or went off the rails too much. Now it’s the 10th anniversary of the Ratchet & Clank series and Insomniac has given us Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, a game that ultimately ends up being a huge misstep for the series rather than a grand celebration of what made the games so successful.
As a longtime R&C fan I definitely had questions as to whether or not we actually needed a new game in the series. The storyline that was started in R&C: Tools of Destruction was wrapped up in a nice box with a tight little bow on it with the release of R&C: A Crack In Time, which very well could’ve been the final installment in the franchise without pissing off the fans. The ensuing release of R&C: All 4 One didn’t do much to add to the overall legacy of the franchise and sadly the same can be said of Full Frontal Assault except it’s more disappointing given the potential it had.
Taking a note from the underrated R&C: Quest For Booty, Full Frontal Assault is a smaller adventure that doesn’t have our favorite Lombax and robot on a major quest to save the universe from sort of dastardly villainy. In fact, both Ratchet and Clank are laying low when Full Frontal Assault begins as they’re hanging out with Captain Qwark, who since losing his seat of Galactic President is rather bored and is in desperate need of an adventure that calls for his type of idiotic and vain heroism. Of course things don’t stay in their pleasantly dull state for our heroic trio as a mysterious force enters the fray that promises the same type of doom that R&C fans have come to enjoy.
Not as deep as the past tales spun in the series, Full Frontal Assault still manages to have a nice comedic edge to it that once again doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator. Instead of featuring piss poor dialog one would see in a Nickelodeon kids cartoon, the humor in FFA is often sharp and witty without being so deep that the majority of gamers won’t get the joke and in the process stupid for not getting the punchline.
The Q-Force is ready for action.
Surprisingly there is a distinct lack of focus on Ratchet & Clank as a pair within the plot of Full Frontal Assault as it’s instead centered more on Captain Qwark and the mess he’s unfortunately caused. I did miss not seeing more banter featuring either Ratchet or Clank since nothing has been able to reach the heights of what was in A Crack In Time. Featuring riffs on fanboys that have gone too far, the writing in FFA is serviceable even if the story feels like it was manufactured for the gameplay, which in the case of the game isn’t enough to be compelling.
My fellow R&C fans may now that over the last 10 years the franchise has evolved nicely and gone off in some interesting directions. Starting off with roots steeped in platforming, the R&C series has gone on to feature intense gunplay with a nice leveling system that encourages variety and in the process allows for a tailored experience. In Full Frontal Assault another leap is made by Insomniac Games yet it doesn’t result in the same brilliance as we’ve seen in past efforts. As I mentioned it seemed like the plot of FFA was dictated by the gameplay that was created, which in the case of the game involves Ratchet & friends visiting a series of planets to reclaim weapons systems from the big baddies.
Featuring a smaller area to play in, the main stages of the game, of which there are five, have a small sandbox feel to them amidst mission directives that are completely linear. The basic outline of the single-player mode of Full Frontal Assault is that Ratchet and his allies (which can include Clank and Captain Qwark) must protect their base from oncoming attacks all while taking down enemy defensives. The basic flow of a level can be surmised as go to point A, go to point B, return to home base, go to point C, return to home base and complete mission. There isn’t exactly a tower defense force feel in FFA as I didn’t find myself having to babysit my base the entire time nor are there any bases I could acquire, at least not in the single-player mode.
Having a more stripped down experience in a R&C game could’ve been interesting, yet it proves to be too derivative as there’s no soul to anything. Memorable R&C elements are in the game such as all the familiar weapons as are things like being able to grind on pipes to access areas. The problem which arises in featuring things that are iconic in the R&C series is that it came across as if mechanics and features were simply thrown in for the sake of having them. Sure, there’s a swingshot point within a stage but why is it there and why do I need to use it when the main gameplay is to shoot anything that walks? Full Frontal Assault at times feels like a giant puzzle in which it’s clear what the overall piece is supposed to look like, yet individual pieces were just jammed in for the sake of making things look “complete” even though the final result is a complete mess on every front.
Seeing small elements within the game such as the swingshot and grindable pipes is in a way frustrating since FFA doesn’t have any elements within it that are representative of the classic era in the franchise, more specifically platforming. There are platforming sections within the single-player levels of FFA, but their simplicity is almost baffling since they often consist of nothing more than a hovering/moving platform that looks like it was thrown in for the sake of “spicing” things up. The last few R&C games have definitely gone in a different direction that’s more action oriented so it’s understandable that the game hasn’t done a complete 180 in it’s overall direction. Though when considering what’s offered in the game it’s honestly shameful as it lacks the immediate skill and enjoyment the series once had.
A bit of action from the campaign mode.
It was nice to roam around the levels in Full Frontal Assault as they’re all beautiful to look at since the game once again is a visual stunner. Insomniac may not have left their comfort zone as far as the aesthetic of the R&C universe and perhaps do something more daring or off the wall, but the game still has an amazing pop to it since the colors are extremely vibrant and everything has that CG movie quality slickness to it. It was odd to see a few technical oddities surface such as environmental pop up, minor slowdown, and characters spawning in front of my eyes, but the game is still a stunner to look at amidst those minor issues.
Even with a high amount of visual delight my mind couldn’t be pulled away from thinking about how disappointing the gameplay and level structure is. As I mentioned earlier there is a small sandbox feel within the game as I could go anywhere I wanted to within the level and either scrounge up resources such as bolts or activate weapon stations seeing as that’s the only way I could acquire any weapons beyond my basic blaster. Yes, Insomniac has in a way toned down the weapon system since for some reason Ratchet doesn’t retail any of his weapons going from level to level. The stats of a particular weapon may stay the same, but when it comes to combat within a level I had to balance my time between engaging the enemy and trying to activate stations hoping I would get something useful.
Playing through Full Frontal Assault it seems like the concept of the game, invading enemy bases and protecting your own, would’ve been better off as a bonus mode or level within a core R&C game. There are glints of an entertaining experience within FFA as I did enjoy the slight strategy that was to be found in fortifying my base with things like barrier shields, mines, and flame turrets. The problem with the game is that nothing feels like it was thought out beyond the bare basics of everything. The same few enemy types pop up in each level with only minimal exceptions that honestly only make the battle proceedings that more frustrating and boring.
There’s also a lack of grand sense scale since the battles are repetitive and the enemies presented as “boss” encounters really aren’t boss types at all, they’re just enemies that are more annoying in that they take more shots to take down. On top of that there are balancing issues present such as base structures being too weak, an issue which both negates their existence and in some cases makes the game more difficult than it should actually be.
To sum up the central problem with Full Frontal Assault would be that it’s too much of a multiplayer game at it’s heart. I could play the single-player campaign by myself, but the intensity of some of the later stages comes across as if it was made more for a co-op experience, which in the case of the game can be done via local or online play, the former of which doesn‘t include drop-in and out play. The actual multiplayer mode of Full Frontal Assault carries over the same principles found in the single-player section but this time it adds bases that can be captured by either team to gain resources, a thing that is a must as either teams can send different soldier types to invade the enemy base.
Supporting up to four players for team play, though there is a 1 vs. 1 option, the amount of strategy that can be employed in the multiplayer section of FFA is nice yet it does boil down to doing the same thing and taking a gamble as to which soldier types to send into battle. Should I weigh my options a bit and send in some regular troops or go heavy off the bat and send in a tank? Such predicaments led to a few rather long skirmishes in my time with the game while others I partook in consisted of the other team completely steamrolling my partner and I since actual teamwork is required within the game.
The feelings I had whilst playing FFA online was one of enjoyment but the game doesn’t seem like it’ll have a lot of longevity since there are only a few maps and there isn’t the same moment to moment spontaneity as there is in other multiplayer games. All together it was nice to see Insomniac try something different in Full Frontal Assault yet it isn’t enough to save an already middling product.
Instead of coming across as a game that celebrates a decade of excellence in the platforming-action genre which has spanned three consoles, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault comes across as a game that exists just so it can be there. Passion can be found within the game through the amazing art & visuals and the consistent writing, but the gameplay is dull and is missing the elements which made people fall in love with the series back in 2002. At this point it seems like the Ratchet & Clank series is an aging rock legend, you love them and know they’re capable of solid work but it’s clear that their best days have long since passed them by.