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Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault Review (Vita)

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Famished Rectal Defense

There’s a charming simplicity in playing a game with limitations – a short campaign, straight story, a clear directive, and ideas used sparingly. Where most retail games drown us in cut scenes and content, games presented that can be finished within a day easily have a place as well. With Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, the case flies out the window and laughs at you for even considering comparisons to concise experimentations for what it truly is: a restrictive mess.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

Quark senses the imminent danger he’ll endure for participating in this game.

Don’t expect the same amount cheeky fun as before. The story of Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault revolves around the titular two and the always-lovable imbecile Captain Quark as they fight off another universal threat. This time, the villain solely desires revenge on the one, seemingly infallible hero of yesteryear and leaves nothing to work with in between. Tiresome, childish banter fills the gap as you fight through one of the most unimpressive Ratchet & Clank games.

The Ratchet & Clank series impressed with unique weaponry, enchanting characters, and a competent balance of enemies, mini-games, and puzzles…only for Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault to phone it in on what made the series special with light implementations. Everything in Full Frontal Assault pulls back the reigns. Enemy variety, maps, levels, weapons, and defense items leave you wanting more depth. 

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The story could taken a “what if” scenario of how Ratchet & Clank had once antagonized the same hero, but ultimately quelled for gameplay.

One of the many examples is the hook of Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault. The ability to play both offense and defense sparks genuine interest in a series known for straight-shooting gunplay. A conveniently-placed base awaits your trusty hands and creative touch to defend against growing hordes. Turrets, barriers, and mines give the impact of a solid foundation of defense, letting you roam the landscape for the currency of bolts and weapons to further destroy enemy encampments and beef up the base.

However, the mechanic teeters between a novel mini-game for a grander entry in the series and a worthwhile spinoff. Neither side fulfills, and both almost become routine. You venture out of the base toward one area to return and repel an attack. Rinse and repeat; rinse and repeat – face the same set of bullet-sponging curmudgeons and scout the map. It may sound like a rudimentary definition of such tower defense games, yet Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault tore down the allusion with its habitual gameplay.

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The standard third-person gunplay of Ratchet & Clank retains its gun-leveling capabilities and wrench-tossing melee.

Once stronger waves (or any) come knocking, enemy forces squash your defenses with ease, forcing you to drop the exploration aspect and rush back to base. It’s a bad way to design a game centered on one mechanic when the inevitable base destruction only delays. Heavy-handed player agency and lacking management in a tower defense game aside, co-op lends itself to alleviating that pain and other design flaws seen further in Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault. For example, the final assault brings an infuriating time limit and a boss fight geared toward co-op; it’s borderline unbeatable without human help.

In single player, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault pairs you up with two AI companions of either of the three not played. Much to the developer’s credit, Full Frontal Assault plays too much like a video game for that matter. We’re reminded this tower defense spinoff is a video game with severely passive AI in permanent stasis, stagnant and still on turrets doing nothing whatsoever in terms of assistance.

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Weapons come copy-and-pasted from previous entries in the series: Boomerang Saw Blades, Groovitron, decoy, floating AI companion with personality, etc.

Within the four maps and five levels, weapon pods scatter across, forcing exploration to collect all of the weapons to aid a push toward the enemy bases of the Planetary Defense Center. Here’s where  Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault becomes divergent between a long-time franchise trope and a design decision. Gone are the 20+ weapons ready at your side, each with their own ammo count. Now, the pods offer two to three weapons to choose from, but you retain one from the pod and continue on to another. We could imagine the bizarre choice made to create a sense of tension: ammo runs dry as enemies encroach – time for a frantic charge to the nearest crate.

Multiplayer matches in Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault consist of one-on-one games of playing a well-rounded and unique experience. Where the campaign had you customize defensives, multiplayer allows enemy units to be chosen – a small touch, yet not enough of one to avoid harkening back the lackluster campaign. Additionally, mini-base nodes frequent the land and act as a bolt farm and turret fire. These matches evoke quite a good “back-and-forth” competitive play, despite the scaled back and symmetrical maps.

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Compared to last year’s PlayStation 3 version, the Vita port  of Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault sadly plays worse with jarring amounts of corners cut. Multiplayer modes with two-on-two competitive play shuffle out as well as the sizable portion of skins. Stuttering and slowing frame rates encountered with large quantities of enemies take a backseat to the noticeable graphical downgrade. Brightness (or lack thereof) hides the unnervingly poor rendering with characters not even visible. To top off the inferiority, shadows make no appearance, making platforming strenuous out of the lack of visual indication of a successful jump.

The soul of the series steps back for a gimmick of a mechanic and abuses the iconic gameplay. The tedious turn doesn’t fully strip the enjoyment of a Ratchet & Clank game; Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault does enough to familiarize. Popular weapons of the past return, bolt collecting remains a series staple, and exploration rewards. However, the criminally short campaign plays with little to no personality or intrigue, striding in imitation. Ratchet & Clank Full Frontal Assault lands in a perpetual state of gaming purgatory, lending itself little room to be its own thing.

FTG Rating 4Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault was a disappointing Vita game, why not check out our thoughts on Gravity Rush?