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Ratchet: Deadlocked preview

We give you an early look at the next game in the PlayStation 2's Ratchet & Clank series, Ratchet: Deadlocked.

We give you an early look at the next game in the PlayStation 2's Ratchet & Clank series, Ratchet: Deadlocked.

Sony's got an extremely strong three-platformer lineup with the Ratchet, Jak, and Sly series, all of which are on an annual release cycle and yet manage to deliver consistently high-quality and new features time after time. This year, the three franchises are evolving in different directions, with Ratchet & Clank morphing into a shooter called Ratchet: Deadlocked. We got to take a look at the latest build of the game at Sony's E3 booth, as well as find out some new details direct from developer Insomniac, and while it's clear at this point that Deadlocked isn't exactly the same game R&C fans have been used to, it will certainly offer plenty of depth and what looks to be some solid shooting action.

We've been aware of Deadlocked's basic storyline for some time now -- it has Ratchet participating against his will in a televised death-sport called Dreadzone, the brainchild of media mogul Gleeman Vox. But beyond the basic premise, Insomniac hasn't shown off a whole lot of the humorous aspects of the new game, which Ratchet & Clank fans will surely expect. During our demo, we got to take a look at a rough version of one of the game's cinematics, which depicts a focus group in which one child after another is asked to pick from several toys, including an action figure of Dreadzone superstar Ace Hardlight. One kid after another opts for the other toys before being, uh, electrically reconditioned to go for the Hardlight one (think shock therapy). Even in the game's early state, it was evident from the content and voice acting in this scene that Deadlocked's increased emphasis on shooting action will still leave room for the series' trademark personality to shine through.

Ratchet: Deadlocked will have a complex weapon mod system that will allow you a tonne of freedom to customise your offensive capabilities, and we got to see a number of combinations in action. For instance, the shotgun combined with an ice mod to create, well, an ice shotgun -- a weapon with a large hit radius that could slow enemies in their tracks. We also saw a controllable aim mod applied to the rocket launcher, making the weapon behave a lot like the one in Half-Life 2 -- after firing the rocket, the player could control its flight path simply by moving the aiming reticle around. Our favourite mod had to be the morph mod, which turns enemies into one of an assortment of barnyard animals when it connects. Each weapon in the game will have two weapon-specific mods, and you'll be able to obtain mods in a number of ways, such as by buying them from vendors or receiving them as rewards for completing certain missions.

In the place of Clank, Ratchet will have a couple of AI bot buddies that will follow him around through a mission and help deliver fire to the enemy. These guys will act independently if you don't want to actively instruct them, but the game will make it easy for you to issue context-sensitive commands to the bots with the D pad, based on an icon display that pops up in the bottom corner of the screen. Purportedly, it'll be possible to get through most of the game's missions without futzing with giving commands to your helpers, but it'll obviously be a good bit harder to do so.

Deadlocked's multiplayer will have a new mode that's tentatively being referred to as conquest, which Insomniac says evolved out of the siege mode seen in Up Your Arsenal. Victory in this team-based mode will revolve around accumulating points collectively, and the designers have added specialised kills to the mix, which will influence your point totals based on the way you off your opponents. For instance, taking someone out with a sniper weapon will result in a "sharpshooter" kill and grant you three points; killing someone with a vehicle is "roadkill" and will grant you two points; and bashing someone to death with the puny wrench is a "humiliation" that's worth a whopping five points. Insomniac reps said a popular early tactic had been to use the ice mod to freeze an opponent, then switch to the wrench for a humiliation kill to rack up quick points.

Ratchet: Deadlocked seems to be coming along nicely, with what looks like tonnes of content and the Ratchet & Clank series' humorous elements rolled into a solid shooting package. The game is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of this year, and we'll bring you more as soon as we get it.

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