Coinciding with the dynamic Lombax/robot duo's 10th anniversary, Insomniac Games recently revealed Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, a PSN downloadable that’s trying something new with the revered series. Instead of the typical planet-hopping, robot-blastin’ progression, Full Frontal Assault tasks Ratchet with an entirely new mission: tower defense. Taking a page from recent greats like Orcs Must Die!, FFA blends the classic R&C exploration and platforming elements with base defense in some addicting-looking single player or co-op action.
The enemies in question this time around are the Grungoids, feared throughout the galaxy for attacking defenseless planets in waves. Ratchet and co. don’t take too kindly to their invasions, so they’ve taken it upon himself to be the barrier between the Grungoid hordes and global domination. In the co-op mode, you’ll be combining forces (or competiting) with your friends as Ratchet, Clank, or that lovable lout Captain Quark. As always, your impressive, upgradable space-age artillery is the star of the show – only here, the wreckage-wreaking weapons are laid down as turrets just as often as they’re wielded in your capable hands.
As the Grungoid forces approach your blockade from one of two sides (at least on the level we saw), they’ll be met with opposition in the forms of force fields, inventive mines, and about four to six deployable turrets ranging from cannons and rocket launchers to machine guns and flamethrowers. The traditional R&C cleverness when it comes to weapon design seemed most prominent in the non-turret defenses: obstacles like a Groovitron Mine (a disco ball that forces the enemy to bust a move), time-slowing traps, and pads that polymorph Grungoids into hilariously inert sheep are all fair game in your efforts to keep the purple, tentacle Grungoids at bay.
But those sweet turrets and defensive structures come at a cost – bolts, the beloved currency of the Ratchet & Clank universe. You’ll gain the metallic currency as you wallop incoming Grungoids (or burn them to a crisp with a row of flame jets), but to really rake in the bolts, you’ll need to get outside your comfort zone. That means leaving your base behind to explore the wide-open areas leading up to your defenses, and hoping that your turrets can fend for themselves and protect your generators for the time being. While one half of gameplay involves strategically guarding your base, the other comes from zipping around the map with Ratchet’s slick Hoverboots.
Out in the wild, you’ll find Ratchet’s usual arsenal of futuristic firepower, like freeze pistols or rocket guns, in drop pods littered throughout each level. The harder it is to find the given pod, the greater the armament reward; for instance, when Ratchet hit a boost pad just so, he sprang up onto a hidden platform that led to an electrified rail. After skillfully grinding the length of the trap-laden rail, Ratchet found himself in an ancient temple that housed a gigantic missile launcher. Works for us.
FFA encourages an interesting mix of offense and defense – every inch you explore into the nook-and-cranny filled environment, you’re getting a bit further from the home base that could need your attention during a particularly-brutal attack. The online modes add another addictive wrinkle to the action: leveling up through stage-based medal awards. As you level with your pals, you’ll unlock perks – though Insomniac wasn’t ready to go into detail on these, it sounds like a system that’ll add massive amounts of replay value.
Just as the implementation of Horde mode in Mass Effect 3 was a nice, shockingly-addictive surprise, we’re betting that we’ll sink countless hours into perfecting our FFA defense plans with friends. Look for it on PSN when it’s released this fall.