Depending on your preferred terminology, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault is Insomniac’s attempt to bring either tower defense, DOTA-style, or MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) gameplay elements to the storied platform shooter franchise. Honestly it doesn’t matter what you call it because the online public beta was fun to play anyway. The final game will have single player and cooperative modes which I wasn’t able to play, but the competitive element seems already pretty well fleshed out, and comes in 1v1 and 2v2 modes, the latter of which is more fulfilling.
Matches consist of three rotating phases, starting with the Recon phase. In this portion of the battle you must seek out control points, knock out their defenses, and claim them with a quick QTE. At the same time you can pick extra bolts and better weapons. Of course the good stuff is harder to reach. The more control points you pick up the more income in bolts you generate each round as well. It is during this phase that you’re most likely to fight head on with your opponent as you try to claim each other’s territory. Fast movement is aided by your hover boots, and if you die you get sent back to base, which can really set you back in the competition for bolts, where the matches are really decided in the end.
Once time runs out on Recon phase, the game moves on to Squad phase. This is where you can build up the defenses around your newly acquired control points, then teleport to base and marshal your forces there. Defenses include turrets with all sorts of weaponry as well as shields and mines to slow down the enemies march towards your base. These defenses cannot be placed just anywhere unfortunately, they all have preset locations you have to walk up to, so there is that limitation. That said there’s plenty of spots to choose from and you can create a veritable gauntlet once you’ve gone through enough rounds and picked up enough bolts. You can also take the time to make any repairs you need at this stage, though there’s not a whole lot of time to spare overall. The last task of this phase is to purchase an army to attack the opponents base. There’s a few different units you can use, from tiny slugs that can overwhelm weak defenses en masse, to rocket troopers that can break down shields, or if you’re willing to wait and save up, an expensive giant mecha that can roll over and through anything and takes forever to kill. All of my matches have been decided by whoever was able to produce one or more of these enormous bots of doom first, so the strategy of collecting as many bolts as you can is key here, clearly.
Which leads us to the final Assault phase, where both bases are besieged by whatever forces each side managed to muster from their work in the Recon and Squad phases. The game ends when one side’s base is destroyed, meaning all of their generators are taken out. You pretty much have free reign to either join your assault or shore up your defenses. There is a mini map where you can keep an eye on the forces on both sides to see where your attention should go, so you can see whether you might win the game with a final push or keep alive with a last stand at home.
All in all, the game is pretty fun. The weapons of Ratchet & Clank translate well to this sort of game and each sort of have their place in each of match’s phases. Veterans of the series will be able to step right into the controls and the one on one PvP action that occurs when you meet another player is exciting. My only qualm is that matches can take forever to decide between evenly matched players, as it is easy to reach a fairly steady stalemate until one of you goofs up and loses a couple control nodes, but perhaps that will change as people become more proficient strategists. Look forward to the full downloadable game hitting the PlayStation Store on your PS3 and Vita later this year!