Ratchet: Deadlocked

Ratchet + five online multiplayer modes = action gold.

As the title implies, Deadlocked is focused squarely on the furry member of the Ratchet and Clank duo, in an arena-themed sequel that delivers solid single-player thrills, and takes all the multiplayer goodies introduced in Up Your Arsenal to the next level.

Kill Your Television

Underground media baron Gleeman Vox is kidnapping heroes and forcing them onto the robot-filled fields of the slanderous DreadZone combat show. No sooner do our heroes investigate than Ratchet finds an explosive collar around his neck, a high-tech battle suit around the rest of him, and a sneaking suspicion that the "win your freedom" enticements are fraudulent.

While Clank hasn't got your back in battle anymore, you do have two multi-talented robots at your side. While you can issue them orders, like hacking a nearby node or lobbing an EMP bomb, it hardly amounts to the promised squad-based tactics. It's fun, and timing their behavior does add strategic elements, but Ghost Recon this ain't.

Each time you complete a sequence of story missions, you unlock a new planet, as well as optional challenge missions, new gun and weapon mods, and upgrades for your bots. For every monster you put the hurt on you work toward upgrading your own health, and the power and modification potential of your equipped firearm. The variety of the arsenal at your disposal is insane: you could spend hours just mixing and matching.

Cooperative Carnage

Even so, though the central run-and-gun mechanics are solid, they can become a bit repetitive. Luckily, the absorbing level designs compensate by varying environment, vehicle access, mission objectives, and enemies. A cooperative mode works wonders as well, allowing you and a friend to tackle missions together, often at a higher difficulty level than you might manage independently. Some legacy camera issues are still along for the ride, and splitting the screen just aggravates the problem, but you'll quickly learn to compensate.

The coolest feather in Ratchet's cap is a silky smooth multiplayer experience that pits up to four people offline, or eight people online, against one another in node conquest, king of the hill, juggernaut, capture the flag, and deathmatch modes.

Fourth Time's a Charmer

This series has always had vitality to spare. The graphics are beautiful, the sound effects forceful, and the between-challenge sports anchor schtick light and amusing, but the way these elements mesh forges a rich consistency greater than the sum of its parts. Even if you're not familiar with the previous games in the series, definitely give it a spin.

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