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Hands-on: Ratchet & Clank's online multiplayer

I competed against various members of SCEA, High Impact Games, and other members of the press today in Rachet & Clank: Size Matters' Infrastructure multiplayer mode. Having become comfortable with the controls in single-player certainly helped the experience quite a bit, as I was raking up the kills, quickly becoming number one in the leaderboard (that position was unfortunately lost over time). The online interface is easy enough, and seems unchanged from the multiplayer beta that I participated in months ago. However, there were a few glitches in the process: some games were simply impossible to join, unless it was through the game's Quick Game option. Also, typing messages in the chat room is quite a troublesome burden, simply because of the game's reliance on the PSP's default on-screen keyboard. I found it quite easy to accidentally disconnect from a room while chatting, so I opted out altogether.

The actual online gameplay was smooth, and surprisingly responsive. There wasn't any noticeable lag, and the graphics were on par with the impressive single-player graphics. The weapons are varied, as they are in the story mode, and can be upgraded through secret power-ups scattered throughout the level. However, the variety in weapons reveals that the game might not be too well-balanced, as certain weapons easily outclass others. One game ended in quite a bit of frustration, due to a camping sniper. While these kind of problems are common with online multiplayer games, it was surprising, and somewhat distressing to see.

Also, each game is limited to four players. After an hour of play time, I have to admit that this simply isn't enough to enjoy the multiplayer potential. Levels seem slightly too large for only four players, especially in objective-based modes, where you will only have one partner. Personally, I found the objectives of Iron Lombax mode to be unclear. It would've been helpful to have more guidance to the next objective, a la Unreal Tournament.

Ratchet & Clank's online multiplayer is not going to redefine online gaming. However, it is still an impressive effort, especially for a portable system. It's nice to see the developers include such a solid, but imperfect, experience ... and have it playable worldwide via Infrastructure. You'll be able to log-in and fight when the game ships next week. Expect a complete PSP Fanboy review soon. And don't forget to read past the cut to see all the multiplayer modes available in the game.

An online classic! It's every Lombax for himself in this intense all out deathmatch. Go it alone or team up with another player by selecting the same color as your teammate.

Locate and capture the opposing team's flag in this team-based Online Game Mode. Once a flag is obtained, return with it to your base to snag the score.

In this team-based Game Mode, your objectives are determined by which environment you choose. There are four different environments: Island Escape, Danger Valley, Mega Cannons, and Moon-Cow Disease.

    In Island Escape, you must race to collect Power Cells and deliver them to your team's generators before the opposing team does the same.
    • Health crates will heal radiation damage.
    • Power cells can be stolen from enemies.
    • Objective arrows at the side of the screen will point to the current objective marked by a light cone. Follow the light cone to get to the current task.

    In Moon Cow Disease, your objective is to race to fill your restaurant's delivery trucks before the other team does. Use the Suck Cannon to collect Martian cows and then fire them into the Cow-Verter to create a tasty meat crate! Once you've converted three cows into a crate, use the Polarizer to pick up the crate and deliver it to your team's delivery truck. The first team to fill both of their trucks wins the match!
    • Meat crates can be stolen so guard them on the trek back to your truck.
    • Players carrying a meat crate are vulnerable so protect teammates or attack enemies depending on your needs.
    • To complete your objectives quickly, travel to the objective light cones. If the objective light cone does not appear on-screen, an arrow will point to the closest cone.
    • Sucked up cows can be used as a weapon against your opponents. But don't lose sight of the objective!

    In Danger Valley, you must collect Homing Beacons hidden throughout the environment and run them into the enemy's forcefield generator.
    • Defend your base by shooting incoming mines.
    • Homing beacons can be removed from your forcefield generators or base.
    • Forcefield generators and bases can be used as spawn points.
    • Objective arrows at the side of the screen will point to the current objective marked by a light cone. Follow the light cone to get to the current task.

    In Mega Cannons, you must capture generators to route power to your Mega Cannon. There are three gears per team that need to be collected and returned to your base to make your Cannon operational. Once the Cannon is operational, you can then use your Mega Cannon to destroy the other team's Cannon.
    • Use the pipes for Grind Rails to quickly traverse the map.
    • Work together with your teammate to quickly eliminate the Turrets.
    • Steal your opponents cogs to make them have to travel farther.
    • You don't need all three generators to power your Mega Cannon.

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