RATCHET: DEADLOCKED, Sony/Insomniac Games

Over the past four years, heroic alien Ratchet and his robot sidekick, Clank, have starred in some of the best action adventures in gaming. And fans of the franchise won't be disappointed with this latest offering, which makes the jump from platform action to full-tilt combat.

While still ripe with its trademark humor, Deadlocked takes on a slightly darker tone.

Ratchet has been kidnapped by the evil minions of interplanetary tycoon Gleemon Vox and forced to play on a new reality TV show called "Dreadzone" (think "The Running Man"). Decked out in full battle armor and armed with an assortment of weapons and gadgets, Ratchet must take out an army of robots and assorted bad guys on 11 planets to stay alive -- switching the focus from saving the world to saving himself.

One of the cool new features of this game is the inclusion of two robots that help you through the battles in single-player mode by following your orders. These bots help make up for the smaller number of weapons (10) available this time around, although every weapon is customizable and has multiple uses. Adding a morph mod to your gun turns enemies into explosive barnyard animals, for example.

The single-player experience clocks in under 10 hours in length, but a new co-op mode gives game play a whole new look. At any time in a single-player game, a friend can jump in and help out. With two players, the bots vanish, but it adds great replay value to the game.

In addition, a full assortment of multiplayer modes, which are available for up to four players offline and up to 10 players online (using a broadband Internet connection), makes this game worth the price of admission.

All 11 locales from the game are available online with an assortment of modes ranging from death match and capture-the-flag to the new juggernaut (a video game form of "You're It" with weapons).

New drivable vehicles like the landstalker (spider-like walker), puma (buggy), hoverbike and hovership can be used in single and multiplayer games.

-- John Guadiosi

PlayStation 2, $40

Ratchet: Deadlocked combat features robots and customizable weapons.