Ace Hardlight is an antagonist in Deadlocked, mentioned in other titles. He is a former hero of the Solana Galaxy who mysteriously vanished, and later became the champion Exterminator on DreadZone, working closely with Gleeman Vox.
After vanishing from Solana, Hardlight met Gleeman Vox, and then joined with the Vox Media Empire to compete in the illegal reality show and combat sport, DreadZone. During his time as a contestant, Ace began to enjoy his new job, becoming a brutal and fearsome DreadZone gladiator who eliminated many other contestants, including Captain Starshield. In the process, Ace was consumed by a desire for fame, and worked closely with Gleeman Vox, who attempted to market Ace as a celebrity. Ace was finally defeated by Ratchet, and just after being defeated, warned Ratchet not to go down the same route Ace had.
Ace was raised in an orphanage on Bolden 3, where he had his first birthday. He remained there for four years before being adopted by Sonic 6, a group of heroes who wished to rehabilitate their public image after accidentally blowing up a planet while saving a starship. Ace grew up to become the strongest, smartest, and laargest of them. He became an intergalactic hero, going on many missions with them until they became known as Sonic 7. Ace was a famous hero around the time Ratchet was a child.
Eventually, one of the Sonic 7's missions led to them accidentally destroying Bolden 3. Having destroyed the orphanage he grew up in, Ace fell into deep sadness and disappeared, his disappearance being broadly publicized.
After Ace Hardlight disappeared following Bolden 3's destruction, he met Gleeman Vox, and subsequently joined DreadZone. Ace Hardlight became the top ranked and most feared gladiator in DreadZone. Made the leader of the Exterminators, He became the five-time grand champion by the events of Deadlocked, and reached a record when he terminated thirteen contestants in a single season. Over time, Ace Hardlight's former heroism evaporated, as he was driven to kill heroes for fun. At some point, Ace Hardlight had a dispute with one of his agents that he settled using a rocket launcher weapon; this led to him naming the weapon "the Arbiter".
Vox marketed Ace as a celebrity, and produced merchandise for him. This came in the form of a video game, a lunch box, an action figure, collectible trading cards, and underwear. To that end, Vox News would also speak favorably of Ace Hardlight; in particular, anchor Juanita Alvaro had a crush on him, owning Ace Hardlight underwear, and taping 72 pictures to Ace Hardlight's locker saying "Call me, I'm desperate". A toy manufacturing plant was built on Torval to produce said merchandise, but was shut down due to poor sales. The poor sales angered Vox, though he continue to attempt to market Ace.
When Captain Starshield was forced to participate in DreadZone, Starshield beat every one of the show's records, leading other Exterminators to fear him. Starshield was then set to face Ace Hardlight, both contestants being undefeated, though the odds were tipped in Ace's favor as Juanita Alvaro hid a Quantum-Demoleculizer in his locker.[a]The battle took place on Catacrom Four, when Hardlight killed Starshield with a single blast while Starshield was distracted. This marked the thirteenth kill of the season, with Ace killing Starshield, the Brown Ranger, Mad Monkey McKnight, among other heroes.
Gleeman Vox called Hardlight into his office to berate Ace for the low merchandise sales, attributing them to Ace's arrogance and lack of charisma. Vox threatened that if Ace did not make himself more endearing to audiences, that he would be replaced. After Shellshock's defeat at the hands of Ratchet, Vox began to see a replacement in Ratchet, acknowledging that he had underestimated Ratchet and that Ratchet may prove useful. Hardlight dismissed this and downplayed Ratchet's successes, responding that Ratchet had got lucky and that Shellshock was "too slow and too stupid" to be an Exterminator. Ace's position was further threatened by Ratchet as Ace Hardlight merchandise continued failing to sell, while a single item of Ratchet merchandise was successful.
Ace Hardlight began to pay close attention to Ratchet and Team Darkstar, sometimes intruding in their containment suite. When he overheard Ratchet and Clank discussing him, he interrupted their conversation to berate them. Later, Hardlight discovered Clank and Al had learned how to remove deadlock collars. Just as Al removed Clank's collar, Hardlight shot Al and forced Clank to put it back on. As Hardlight had the remote to detonate their collars, they could not retaliate.
When Ratchet had gathered enough Dread Points and medals, Ace was set to face Ratchet in the Liberator Tournament. Ace boasted on Vox News prior to the fight that it would be messy, while Juanita showed her support. After an intense battle at the end of the tournament, Ratchet defeated Ace. Ace was initially in denial about his defeat, and insulted Ratchet, while Ratchet responded unfazed and reminded Ace he was once a hero. Just as Ratchet was taken away, Ace warned Ratchet not to allow Vox to get to him as Vox had once gotten to Ace, calling Ratchet the "real hero now" before falling unconscious.
Vox News falsely claimed that Ratchet had killed Ace in combat and had cheated using performance-enhancing drugs, and Gleeman Vox attempted to capitalize on his death by selling merchandise to fans and constructing a memorial for him. Ace was also listed as deceased in the Rank-O-Meter. However, Ace was still alive, and had merely been thrown out of DreadZone.
Ace had been placed into Zordoom Prison on planet Viceron in the Polaris Galaxy, given the inmate number 510-D. He was imprisoned there while Ratchet broke into Zordoom to free Talwyn Apogee during Tools of Destruction, as his name was heard via an announcement reporting him to kitchen duty in the mess hall. GrummelNet armor vendors also claim that Ace Hardlight once wore their armor.
Sometime during A Crack in Time, Kip Darling commented on space radio that Ace had been released, speculating that he may either be truly rehabilitated or may soon be discovered "inside the Polaris Galactic Bank wearing a pair of stockings over his face".
Ace Hardlight is a humanoid with an athletic and bulky build, with a large muscular arms and upper body, and thin yet muscular legs. He has long, blonde hair, which is long at the front and short at the back. He also has a long face, tanned skin, and short brown fur, some of which forms a goatee. Darker colored spots also appear around his face, and he has large upper canine teeth. His eyes are relatively small, and he has blue colored irises.
Ace wears a skin-tight red-orange colored suit covering most of his body, which allows his muscle details to show through. It is marked with various blue patterns, and brown legging and gloves. He also has various blue symbols on his suit, and black colored padding on his thighs and abdomen. Ace wears minimal armor, only covering his upper body, wrists and shoulders, and also wears a jetpack on his back and a red visor in front of his eyes.
Ace also wears another set of armor in his fight against Ratchet in the Liberator Tournament, which is a lot bulkier than his standard armor. His body suit remained the same in both.
Ace is depicted as vain, cruel, and merciless. He admitted to deriving fun from killing heroes as his primary motivation in DreadZone, appearing to show no remorse for his record number of kills in a single season. As well as taking pleasure in killing heroes, he also takes pleasure in enforcing the rules at DreadZone, delighting in harming Al and Team Darkstar for trying to break their collars. Ace also shows great contempt for others, berating both his opponents and even showing disrespect for his allies, calling Shellshock stupid and using powerful weaponry to settle a legal dispute with a former agent. Hardlight has no affinity for fair fights, killing Starshield while Starshield's back was turned. Ace's lack of charisma led to poor sales of his merchandise, and his cruelty led Clank to doubt he could have ever been a hero before.
Primarily, Ace is narcissistic, and believed DreadZone to be his show alone with him as the star. Hardlight commented that Ratchet, a rising gladiator at the time, would merely amount to being the star of Hardlight's highlight reel, and went as far as to boast about using holograms of himself as a weapon in battle. To this end, Hardlight had disdain for any challengers who threatened his position, killing Starshield in cold blood even when other Exterminators feared Starshield, and showing great annoyance for Ratchet when Vox spoke favorably about Ratchet's future. This led to Hardlight then keeping a close eye on Ratchet, allowing him to prevent Ratchet's team from undermining DreadZone.[b] Ultimately, Hardlight's narcissism blinded him, as he completely underestimated Ratchet as a threat, dismissing Ratchet's abilities to the very end.
Beneath Ace Hardlight's persona, he appears at least a little conflicted, having been corrupted by Gleeman Vox. In his final battle with Ratchet, he still referred to himself as the "greatest hero who ever lived", suggesting both that he saw himself as a hero even in spite of his actions on DreadZone, and that his desire for fame and recognition that drove him as a gladiator were also what had driven him as a hero before. Hardlight's pleas to Ratchet after the battle to not to allow Vox to get to Ratchet the way Vox had gotten to Hardlight also suggest Hardlight's narcissism and drive for fame may have stemmed from Vox's influence.
Ace was revered as a skilled gladiator, and had been the most successful for a long time. He was the five-time undefeated champion and he had destroyed thirteen contestants in one season alone. Though Ace was the most successful gladiator prior to Ratchet's arrival, Captain Starshield is known to have broken all DreadZone records when Starshield was active, suggesting Starshield was more successful than Hardlight prior to Hardlight eliminating Starshield.
Hardlight made use of a weapon that killed Starshield in a single hit.[a] In his other encounters, his pistol is a powerful laser that can seriously injure but not kill, as shown when it was used against Al.
During his battle against Ratchet, Ace used numerous weapons including his blaster. He threw out grenades that sent out large shockwaves across the Battledome floor, and released seeker beams from his wrists that tracked Ratchet at a slow pace for a long period of time. Ace also could disappear for a split second before reappearing with at least seven holographic clones of himself, all of which were solid holograms that could inflict damage on an opponent using their blasters. Ace also made use of a shield, impenetrable to any weapon except the Harbinger, that could stop him from receiving damage while he applied a medpack for health.
Behind the scenes
Ace Hardlight was designed by Greg Baldwin, and was designed to both look heroic while also having an apparent superiority complex. Insomniac toyed with the idea of making Ace Hardlight a lombax, to have Ratchet feel more personally threatened by him, and play into the dynamic Ace and Ratchet had. The idea was dropped so that Insomniac could revisit the topic of the lombaxes later.
Ace's boss battle changed throughout development. During his boss battle, Ace would throw flash-bangs in combat to temporarily blind Ratchet, and his blaster would occasionally malfunction. He also used weapons that could morph Ratchet into a farm animal (similar to the Morph Mod in Deadlocked and other transmorpher weapons throughout the series). Unused audio files for these attacks exist in the game, along with files for Ratchet disabling his shield, and Ace calling for reinforcements then passing it off as an accident. In the final game, the Hardlight clones still have an animation where they whack their blasters against their knees to get the blaster working again, a possible relic of the original boss battle.
In another of the unused files, Dallas Wanamaker claims that Ace Hardlight had beaten a contestant with their own legs.
Ace Hardlight is a major character in the non-canon Ratchet & Clank: Bang Bang Bang! Critical Danger of the Galaxy Legend manga. He has a large role during the first half of the manga, and his role revolves around short stories where he would help Ratchet become a DreadZone gladiator, play DreadZone baseball against him and Clank, as well as go fishing with them. In this version, Ace has a very different personally: while retaining the confidence and pride, Ace is depicted as helpful, and sometimes erratic, willing to play by the rules (refusing to go over a speed limit on the hoverbike), and lacking the aggression. Ace also has a more humanoid look, lacking the large canine teeth, long face, and even the goatee and fur of his normal appearance.
- It is implied that the Quantum-Demoleculizer that Juanita snuck into Ace Hardlight's locker is the same weapon used to kill Starshield, as the weapon was stated to be a one-shot kill weapon. By contrast, the blaster that greatly injured Al did not evaporate Al completely, nor did any of the weapons Ace used against Ratchet in battle.
- Ace's motives for working so closely with Vox and being so loyal to DreadZone appear to be related to the glory he basks in as the champion of DreadZone. Ace and Vox appear irritated with one another during their conversations; coupled with Ace's narcisstic beliefs, this suggests Hardlight's loyalty to DreadZone is not a loyalty to Vox, but a desire to continue the show in which he is the star.
- Off 2005, p. 9
- Deadlocked script § "News Break"
- Deadlocked script § "Not Captain Starshield!"
- Deadlocked menu § "The Arbiter"
- Deadlocked script § "Vox has a Hissy"
- Deadlocked script § "Shellshock and the Twins"
- Insomniac Games official website 2005
- Deadlocked script § "Hoverbike or Bust (gameplay)"
- Deadlocked script § "Under where?"
- Deadlocked script § ""Ratchet, eh?"
- Deadlocked script § "Eviscerator Battle (gameplay)"
- Deadlocked script § "Yay Ace!"
- Deadlocked script § "Ace Hardlight Battle (gameplay)"
- Deadlocked script § "Boo Ratchet"
- Tools of Destruction script § "Grind the Rails to the Prison (gameplay)"
- The Art of Ratchet & Clank, p. 131
- Ratchet & Clank Wiki 2013 email interview with GregBaldwin
- Insomniac Games (October 24, 2005). Entertainment News - News Update. Insomniac Games. Archived from the original on November 8, 2019.
- Insomniac Games (2005). Ratchet: Deadlocked. PlayStation 2. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Greg Off (November 2005). Ratchet Deadlocked Prima Official Game Guide. Prima Games. ISBN 0761552049.
- Ratchet & Clank Wiki (September 10th, 2017). Email with Greg Baldwin.
- Sony Computer Entertainment (March 2018). The Art of Ratchet & Clank. Dark Horse Comics. ISBN 978-1506705729.