Ace Hardlight, otherwise known as inmate number 510D while in the Zordoom Prison, 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 for the Vox Media Empire.
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 job, becoming a fearsome DreadZone gladiator who eliminated many other contestants. He became a five-time grand champion over time, and after working with Gleeman Vox, became the champion of the Exterminators, slaying many heroes including Captain Starshield. He worked closely with Vox, who attempted to build him into an easily marketable celebrity, while he attempted to stop Ratchet and Team Darkstar from undermining DreadZone.
Ace was born into tough times and sent away to an orphanage on the distant planet of Bolden III, where he had his first birthday. He remained there for four years before being adopted by a group of heroes known as Sonic 6, who wished to improve their image after having accidentally blown up a planet while saving a starship. Ace grew up to become the strongest, smartest, and largest of them, going on many missions with them until they became known as Sonic 7.
Ace became an intergalactic hero, until 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. At this point, he met Gleeman Vox, and subsequently joined DreadZone.
Over time, Ace Hardlight became the top ranked and most feared gladiator in DreadZone, becoming the grand champion over the next four seasons. He was very loyal to Vox, carrying out orders and allowing Vox to market his name and likeliness. Ace became fierce and merciless, cutting down any hero that stood against him. He claimed to enjoy killing heroes not for money, but for fun.
For the longest time, Ace Hardlight's records were unmatched, and he had killed several heroes including Mad Monkey McKnight and the Brown Ranger. Vox had produced merchandise for him, in the form of an action figure, a card, a video game, a lunchbox, and underwear (which Vox News anchorwoman Juanita Alvaro wore). However, sales of this merchandise had been poor.
When Captain Starshield was captured and forced to compete, he beat all of the DreadZone records set within a matter of weeks and rose to become a higher ranked contestant than Ace. As a result, the two fought on Catacrom Four, where Ace assassinated Starshield using an illegal one-shot weapon known as the Quantum-Demoleclizer (which Juanita Alvaro had hidden in his locker). Killing Starshield marked the thirteenth hero kill of the season, and put Ace back on top of the rankings.
Despite being manufactured to be a broadly marketable celebrity by Vox, sales of his merchandise were poor to the point where a toy manufacturing plant on planet Torval was shut down and repurposed as a DreadZone battlecourse. Vox attributed poor sales to Ace's arrogance and lack of charisma and furiously requested that Ace make himself more endearing to audiences. During the rise of Team Darkstar, focus groups found that Ratchet was more popular among viewers who demanded his merchandise more.
When Shellshock was destroyed by Ratchet, Ace blamed Shellshock's stupidity for the defeat, and believed Ratchet had simply been lucky. Vox meanwhile mused about Ratchet's potential usefulness, and compared his performance to Ace's during his prime. Ace was insulted at the comparison, and became more determined to take Ratchet down.
While Ratchet and Team Darkstar gained popularity and defeated Exterminators, Vox discovered that Clank and Al had learned how to remove deadlock collars, which was strongly prohibited. Just as Al removed Clank's collar, Ace shot him and ordered Clank place it back on, disrupting their operation. As Ace had the remote to detonate their deadlock 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. The two then faced one another in the arena.
After an intense battle between the two gladiators, Ratchet defeated Ace Hardlight. Ace was initially in denial about his defeat, and insulted Ratchet. Ratchet scolded Ace, reminding him that he was once a hero. Ace then had a change of heart, warning Ratchet not to allow Vox to get to him as Vox had gotten to Ace, calling him 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 510D. He was imprisoned 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".
Compared to his teammates, Ace Hardlight was much more human-looking, though he was presumably the strongest among them. Ace Hardlight has an athletic and bulky build, with large muscular arms and thin yet muscular legs. Ace has long blond 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 very vain and arrogant, a trait which Vox ascribed to his unpopularity among DreadZone fans. He is also very hot headed, cruel and stubborn, mercilessly cutting down heroes with no sympathy for them, and killing for fun. He appeared to show little respect to others. In his interactions with Team Darkstar, he often insulted them with degrading nicknames to show his disrespect for them, and is depicted as aggressive towards those who provoke him and towards challengers to his title. He also apparently did not get along well with his teammates, as he considered Shellshock to be an idiot.
However, after Ratchet defeated him, Hardlight snapped out of his denial and then warned Ratchet against letting Vox get to him. This suggests that Hardlight may have been changed after letting DreadZone success get to his head.
Hardlight at one point used a Quantum-Demoleculizer modification, an illegal instant-kill weapon modification, against Starshield. In his other encounters, his pistol is a powerful laser that can seriously injure but not kill. He can also throw out a grenade that sends out large shockwaves across the Battledome floor, and release a seeker beam from his wrists that tracked a target at a slow pace for a long period of time.
Ace was also capable of creating hard-light clones of himself, and could disappear for a split second before reappearing with at least seven copies of himself. These are solid holograms that can inflict damage on an opponent using their blasters, though they take little damage before they can be destroyed.
Ace could also use a temporary shield that stopped him from receiving any damage until it deactivated, though The Harbinger can breach it. He uses medpacks three times during his fight against Ratchet to heal.
Ace was revered as a skilled and cunning gladiator, and had been the most successful prior to Captain Starshield's arrival. He was the five-time undefeated champion and he had destroyed thirteen contestants in one season alone. However, the use of an illegal instant-kill weapon modification against Starshield suggests he may have sometimes cheated. Ace was also capable of fighting hand-to-hand against opponents.
According to his Exterminator Card, his weakness is frost, while his strength is chemical. However, using weapon mods to take advantage of this had no noticeable effect in battle.
Behind the scenes
Hey Lombax, let's see how you like being a farm animal!
Ace Hardlight in a cut audio file, DL
Early in the game's development, he would throw flash-bangs in combat to temporarily blind Ratchet. He also used Morph weaponry, possibly the same morph-mod that could be purchased in-game to turn enemies into farm animals. This was evident from some of the unused audio files found in the game. Other cut audio files show that during his boss battle, he would 'accidentally' call for reinforcements, and his shield could be deactivated by Ratchet during gameplay. Merc and Green were also present during the Battle in this version, while they are absent from the fight in the final version of the game.
Ace's gun would malfunction during this version of his boss battle as well. While this does not happen in the final game, hard-light clones have an animation where they sometimes start whacking their blasters against their knees to get them working again. in the final version.
In another of the unused files, Dallas Wanamaker claims that Ace Hardlight had beaten a contestant with their own legs.
Much earlier during the game's development, Ace Hardlight could have been made a lombax, an idea that Insomniac Games toyed with to have Ratchet feel more personally threatened by him and so he didn't appear as just another thug whom Ratchet had to beat. This also plays with the dynamic between Ace and Ratchet still present in the final game, as Ace is a hero whom Ratchet looked up to while he was young, and both have an orphaned past, showing that Hardlight represents what Ratchet could have become if he had joined Vox. However, Ace was instead given his own species, so Insomniac could more easily revisit the topic of the lombaxes later.
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.
Ace's personality in the manga differs greatly to how he is in Deadlocked, as he is not aggressive, but merely confident, proud, helpful, and sometimes insane. Ace nonetheless played by the rules, refusing to go over a speed limit on the Hoverbike, and did not mess around during their game of baseball. He also does not kill contestants on DreadZone.
His appearance is also different, as he looks more humanoid, lacking the large canine teeth, long face and even the goatee and fur of his normal appearance.