Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando

Review

posted 11/18/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
About a year ago Sony took the gaming world by storm when it released two amazing platformers, Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank. While it appeared that the cel-shaded Sly Cooper received the most hype it was immediately apparent that Insomniac’s action-platformer was the superior title of the two. Apparently Sony saw it this way as well as the sequel to one of last year’s best games has been released and we’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the best games of this year.

We begin after the events of the first game. Our heroes have rid the galaxy of evil and are busy living the slow lifestyle, lounging on their recliners while occasionally attending the opening of oil and lube shops. Yes the lifestyle of the hero is tough when there’s no evil in the galaxy but that’s all about to change. As the duo is expressing its woes on galaxy wide television a man in a distant planet heeds their call, enlisting our heroes to retrieve an artifact. After debriefing, Ratchet sets out on his mission but as always seems to be the case, everything isn’t as simple as it seems. Just as Ratchet is about to get his paws on the artifact a mysterious figure shows up to crash the party. After he escapes with the prize (while bumping his head on the door of his space ship of course) Ratchet is left to deal with some minions as he sets out to learn more about this mysterious man. Soon afterwards Clank is kidnapped from his apartment and Ratchet is forced to come to the rescue. Thus we have the basic premise of Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando a very deep and entertaining action-platformer that will redefine the way that we look at the genre.

While not nearly as strong as Jak II’s, the storyline in Ratchet is definitely impressive. The boys at Insomniac have an amazing sense of humor (just check out their commercials) and it really shows during the game’s numerous cut scenes. You’ll find hilarious characters at nearly every turn, adding some levity to the situation just as you’re in the midst of your rampages. One of my favorite scenes early on featured a broadcast from a seemingly overbearing leader. He chooses to go with a dark setting, his eyes seemingly glowing with hatred as he spews his gospel. Then suddenly someone flips on a light switch and he goes on a rampage because it’s bad “Feng Shui.” You’d think that an evil bastard like him would be pissed because someone just revealed his identity, not because his flow of energy has been disrupted, but then again you probably don’t know the guys at Insomniac.

If you couldn’t get enough of the first title you should be happy to know that this game is at least a third longer than its predecessor, giving you at least 20 solid hours of gameplay. Not only are the levels larger but there is more variety in your locales ranging from lush tropical settings to settings that you would expect to find in a futuristic city. Perhaps the largest deviation is the spherical worlds, levels that feel as if they take place on the surface of giant ball. Imagine what life would be like if you were a giant and you could actually see the curvature of the world. Instead of having a flat appearance you can see the horizon and the actual spherical shape of the planet. Now imagine playing a platforming level like this and you have a very innovative idea. It seems kind of ridiculous but it’s actually one of the freshest ideas that we’ve ever seen in a game. What’s neat is that when you fire projectiles you’ll actually see them curve along with the horizon, just as if you were firing it in a straight line on a flat plane. It’s just a shame that there weren’t’ more of these levels in the game because they’re one of the best ideas that we’ve ever come across.

What would this series be without its outlandish assortment of weapons and gadgets? Instead of providing the gamer with a bunch of random throwaway weapons that they’d rarely use Insomniac opted for a level up system that allows for weapons to be upgraded. This means that you’ll start out with the lowest form of a weapon but after extended use the weapon will upgrade and become a full-fledged destructive machine. In addition to the explosions and destruction players are rewarded with new weapons that are capable of producing even more chaos. As a nice bonus to owners of the first game having a memory card with save game of Ratchet 1 will unlock new weapons that wouldn’t otherwise be available such as the bomb glove. If you ask me this is an excellent system that should be utilized more in future titles.

While the weapon variety is nice I really wish that Insomniac would have reworked the combat system to include weapon and melee combos. Jak II did an excellent job of incorporating the weapons into the melee combat scheme but Ratchet decides to keep them separate, not allowing for any intermeshing of the two. It’s not that the weapons aren’t fun to use; it’s just that you really don’t have a reason to use melee attacks on your enemies when you’ve got the more destructive weapons. Had the designers done a better job the melee attacks would have played a more integral role in the action as opposed to taking the back seat.
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