Ratchet and Clank Review
Last year's Jak and Daxter was a technical marvel, and that can't be doubted one bit. Naughty Dog's 'see that, go there' game engine was truly a wonderful breakthrough for the PS2. Rendering one gigantic world on the fly, without any draw-in, pop-up, or frame rate issues of any kind, it was no secret that this engine would eventually be used in other PS2 platform titles. Little did we know, not only was Jak and Daxter being developed under the open-ended engine, but Insomniac had borrowed much of the code from Naughty Dog to use it for their project, which we today know as Ratchet and Clank. In development for a total of 3 years, by the same team who developed the spectacular Spyro the Dragon series on the PSOne, Insomniac's Ratchet and Clank has arrived, and is perhaps the best platform title of the year, and one of the best 3D platformers since Super Mario 64 and Ape Escape.
With Naughty Dog's game engine at work, all problems with the more technical visual aspects can be forgotten about. Things such as draw-in, pop-up, frame rate slowdown, and texture filling are all pretty much non-existent. In some cases, a slight hint of texture filling may be seen on the ground, but it isn't even noticeable enough to be cared about. The frame rate is a solid 60 frames per second, and throughout the whole time, the game plays like a breeze. Obviously, by now, you know what to expect from Ratchet and Clank's visuals. The game boasts gigantic landscapes with extraordinary amounts of detail. The variety of each stage is quite broad, as you'll explore a lush tropical like area, an area full of toxic waste, a little village, and even a futuristic city with hover cars everywhere you look. R&C is pushing some serious polygonal power, and the character models found in the game make that even more apparent. Ratchet is perhaps one of the best looking character models found in a game; right up there with Nintendo's gorgeous character model of Star Fox. Though one things for sure, Ratchet is easily the best flowing and animated game protagonist since last year's Jak and Daxter. Whenever the game switches over to a cutscene and you look at Ratchet's facial animations and body movements, you will concur that he is arguably the best animated character model to date. Texture wise, R&C is sharp as can be. While in some cases the textures are a bit on the simplistic side, a'la Super Mario Sunshine and Ape Escape 2, regardless they do a wonderful job in creating a wholesome, lush, rich and vivid atmosphere that the game is obviously trying to do. To add to the mix, there are lots of eye-candy effects in the game as well. All in all, as far as visuals go, Ratchet and Clank is perhaps the best looking platform title to date.
Experiencing Ratchet and Clank is experiencing perhaps the best platform title on the PS2 -- it's really quite debatable between Sly Cooper and R&C. To get one think off the bat, Ratchet and Clank is in no way similar to Jak and Daxter, other than the fact that both games feature gigantic areas to explore. Jak and Daxter was more about exploration, collecting ornaments (among other things), in order to complete the various portions of the game's unified world. Ratchet and Clank does not make it an absolute necessity for you to collect every nut and bolt (literally) in the game in order to progress further on. To put it in simple words, R&C is a far cry from a collectathon. To progress in Ratchet and Clank, you will be required to complete objectives in every level you fly into. Each level has a set amount of primary objectives, and of course, secondary objectives. So long as you complete the primary objectives, be it one, two or three of them, you will be allowed to move on. The secondary objectives are exactly that, they can be done later. They can be thought of as side quests, but they're also quite rewarding, so consider finishing them if you want to totally ace Ratchet and Clank.
The story of Ratchet and Clank isn't quite as obvious as it may seem, initially. Neither Ratchet nor Clank knew of each other, up until out of nowhere, Ratchet sees a large chunk of steel fall down to the ground. Naturally, curiosity gets the best of Ratchet and he decides to investigate to find out what the object was. To his surprise, it turns out to be a robot, who is of course Clank. Ratchet finds out that Clank had to escape his planet aware of the fact that an evil mastermind (Chairman Drek) is planning to cause havoc on the galaxy. Having been created with actual sophisticated computer A.I. (an accident caused by a glitch), Clank flees searching for help. That's when he meets Ratchet...
With the story and gameplay progression explained, Ratchet and Clank's most intriguing feature is its action element. Despite being a platformer at heart, R&C includes a lot of run good ol' fashioned action. With an arsenal of nearly 40 kick ass weapons and gadgets, R&C delivers the goods. You have everything from the Blaster chain gun (a'la Contra), to Omniwrench 8000 (Ratchet's primary weapon), to a rocket launcher, Bomb glove, Suck cannon (suck your opponents up and shoot them out as projectiles), Pyrocitor (flamethrower), Swing shot (think Spider-Man), Trespasser (lock picking kit), and even a gun that turns enemies into egg laying...chickens! (Because every platform title needs a weird animal of some sort, be it a monkey or a chicken.) The guns must be purchased in shops, which can be found at the beginning of every level. The currency in the game is, of course, the nuts and bolts you collect. With this being a platform title, R&C offers pick ups, including life, secret golden bolts, ammo pick up and more. With the secondary objectives and all, completing R&C may take approximately 20 hours, so it is longer than your average platform title, which is something to consider. Ratchet and Clank is truly an incredibly playing title. Insomniac has created one of the best and most enjoyable platform titles on any console.
Ratchet and Clank's audio score mostly covers the voice acting found in the game. The game features a lot of voice over segments (which can be skipped, by the way), and every voice in the game not only fits the role, but is acted out exceptionally well. The lines are timed incredibly well, and the voice actors do a fantastic job in delivering believable responses. The voice acting is comparable to something you may find in a Disney cartoon. The audio clarity as a whole is superb. Ratchet may not wow you with its musical score, as most of it is just light techno. The game is Pro Logic II compatible, so there's something for you audiophiles as well.
Controlling R&C is a piece of cake. There's absolutely nothing remotely complex about the controls. Just pick up the controller and begin your journey through the game. The controls are very smooth and responsive. The layout is superbly done and should not frustrate anybody. You'll have two different action buttons, Square utilizes the wrench, meanwhile the Circle button utilizes the secondary weapons (Blaster, Devastator, etc). Switching between secondary weapons is done by pressing Triangle and selecting your desired weapon. The camera is done superbly well, which as of late has been an increasing issue in platform titles these days -- R&C features perhaps the most stable camera of any platform title. The only complaint I can state isn't anything remotely important, just something I think was overlooked, and that's sensitivity in character movements. As Ratchet or Clank (you'll control Clank during a small portion in the game) you either walk or run. That's not quite a problem, as much as it is a personal pet peeve of mine, though regardless, it was something I felt I should point out.
In the end, after much time with Ratchet and Clank, I can most certainly attest that it is a fantastic platform title that is easily worth the 40 bucks that most retailers are selling it for. Blending absolutely stunning visuals that include massive, vivacious areas; extremely fun gameplay and tight controls, Ratchet and Clank is a formula that defines success. Despite being a platform title, the game also incorporates and encourages doing one thing, "blowing sh*t up". Think of Ratchet and Clank as Star Fox Adventures meets Jak and Daxter with a wee' bit of Contra thrown in for spice.
11/14/2002 Arnold Katayev