"What’s with all this ‘save the solar system’ stuff anyway?"
The Ratchet & Clank series debuted in 2002 on the PS2 and has spanned two console generations with ten games for three different platforms. The tenth anniversary of the franchise is closing in and to celebrate, Insomniac Games has let Idol Minds dust the first three games off for a re-release on the current generation of consoles.
The PS2 had three different sets of mascots in the form of Sly Cooper, Jak & Daxter and of course, Ratchet & Clank. It was only a matter of time before they all got HD updates. The collections have never been made by the original creators, but so far the collections in question have been handled with care, as fans would expect.
Idol Minds, the makers of PAIN and the upcoming PS3 and PS Vita title Warrior’s Lair are behind this HD collection of Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded and Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal. Each of the games managed to evolve the core gameplay with each iteration topping the last one and the first game in the series being kind of hard to go back to. They all stand up reasonably well, with the first game being the weakest of the bunch due to gameplay issues. The whole series featured inventive weapons and great humour, these reasons are the driving forces behind why the series is so popular amongst gamers.
Each game brought new aspects of gameplay tweaks and overhauls, with the second game being the bridge between the first game and the rest of the series with strafing being the key change that improved the series tenfold. Let’s run through each game and take a look at what they each did to be considered classics.
Ratchet & Clank
The first game in series introduced the lombax and robot duo with a crazy set of weapons and worlds to discover. This entry couldn’t find a place to focus all of its attention and ends up not being too great on either side of being a platformer or an action game. Aiming weapons is a major problem, especially with enemies that have constant attack patterns and won’t give the player much opportunity to take aim and fire. The humour of the series is established pretty early on with Captain Qwark being the star of the show here, being a perfect parody of superheroes.
Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded
This is where the series took a major turn with the addition of strafing making the game more akin to an action game than a platformer. This entry still had platforming sections with gadgets being great enhancements of these sections. The addition of a levelling system also adds life into the weapons you use, meaning a single gun can completely change when levelled up and encourages experimentation with all the weapons available to destroy everything the game throws at you. These were major improvements that benefited the gameplay portions of the game considerably. Unfortunately the games story features a few flat notes with certain characters not being as significant to the humour the series has been known for.
Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal
This game verged on becoming full-on action with platforming taking a back-seat and the addition of mini-maps, siege like sections and even a first-person shooter mode. The weapons all have blueprints that they follow with slight changes of fire rate/bullet type and a change of name and by the third game, some of the weapons are a bit close for comfort. The humour was back to full force with this entry and will provide plenty of laughs throughout.
The HD up scaling, for the most part, is great, the original games had a distinct art style, which looked great even on the PS2, so the HD versions still look fantastic in 16:9 and 1080p. Problems arise however when too much is happening on screen and all the games have frame rate issues that weren’t present in the original releases. There seems to be more clipping than I remember too, with irises disappearing into the whites of the eyes of some characters and hands phasing through other body parts. There are also gaps where polygons are meant to meet, but don’t because of the resized character models. Other than those few problems, the games are still technical marvels with busy environments and detailed animation making everything feel alive.
The excellent sound design of the game has been boosted further with 5.1 surround support and the music from David Bergeaud sounds as fantastic as ever. There are problems here too however, music will loop inevitably, but the cut and restarting of music is severe and really sticks out. I’m not sure whether it was the same in original releases, but it sure seems to be noticeable with this release.
Overall, this is a great set of games each with their own problems, but they also have their own high notes fluctuating between gameplay styles and control methods. The HD upgrades are nice, but also introduce a few problems that weren’t in the original releases. If you haven’t played them, then this is a great purchase with three games full of content, great gameplay and creativity pouring from every crack. If you’ve already seen whats here, then it might be a harder sell, with the problems detracting from classic moments the games provided in the past ten years and not much different besides the games being in HD.
- Three great games.
- All three still look good in HD.
- Inventive weapons.
- Brilliant sense of humour.
- Get to see where it all began.
- Frame rate problems.
- Some graphical hitches.
- First game is kind of hard to go back to.
- Been there, done that.