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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Platformer

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Insomniac Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 11, 2003

 

 

- Tons and tons of weaponry
- Great control, great graphics, great sound, great explosions
- Lots of cool levels

 

 

- Ratchet is still kind of lame
- A few overly long boss battles
- Awkward weapon selection interface

 

 

Review: Ratchet and Clank (Playstation 2)

Review: Jak II (Playstation 2)

Review: Ape Escape II (Playstation 2)

 

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Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando

Score: 9.3 / 10

 

While there are thousands of philosophies worldwide that try to sort out the meaning of life, the universe and everything, I prefer to think that mankind exists for two sole purposes: (1) the creation of things, and (2) the destruction of said things in most the chaotic fashion imaginable, usually with an extraordinary amount of pyrotechnics. It's pretty clear to me that a lot of video game designers feel that same way (as actual explosions cost quite a bit of money, I've been told) and Insomniac Games is one of those development teams. Not even a year after it's popular Ratchet and Clank hit the shelves, they're back with their next game, Going Commando, one of the finest examples of a sequel done right.

 

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While at its core Ratchet and Clank plays very much like Jak and Daxter (it uses the same engine, which lets it create the same gorgeously sprawling landscapes), R&C takes the focus a bit away from platforming and more on discovering the most effective way to destroy things. While there are still some platform based challenges, most of the levels are fairly wide open with lots of room to maneuver. On the surface, not much has changed from the original, although you'll find the ability to strafe a blessing straight from God. In order to aid your destruction, there are over thirty weapons at your disposal - some of which include the Spiderbot Glove (toss little radio controlled bots to kill enemies from a distance), the Nuclear Bomb (needs no explanation) and the  Sheepinator (turns your enemies into adorable little sheep.) Though some of them seem quite inane at first, almost all of them have some important use that you'll probably want to discover, and this is by far one of the coolest aspects of game. If you've still got a saved game from the original Ratchet and Clank lying around, you can even import some of your old collected weapons free of cost. Furthermore, once you've finished the game, you can replay with all of your old weapons (plus a few new ones) at a higher difficulty. The only problems with having so many guns is that handling them is quite awkward - you'll constantly have to switch in and out of the menu to add weapons to your quick select bar, and since ammo refills are random, often times you'll end up begging for the game to give you the right kind of ammunition. Still, the benefit of having such an amazing arsenal definitely outweighs the negatives.

 

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While the game follows a mostly linear path, you can occasionally veer off course to explore the planets and find quite a bit of hidden goodies, or participate in some gladiatorial-style tournaments. Aside from the blasting, there's a fair share of other activities throughout the game as well. Most interesting are the Starfox-inspired spaceship scenes and F-Zero-esque racing levels - although brief, they're almost as good as the games they mimic, and usually have additional challenges to play for bolts (the currency of the R&C 

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games.) Even cooler are the short segments when you get to control Clank - if expanded upon, these vaguely Lemmings-like stages could make an excellent offshoot. Less impressive but still nifty are the spherical levels, which either have Ratchet playing seek-and-destroy on small satellites, or a gigantic Clank beating up bosses a la Godzilla. There are also a few irritating timing-based puzzles, mostly based around connecting circuits, that thankfully aren't numerous enough to impede the gameplay.

 

Other than the additional gameplay types, quite possibly the best additions to this sequel are the vague RPG elements - you still spend a lot of your time collecting bolts to buy new guns and armor, but now a majority of your weapons can be upgraded to a more powerful form if you use them enough. Even more interesting, Ratchet actually gains experience as he wreaks havoc, and eventually gains additional notches on his health bar. Powering up is something you're going to want to do, because while the game starts off fairly easy, the difficulty ramps up about midway through the game. So if you ever feel a level is too hard, you can always spend your time strengthening yourself by replaying old stages, exploring new areas, or wandering through the vast desert planet that seems tailor-made for power leveling.

 

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Now, this is the part of the review where, theoretically, I should be talking about the negatives of the game. And while I'm really digging here, the only other real (minor) element is the star himself, Ratchet. He's far from the lamest video game hero in history, but when compared to all of the other colorful characters in the game, ranging from the hilariously incompetent Evil Shadowy Figure to the Desert Raiders (think Hell's Angels except in touch with their feminine side) to the absurdly awesome Mathematician (a hulking brute who wears a "pi" hat and yells things like "I'll subtract your head from your shoulders!"), Ratchet just seems like a generic Saturday morning action character, coupled with that lame cat-inspired design. There are also some overly long boss battles - I prefer that fights that are true tests of skill rather than ten minute endurance matches, but there are only a few of these throughout the game.

 

If there's one major problem with Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando, it's that all comes together too well. It shames me to say this, but the whole game is so imaginative, hilarious and exciting, that it makes Mario (the very pioneer of this genre) and his talking hose seem incredibly flaccid my comparison. And while not much has changed since the original, little additions here and there make this a much more fleshed out experience overall. This is one of the finest jumpin' and shootin' games you're likely to find, and one of the best Playstation 2 games of 2003.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(December 12, 2003)

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