Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando

 

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Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (also known as R&C 2)
Developed by Insomniac Games
Playstation 2
Released in 2003

Editor’s note: Some screenshots in this review may be from the Playstation 3 remake of the game.

While the first Ratchet and Clank is a classic and was a commercial success, I felt it had not aged well and was more fond of the remake for the Playstation 4 that fixed just about everything. Despite my opinion of the first Ratchet and Clank, a sequel was already in the works 5 months before the release of the first entry. This had me on edge and curious on how much they could upgrade it compared to the first title, but at the same time intrigued since there were a lot of parts I enjoyed in the first game. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised.

Humor at its finest

Being interviewed on the TV-show “Behind the Hero”, Ratchet and Clank have now become celebrities and while enjoying this aspect, it doesn’t seem like much has happened since the last game. No one simply needs a hero anymore, which makes their life uneventful. Through the perhaps most impressively non-threatening kidnapping, Ratchet and Clank are suddenly being teleported to Abercrombie Fizzwidget’s office, the CEO and founder of Megacorp. He tells them that he has a job for them to recover a stolen biological experiment and having been bored since the last game, they happily accept the job.

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The story is very well told, having established more plot-important characters that get more screentime, and side-characters that add to the story and the game’s charm, instead of feeling forced like in the first game. The humor is top notch with great dialogue and characters being silly and hilarious. Even when one of the main-bad guys sets up a pizza-party for anyone who can take down Ratchet and Clank, it had me laughing since it’s delivered so sincere. The interaction between the characters are great, believable and never feel forced or out of place except when it is for the sake of humour. All the characters also seem to have much better personalities, like Ratchet is still the wisecracking, young Lombax, but also knows when to be serious. The plot itself isn’t that grand, but it has some good plot twists, that will not be spoiled, and the characters’ interaction with each other, as well as the humor overall, gives the story a great boost and had me smiling all the way through.

Story score: 8/10

Say hello to my little friends!

Ratchet and Clank 2 is much like the first game, being an action-platformer where you run and gun through big areas, explore and do objectives and side-quests. Ratchet is as nimble as before, with double-jumps, wall to wall jumps, ledge-grabbing, rail-grinding and rocket/proppeler floating thanks to Clank. The stages usually complement and makes good use of our duo’s skills. You even get parts where you must use a glider or short rocket-flights that adds some variety, making it so you rarely do the same thing twice in a row. Despite all this however, the platforming is not a main focus. The same can be said for the small puzzles: you have guns that will open locks, turning them into different, fun, and short mini-games, as well as some others being used to manipulate the environment. They are good additions and never feel daunting or slow, but neither a focus. The run and gun is clearly the main-attraction, and it’s got a big upgrade from the last game.

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Ratchet has a ton of weapons to either buy or find and they are unique ones at that, from the lava-gun to sheepinator, they all feel fun and creative. All of the weapons are useful and can even be upgraded once by using them to kill enemies, and killing in general will upgrade your health-bar as well, giving the game some RPG-elements. Upgrading the weapons will also give more than just a boost of attack power or ammo. Some like the gravity-bomb, will create small A-bombs that covers a bigger area and the seeker-gun will shoot three shots at once. There are even mods you can buy for the weapons with the hidden Platinum-bolts at a special vendor, such as acid-ammo. Armors can also be upgraded for a fee, making our hero more durable. If that wasn’t enough, you can also purchase some weapons from the first title or, if you have a save-file where you had them acquired in Ratchet and Clank 1, you will get them for free. However, due to them not being as useful as the new gadgets or upgradeable until you play the game a second time, they will most likely not be used. You also have the wrench that is useful for close-combat against smaller enemies and you even get more powerful ones through the story, but due to your arsenal being impressive, creative and overall fun to use, the wrench is rarely, if ever, called for.

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One of my biggest complaints with the previous game, was the lack of strafing and the autolock not being as useful. Luckily, Ratchet and clank 2 fixes this by making L2 and R2 buttons to strafe with and the autolock is much better and targets enemies at further distance than before. This makes the combat much more manageable and our hero more agile. It would have been nice to have the button for shooting as one of the shoulder-buttons instead of the face-button, to be able to use the second analog-stick for easier aim, but it is not a big issue. Some weapons even have a lock-on feature, while others have it as an upgrade that must be purchased. All of this, combined with huge variety of enemies that never get too daunting, can make the game, while a tad easy at times, always a blast.

Besides the platforming and shooting in stages, there are some other smaller additions. The airplane-battles return in greater form, with a customizable ship and additional missions to tackle. They are a blast to play, have enough depth to be entertaining and adding upgrades that can be purchased for your aircraft gives the flying a lot to be excited about. You will also be able to take on races in the game with hoverbikes, with power-ups and shortcuts. While it is no Mario Kart, they are a fun and intense sidetrack. The best addition, however, is the arena where you fight an onslaught of enemies, boss-fights or have to do more specific objectives, such as killing a set number of enemies under a time-limit. These are incredibly well done and always a blast with enemies coming in many varieties and bosses being a good challenge.

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There are some parts however that, while not as common, do feel very off. You will again be able to control Clank and his minibots for two levels and they are even less exciting than before, with simple platforming and just as simple combat. While they tried to add some specific robots to do certain actions, it comes of as situational and not interesting. They don’t last long thankfully, but are a weak addition. You will also control Clank in two robot-fights where he becomes enormous. These are terrible. They are slow, disorientating due to small planets that you go around and not in-depth at all, making them feel like poorer versions of Rock’Em Sock’Em than anything else.

Having a much better combat-system, platforming and puzzle-elements, mixed with the entertaining vehicle-segments and awesome arena-battles, really gives this instalment a lot to enjoy over the 10-11 hours it takes to get through the campaign. Clank’s parts are unfortunately the clunkiest of the game, but they are so short that they are easily forgotten in favor over what Ratchet and Clank 2 does well.

Gameplay score: 8/10

Wondrous Galaxy

The presentation is great with glorious visuals and a colorful art-style. The locations are huge and a sight to behold with so many details, like small hovercars flying through the sky in the cities or when characters haven’t noticed you and play rock-paper-scissors. Speaking of the characters: they are all well animated, fluent and imaginative. All of this gives us a universe that is both technically and imaginatively impressive, as well as one that feels alive. The only problem stems from the PS3-version where some cutscenes are in 4:3 and some minor clipping-issues occur, however the latter was quite rare so take it as a nitpick.

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The soundtrack is more orchestral than before and combined with techno-beats, it gives us tracks that are more up-beat and atmospheric. It won’t be something to be remembered by, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. The voice-actors are really impressive and you can hear how much they enjoy their roles, the guns feel satisfying and unique based on what weapon you use, and the chings of screws and bolts are much smoother than previous game. It is simply a great-looking and sounding game.

Presentation score: 9/10

You have more?!?

After beating the game there is a new-game+ with tougher enemies and a multiplier for the bolt-pickups where the more kills you do, the higher the multiplier goes, all the way up till 20 until you take a hit. If that wasn’t enough, you start with the weapons and the upgrades you have from before and can upgrade them even further than in the previous playthrough, including the weapons from the first game, and there are even some new ones that will be unlocked in this run. Some guns in  the game are expensive, so it’s unlikely you got them all from your first run. This gives the game great replay-value and something that made me instantly start the game again. Combining this with the hidden platinum-bolts that can be used to get great upgrades for your weapons and skill-points being a fun addition to collect for more secrets such as costumes, I really couldn’t ask for more.

Extra Score: 10/10

Verdict

Ratchet and Clank 2 is impressive with just how much it improved over the first game and how solid it is. Despite issues like the Clank-segments not being good and the graphical hiccups in the PS3-version, this is a great journey that has a lot of guns to play around with, fun combat and exploration, hilarious characters, good story, fun side-quests and a fantastic reason to do it all at least one more time right away. There is a reason why the first game needed a remake and not the second one.

85/100

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