Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal

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Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Playstation 2
Developed by Insomniac Games
Released in 2004

After the impressive upgrades for Ratchet and Clank 2, a third installment was already on its way. Insomniac, who was working closely with Sony, set their team of 115 people to focus on making the next title, while at the same time gather feedback from fans for improvements. When the game was finished, they felt that they had created a game that would appeal to fans of a number of genres due to the inclusion of elements of platforming, action and side-scrolling gameplay. Having variety is not necessarily bad, but quantity doesn’t mean quality.

Let’s get serious!

Ratchet and Clank are once again enjoying their peace in what seems like their new apartment. After watching Clank’s latest TV-episode they come across the news, showcasing Planet Veldin being attacked by creatures, known as Tyhrranoids, send by Dr. Nefarious. Always ready for action, Ratchet and Clank fly into the battlefield to save the day and try to find out why Nefarious is attacking Veldin.

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The plot is really well done, with elements of the story told through playing Quark’s games on an in-game console, and plot-twists that are really funny and clever. We have less characters to deal with here and while all are likeable, it is hard to get fully attached to them, due to some not getting as much screentime or being as entertaining as others , mostly due to a lack of humorous dialog. There are a lot less jokes and one-liners throughout the story and those that remain are mostly done by Captain Quark and the main-villain. Both are hilarious, but the game has taken a more serious tone to the story. This doesn’t mix well, due to how sincere some characters are, like Sasha Phyronix, the confident and calm captain, and others being a bit over-the-top or too stereotypical, like Helga, the strong German-ish trainer. Nothing can be classified as bad, just a bit off-putting. With a story that flows well, it keeps you going and it is enjoyable, even if its mix of the serious tone and the humor is not good.

Story Score: 8/10

More of everything, less of some

Ratchet and Clank 3 builds itself upon the last installment to some degree. You still traverse from planet to planet, discovering secrets, doing sidequests or main-objectives. The running and gunning is back, with some more upgrades. Literally. You can now upgrade weapons up to level 5 through shooting and killing enemies. The upgrades will give both some interesting additions to the weapons as well as making them more powerful. Such as the returning lava-gun, which will eventually have lock-on ability and shoot liquid nitrogen. Unlike the first game, you can’t purchase add-ons for weapons, since they are a part of the upgrades now.

The shooting is even more energetic with about the same amount of different weapons as Ratchet and Clank 2, and there are also some returning guns from both the first and second installment, with the ability to get them for free if you have them in one of the previous titles. They are all upgradeable, making them a joy to use. The lock-on can now also be toggled on and off as you aim or strafe, making the controls much better for the shooting-parts. One smaller element, is that the design of the levels focuses more on walls and indoors than before, which gives weapons that can ricochet off walls a much greater purpose.  Having this and plenty of enemies to tackle makes the combat a joy and in some parts: better than the last game. The only part of the combat that is off is the power-up that makes Ratchet become invincible and much stronger, but limits him to only his melee-attacks. With weapons to upgrade and such a fun time using all of them, why would I ever go back to fighting close-ranged?

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The platforming has also gotten a bit more attention than before and while it is not a main-focus, it definitely feels more energetic and better implemented. All the moves, like the double-jump, wall-jump, long-jump and jetpack floating will be more often called for now compared to the previous game. This upgrade to combat and platforming can also be seen from two other aspects: the arena and the level-design. The arena was a fantastic addition to the last game, being a fun, gladiator-style battle-arena with focus on killing. It is back and once again gives us intense fights, both against bosses, enemies, and at times with different objectives such as only using one weapon. What is new this time are the platforming-parts. The arena now has obstacle-courses where you go from point A to B jumping around and at times defeat enemies. These are about as fun as the combat and always were a joy to tackle.

The level-design is something that I am torn on however. On the one hand: it is nice with more focus on platforming and shooting and there are still some hidden objects to be found. But the levels can be quite short and not really as interesting to explore, due to them being much more linear in structure. Including this are some missions that will take you to closed off areas to do objectives. You usually just shoot and destroy enemies, so it should be fun, right? The tragic part,is that these never vary much, like the arena or the core-levels. Usually, you just tackle the same enemies in a small area three missions in a row and maybe ride a vehicle, making them bland.

Vehicles return, but are much weaker than before. You have the Turboslider, a big jeep-looking car, which is only used for traversing over the few big areas the game offers. It controls well and has decent speed, but it only works as a different form of teleportation. Since the areas can be really big and empty, and you often must get out of your vehicle to actually do the missions, it comes out as uninteresting. The same can be said for the returning airship; while you do shoot and kill enemies with it, it is not really anything that I will come back to, since the only thing I care about are the upgradeable weapons, which could easily have taken care of the enemies and provided a fun challenge.

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Another addition to the game are the puzzle stages. They are clearly separated from the shooting-parts, having their own planets dedicated to them. They are fun, if a bit brief, with guns such as the one that ricochets lasers to open doors helping you out during these challenges. However, the gun to lock up doors features a single minigame that is a slow and dragged out version of Tempest 2000. It can take forever, it’s never intense and is one part I could have done without. The same can be said for the turret-sections, which are not interesting, too simple, forgettable and I question why they are even there.

The other members of the crew steal the show at times. You will, throughout the story, play a couple of games based on Quark´s adventures on the in-game video-console that are a prequel to Ratchet and Clank 3. These are really fun sidescrolling shooters with traditional, but fun platforming, almost as a homage to Duke Nukem 2. These were a blast and made me want more.

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Clank returns with his mini-robots and has brought a new one this time: a monkey. The monkey functions as a more interactive robot, that can help Clank if he shoots bananas at certain areas or objects. Being more focused on stealth and getting through stages, these are better implemented than in previous titles, but still too short and forgettable with no interesting level-design to them. Ratchet joins in on this by disguising himself and communicating with enemies through a small rhythm-game with no music.These are okay, but that is all the praise it will get.

Ratchet and Clank 3 has much more to it and it is really hit and miss. Luckily, what is good, is really well done, such as the shooting, platforming, arena and Quark-minigames. But with so many elements that are uninteresting or a bore, it makes the game not as focused as its predecessor. It is still a joy to play through thanks to it having the run and gunning being the main-part, even if it could have used much less of others.

Gameplay Score: 7/10

Why so colorless?

With a much darker use of colors and more brown and yellow, the visuals have taken it upon themselves to create a more wasteland-like presentation. It is quite good, with areas such as swamps and deserts complementing each other fairly well due to the new aesthetic. There are some parts that still use more vibrant colors, such as minor underwater levels, but the tone is certainly darker. The character-models and enemies have seen a great upgrade, with more variation and new, organic enemies being a treat. I think they could have been a bit more creative with the worlds and not make most of them so inspired by dry lands or rusty buildings, plus some areas do look really empty and are almost a bore. The most interesting worlds are those with more color, such as the swamp, since it features a more vibrant landscape and inhabitants. Despite this, the visuals are technically good even if the artistic part is a bit dull at times. As a side-note, the PS3-version has some of the cutscenes in 4:3 yet again, which is odd, but a minor issue.

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The soundtrack is fantastic, with a lot more instruments being used and the tones being more clear, giving the soundtrack a greater beat with good variation from orchestras to techno. The voice-actors return from previous games and it is still a joy to listen to how much fun they are having playing their respective roles. The weapons sound and feel satisfying and the ching of bolts and screws are as iconic as Sonic’s rings.

Presentation score: 8/10

Wanna go for another shot?

The game features, again, a new-game+ mode, with more challenging enemies, more upgrades for weapons and more armor and one extra gun to purchase. The bolt multiplier is also back, which makes killing enemies reward you with a multiplier for bolts-pickup. The skill-points are still a joy to get and the titanium-bolts are still fun to search out. However, due the game’s variation being at times hit and miss, and titanium-bolts only unlocking costumes, there is not that grand of a replay-value. But playing through it one more time and upgrading the weapons to new heights, is still a joy and the arena supports this well. This installment also features multiplayer both online and off. Featuring shooting each other in deathmatch or capture the flag/base, which can be hectic and fun for a short while. It is nothing to really brag about or something to come back to, but it is a decent distraction.

Extra score: 7/10

Verdict

Ratchet and clank 3 takes one step forward and one step back, with a lot of additions being mixed. When it focuses on Ratchet’s platforming and shooting, as well as Quark’s gameplay, it is a blast and thankfully what you will do most of the time. The other additions can really drag however, and as they are more plentiful, they will be noticeable. Despite this, Ratchet and Clank 3 was fun to play through and comes recommended.

75/100

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