Got some things to explain. Why the second game? Because the first game is aged shit. I COULD NOT play it again for the review and it only sets the basis for this game, while this game sets the basis for the ENTIRE SERIES. I’ve decided to skip ahead to 2, and I’ll explicitly explain to you exactly why soon.
-How the series went from decent to awesome, R&C1to R&C2 –
Ratchet and Clank was released in 2002 by Insomniac Games for the PS2. It was a action-platformer that had a large focus on using ludicrous weapons and gadgets to get through various sci-fi planets. However its design choices were detrimental in it being as aged as it is compared to the other games. Combat could get clunky, you could only get a max of 8 hit points, you needed to be a absolute hoarder of cash to get anywhere, difficulty could get obnoxious and weapons were EXTREMELY situational most of the time. There was a weapon named the Taunter that did nothing but make noise to, as the game puts it; “lead foes into traps”. Basically you either wasted your money on it or spent more money to get a mine weapon that complements it in only certain situations. Worst of all for a good chunk of the game the two main characters were the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you’d want out of partners. Ratchet acted like a typical teen who sounds like a surfer “dude” who’d use worse like “tubular” whilst Clank was just a textbook nerd who was prudish and stuffy as all hell. The two had no chemistry for most of the game and were not enjoyable heroes to be stuck with which is one of the worst things you can do. The game isn’t terrible or even all that bad, it has some good things about it that I do love but I can find those in ANY other Ratchet and Clank game.
Luckily the game managed to get enough praise to have a sequel start its development 5 months after the first game’s release. And HOLY FUCK did they fix EVERYTHING.
-NOW THE AMAZING PART-
Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando (Locked and Loaded in Europe, apparently we can’t handle nudity jokes) was released in 2003 and is one of the best examples of a sequel overtaking its predecessor in every way. Everything about the game’s development says they wanted to fix criticisms of the first game and add a few “big ideas”, things that would add to the game’s “Wow-factor”. And they did for the most part. Mention must be given to them specifically fixed the personality of Ratchet before I begin the plot synopsis. He’s grown up more or less, now able to take charge in stressful situations without being impetuous and cocky. As well he’s less of a dick and is more friendly to Clank.
So without further ado, LETS FUCKING DO THIS.
The story starts off nearly a year after the first game where Ratchet and Clank are having a interview on the TV show Behind the Hero. The two state that after all the praise and festivities they’ve started living a uneventful life again, with Ratchet explicitly saying “No one needs a hero right now”. A corporation head watching from a entirely different galaxy disagrees and teleports the duo to a space carrier. The man introduces himself as Mr. Fizwidget, founder of the Megacorp company an extremely powerful corporation that manufactures every product in the Bogon Galaxy. He requests Ratchet’s aid in retrieving a biological experiment that was stolen from the megacorperation by a mysterious thief. Ratchet almost immediately accepts with Clank being hesitant…that is until Fizwidget tells them the rewards of the job; a penthouse suite, a job as Megacorp accountant and a robotic masseuse. Clank agrees immediately after . Ratchet is then given combat training and a new body armour (complete with helmet) on the 2 week trip over to the new galaxy. After failing to stop the thief’s escape from his flying lab Ratchet begins his journey after him during which Clank gets kidnapped from his apartment and held as hostage by the thief. Ratchet rescues him and the two eventually manage to track down and recover the experiment as the thief makes his escape. After heading to the rendezvous point on a abandoned mining planet, Fizwidget accidently lands on Ratchets ship thinking it was “a little debris on the landing pad”. The old man waves it off stating that “Its insured!”. He retrieves the Experiment and offers the two a ride on his ship but accidently ejects them out after attempting to turn on the radio. The two fall into the inner abandoned mine, Clank assumes Fizwidget kicked them out on purpose but Ratchet decides to give him the benefit of doubt as a easily distracted old man. They make their way out of the mine but are held up by the thief. The thief unintentionally knocks off his own mask (by humorously slipping off the top of his ship), and it is revealed that “he” is actually a female Lombax named Angela Cross. Ratchet states he doesn’t have the experiment, which she states has put the galaxy in danger.After finding a way to repair their ship, Ratchet and Clank discover on a couple of Megacorp research and development facilities and that Angela’s claims are true, as the Experiment is revealed to be a dangerous predator that Megacorp intends to market as a pet.
They try to persuade Fizzwidget to destroy the experiment on a number of occasions but fail due to the man’s convenient incompetence. The experiment now dubbed the “Protopet” is now being cloned and shipped across the galaxy. The team decides to head to Megacorp Headquarters to halt the cloning of the experiment where Qwark happens. They discover that Captain Qwark, the disgraced superhero from Ratchet & Clank, had disguised himself as Fizzwidget and planned to release the protopet from the beginning in spite of its hostility, so he could save the galaxy from his own threat and restore his reputation.
To be fair to the game this isnt what you’d call a left field end as videos appear in the game explaining what happened to Qwark after Ratchet and Clank stopped him from assisting the main villain by taking him out. Qwark was arrested after selling fake gadgets to people under a false identity and was charged with paying a extremely high sum to the recipients of the defected products. He attempted to flee custody, got arrested and escaped by flushing himself down the prison toilet. He attempts to use a “Helix-o-morph”, a gadget Angela designed to repair the genetic flaw in the Protopets that causes their aggression, and zaps the original Protopet, but it malfunctions, mutating the protopet into a gigantic, vicious monster that swallows Qwark whole. After Ratchet defeats the giant Protopet, Angela and the real Fizzwidget arrive on the scene, with Angela explaining that Fizzwidget had been tied up in a closet the whole time. After spitting Qwark back out, the giant Protopet is changed back to normal once Angela retrieves the Helix-o-morph and fixes it by putting the batteries in the right way. With this the device is hooked up to Megacorps TV transponders allowing it to fix all of the Protopet clones, ending the game with Qwark being forcibly signed on as a test subject for Megacorp products including the…crotchitizer.
Well as you can probably tell this series goes about things with a generally humorous and quirky narrative (I sadly cant sit here listing examples so I cant really do it justice) which is much more enjoyable thanks to the better character in the main protags and well as, for the most part, good characters in general. And trust me I did cut a lot out of the synopsis including all the Thugs-4-Less scenarios which I love. Fun fact: despite Angela being a female of Ratchet’s species absolutely NOTHING happens between them and it’s great because she has a good deal of personality which is why they never used her again. It’s what it needs to be for a Ratchet and Clank plot, I’m not expecting anything deep and intricate from a series that loves having fun doing ridiculous things with its weaponry. Voice acting is good, with James Arnold Taylor taking on the role of Ratchet…for good, even up to this year’s game and film. It’s a bit odd hearing his first go at the role though he sort of fluctuates, sometimes making Ratchet sound different on occasion at the beginning.
-How to use a Ratchet (lololololololololol)-
Let’s start with what the original game introduced. Ratchet can run, crouch, jump, double jump and do a combo with his wrench on the ground. He can do a overhead swing with the wrench and toss it while crouching. Weapons and Gadgets are selected by holding triangle to bring up the Quick Select. Here you can choose which weapons or gadgets you wish to equip without having to go into the Weapons menu to equip them. The game doesn’t pause in the Quick Select menu, and you need to pick which ones that are in it in the pause menu. Firing the weapon is done with circle and double tapping triangle swaps to the last weapon you held. Ratchet can also glide with Clank (in the original he needs to upgrade him first) and perform a long jump forward and up with him. Bolts that drop from breakable objects or enemies can be used to purchase weapons or get past paywalls the game throws your way sometimes. Gadgets are used to manipulate specific things when needed, like a Swingshot for the swingshot targets. They sound situational and they REALLY ARE, especially the last gadget which you only use 2 and a half times since you get it near the end of the game. What’s worse is that there are two items that conceptually do the exact same thing: Infiltrator hacks stuff with a minigame and the Electrolizer activates stuff with a minigame, not to mention the access points for each look similar enough. Clank sections return…in two areas where you perform a decent platform challenge whilst commanding robots to do shit for you. Nothing worth mentioning really, Clank sections sort of stay like this until Crack In Time so meh.
Now the new things and get into the problems afterwards. The game adds XP meters for both your weapons and health. Every time your heath XP is maxed your heath increases. Including Nanotech Increases you can find your health can go all the way up to 80 HP just from 4 HP. This is not only better than the original game its also important since enemies can start doing more than 1 HP of damage. Luckily you can now buy armour in this game, decreasing the damage you take. Sadly the armour system is introduced right after you repair Ratchet’s ship which is about nearly a third into the game which is rather late. The weapon’s XP allows it to permanently transform into a stronger version of that weapon when filled. The amount of things your quick select can hold has been increased. A very useful addition is strafing with L2, which allows you to aim MUCH EASIER than the last game. You can even lock on to enemies with weapon mods (which is rather stupid). In the first game you had to pray the weapon had some kind of target indicator which would angle the shots because you have to move Ratchet to aim. Additional means of acquiring money has been added, there’s now Arena Challenges, Hoverbike Racing, Crytal Searches, and Space Combat Missions as well as optional boss fights. The mods I mentioned earlier can be bought with Platinum Bolts which you might find looking around the planets, they don’t do too much so you don’t have to get them but they’re nice enough to have like a Acid or Shock Mod. There is even a weapon shop that lets you get back R&C1 weapons for no cost if you purchased them on a R&C1 save file, meaning you get free weapons if you have. This game also introduces the Charge Boots as a means of moving faster, which you get after finding the Hoverbike Race track on the Megacorp Games planet.
The New Game + that lets you replay the game with all your stuff and stats has been tweeked into Challenge Mode. Here you have a bolt multiplier that increases each time you kill a enemy and decreases when you take a hit, letting you get insane amounts of cash very fast. This lets you buy the million bolt arm or the RYNO II; a insanely powerful rocket launcher that breaks everything. Any weapons that have their XP maxed out can be repurchased in their MEGA state, which also comes with ANOTHER XP bar to fill making it even more powerful after its full.
Introduced in this game is the Insomniac Museum which unlocks after getting EVERYTHING in the game. Or you can do this quite deliberate and easy to pull off glitch put in by the developers to get there from a secret teleporter Silver City. The Museum showcases a bunch of cut content, gives you immense amounts of behind the scenes and game info as well as letting you mess around with all kind of cut stuff or developer tools. It’s one of my favourite parts of the game just for the pure fun of messing around and learning neat stuff from people who had a fun time their game.
-Issues may include…-
OK I’ve blabbered about good things long enough let’s get into the reviewer clickbait: THE PROBLEMS. Firstly the Space Missions are crap design-wise. The controls are simple enough however you’re in a spaceship with full 360 degree movement instead of only need to worry about turning, rising and descending. The ships you’re against go everywhere and are much more accurate than you are, in the time it’ll take for you to find them you’re already taking a bunch of potshots. You’ll be mashing R2 to straighten the ship constantly to get a good idea of where you reside in the area. Basically look up one of the missions on Youtube (I can’t be bothered, no good examples came up on my first search) and see for yourself how clunky things are. Luckily there are only 4 mandatory missions but 2 of them REQUIRE upgrades in order to accomplish the mission without failure, which means getting Raritanium from earlier space missions and buying better shields and weapons at Slim Cognito’s later in the first third of the game. They do give great payoffs and a few of them arent combat orientated.
One of my main issues with the game is the tad unbalanced in-game economy. It means that if your not hoarding things can get troublesome. Let me explain. There are a lot of weapons in this game that, while good for taking different approaches, only serve to waste a lot of your cash when it comes to boss fights where dealing damage is everything. The game has QUITE a number of weapons that are useless in terms of damage as well as throwing good weapons in the vendor right after a few crap ones. With the occasional money paywalls and armour that you’ll need to buy, don’t be surprised that you’re going to have to grind if you bought whatever came up in the shop, not knowing how ineffective it is. R&C1 had this problem too but in that game enemies didn’t take “damage” as much as they took “hits” so many non-situational weapons were still effective from beginning to end. Here the stats matter and weapons like the Lancer or Heavy Lancer lose their use before you get halfway into the game. GET the Mini-Rocket Launcher and Bouncer weapons before deciding on anything over 20,000 bolts.
Speaking of boss fights, special mention goes to the fucking one against the giant robot piloted by the Thugs-4-Less leader. Something HAS to be wrong with this fight design-wise, it takes way too fucking long to finish, your weapons do piss damage to his incredibly large HP so your only option is these turrets…that also do piss damage and get destroyed by the giant robot very easily. It’s a fucking mess.
The game looks great for 2003 PS2 standards and the aesthetics of each area are generally overwhelmingly pleasing. Ratchet’s new armours make him more cool looking than the…”outfit” he had in the first game. Graphical quirks occur left right and centre in the HD version, particularly with cutscenes that happen in a ship, but usually aren’t enough to diminish the quality of them overall (we’re not at Ratchet Deadlocked HD yet). The humour is great and I cannot do it justice, with only a few jokes that lost touch over time. Music is fucking awesome, its bombastic, its funky, its atmospheric, it has so much variety with different instruments. Its everything it needs to be and more and I recommend a listen to it. The only problem is, the game has no credits music. Why? I don’t know, it just plays the Final Boss music during the credits instead for some reason and there’s no credits music in the soundtrack. Also why is there only ONE track for Hoverbike Races? The Ship Missions have multiple music tracks I’m sure they could squeeze out one more.
-So is the fucking amazing game a fucking amazing game?-
Yep. The in-game economy is one of the few worst in the series and certain sections I fucking tire of but overall it’s a fantastic game and a major improvement over what was, allowing the series to continue to the point nearly running out of ideas and then getting a reboot and a film next month. Recommended for any PS2 owners or anyone with a PS3 can get it as part of the HD collection, where you can get it with its meh predecessor and its equally good sequel.
On a humour note, look up japanese Ratchet and Clank box arts if you have time to waste. They’re…weird and sometimes inaccurate. For Ratchet and Clank 2 the cover shows a oddly drawn Ratchet in his original design, something that’s only present in the first cutscene in the game.