Ratchet & Clank has been 2 years in the making. Behind the shroud of secrecy, Insomniac Games has been creating, cultivating, and refining what they hope will be a game that is held in the same great esteem as other mascot-based games like Jak & Daxter. Insomniac Games seemingly dropped off the radar in 2000 after developing the third installment of the critically acclaimed Spyro the Dragon, and now with the announcement of R&C, we know what they’ve been doing. Ratchet & Clank is about two unlikely heroes who are attempting to put an end to the devious plans of a force known as “Blarg”, who are planning to raid Ratchet’s home planet and strip it of all valuable resources. Ratchet is a long-eared furry character who looks like an early concept illustration of Daxter. In contrast, Clank is a pint-sized robot who happened to crash-land on Ratchet’s planet. Combining the abilities of both characters results in a symbiotic relationship that gives way to unprecedented abilities. Blarg best back that ass up.
At first glance, you’ll be impressed by the colorful, well-detailed universe of Ratchet & Clank. The various personalities that I came in contact with were quite a hoot and also a holler, and there were a few very humorous moments that induced short bursts of laughter; it’s Jak & Daxter-esque but with the funny-meter kicked up a notch. The demo I played was set in a futuristic town with lots of hover-automobiles and towering buildings with handsomely detailed atmospheric surroundings and incredibly impressive scenery. Graphics are nothing short of remarkable. Ratchet is rendered so well in terms of detail that he almost looks pre-rendered; believe that. In addition, animation is super smooth and draw distances reach out as far as the eye can see. Aliasing is not nearly as much of a concern with this game as it is with most other PS2 titles, and it uses a special rendering process to maintain image quality as you get closer to objects.
Ratchet’s main weapon is an oversized wrench that looks like a battleaxe, but he also has the ability to use various high-tech weapons that can be found and purchased. The demo included the Pyrocitor, which is essentially a powerful short-range flame-thrower, and the Blaster, which, as the name suggests, shoots standard bullet-type projectiles. There’s the Swing-Shot, which is used for grappling on to objects to reach new areas, and the Glove of Doom, which makes Ratchet throw a ball from which mechanical dogs sprout and attack nearby enemies. Each enemy that you destroy will result in an explosion of nuts and bolts that you can pick up and use as currency to purchase new weapons and gadgets. So yes, you can “buy stuff.” You’ll also have the ability to hold L2 or R2 and target enemies for more precise shooting from long distances. This is what they call the game’s first-person perspective mode.
To get around, Ratchet can jump, bounce off of walls old-school Ninja Gaiden-style, and, with trusty Clank on his back, sprout propellers so he can float around and perform longer and higher jumps. One of the most entertaining facets about the game was being able to blow stuff up with the various projectile weaponry and the over-sized wrench. Blowin’ stuff up is fun. What makes this game so cool though is the innovative level design and the various weapons and gadgets that you can use. In total there should be 35 different gadgets to be found in the final version of Ratchet & Clank.
After the novelty of the kickass graphics wear off, you’ll find that the gameplay is more than adequate enough to keep you entertained. The game is played from a 3rd person perspective, not unlike that of Jak & Daxter. Camera perspective is extremely dynamic and versatile. There are a few discrepancies in clusterphobic areas however, where the camera does not respond as quickly as would be ideal, so it’s not without its flaws. Don’t get me wrong, I mean Insomniac spent a good 9 months refining just the camera alone, but, sorry, it ain’t perfect guys. Most of the time you can simply hit the R2 button to align the camera with the direction you’re facing, but here’s hoping Insomniac irons out this minor hitch before the game goes to press.
To say the demo left me wanting more would be a huge understatement. I am straight-up psyched for this game to come out. Ratchet & Clank is scheduled to come out in November, 3 months after Super Mario Sunshine and 2 months after Sly Cooper. So it looks like 3D adventure-platformer fans will have quite a bit to keep them busy in the coming months. Personally, I can’t wait.
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