Developer: Insomniac Studios Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America Release Date:
November 11, 2003 (North America), November 21, 2003 (Europe, as Ratchet & Clank: Locked and Loaded
), December 11, 2003 (Japan) Platforms: Sony PlayStation 2ESRB Rating:
Following the success of Insomniac's Playstation 2 debut, Ratchet and Clank, a sequel was inevitable. Arriving only one year later, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando improved upon its predecessor in virtually all areas, often being considered the pinnacle of the series on the PS2. The first game's addictive mix of 3D platform elements and third-person shooting was left untouched while the depth and difficulty level were both raised to new heights. The sequel finds Ratchet and Clank, who have become celebrities for their actions during the first game, being recruited by the dominating business of a neighbouring galaxy, Megacorp, for a commando mission to retrieve a stolen experiment from the Megacorp labs.
Going Commando's most important improvement to the core gameplay is the addition of an RPG-style experience system to the core Ratchet and Clank gameplay. For each enemy destroyed, both Ratchet's hit points and the weapon used for the kill gain experience points. Each weapon has a fixed amount of experience needed before it transforms into a more powerful form, while each time Ratchet's experience bar fills his hit points (or 'Nanotech') increase by one. This changes the core gameplay considerably, as Ratchet's health increases continuously during the game from an initial four Nanotech to a maximum of 80. For comparison, in the first game Ratchet's health can be increased (at great expense) from four Nanotech to eight. This dramatic increase in the main character's toughness allowed Insomniac to create levels that are more challenging, more hectic, and more tactical than anything in the original Ratchet and Clank. However, despite the positive effects of this advancement system, some circumstances reward or even require RPG-style grinding through enemies on previously-completed worlds.
This increase in power level extends to the weapons, as well. With an original Ratchet and Clank save game a selection of weapons from the first game can be unlocked early on, and while some of them are useful in the early levels they are rapidly outclassed by Going Commando's new weapons. Insomniac continues to live up to their reputation for creative weaponry, with such guns as the Chopper, which fires razor blades with an uncanny ability to bounce off walls and hit again on the way back, and the Sheepinator, which can rapidly transform a horde of small enemies into entirely innocuous sheep, coexisting with the more conventional blaster, rocket launcher, and sniper rifle. Including retro weapons, there are twenty-four different weapons each with their own use and (except for the retro weapons) their own powered-up form.
Going Commando also increases the focus on minigames begun in the original game. In addition to the racing sequences and Giant Clank robot battles, the sequel adds space combat and arena battles. These minigames are generally well-implemented, with the spaceship battles being the most highly-developed, having several different areas to complete missions and their own set of upgrades available at the Ship Shack. The racing engine unfortunately continues to require somewhat perfectionistic play with Ratchet's opponents having an inherent speed advantage. The Giant Clank battles and a couple platform challenges have been transplanted to small spherical moons with their own special challenges. In general, the minigames provide both a fun diversion and a good way to earn the vast quantities of Bolts needed for Ratchet's more powerful weapons and armour.
Insomniac continues the series' offbeat humour here, with the dull-witted but opportunistic Thugs-4-Less leader and the absurd malapropisms of the Megacorp CEO Abercrombie Fizzwidget providing comic relief as well as plot development. Ratchet's personality was revamped to good effect, excising the 'whiny' aspect that made the original game's hero rather unlikable. The interplay between Ratchet and Clank is much more enjoyable following this change, and provides an entertaing counterpart to the core gameplay.
The Ratchet and Clank series continues to use the capabilities of the PlayStation 2 well, with the original's fluid graphics and detailed worlds returning in full force. No slowdown is evident even with hordes of enemies onscreen at once. Overall, the game isn't a major graphical departure from the original, but this is by no means a bad thing. The game also does not disappoint in the sound department, with solid voice acting, good sound effects, and a half-rousing/half-silly soundtrack fitting the Ratchet and Clank setting.
Control continues to be fluid and responsive. New in Going Commando is a strafe command, which combined with the optional lock-on mods for the weapons makes navigating some of the game's firefights considerably more comfortable. The 3D nature of the space battles can make the controls there a little bewildering, but the dogfighting engine is still good given the limitations of a console controller for aiming. The fast pace of combat in Ratchet and Clank makes good control very important, and the control does not disappoint, rarely requiring the player to fight with the controls rather than fight with Ratchet's enemies.
Going Commando is a good example of what a video game sequel should be, building on the strengths of its predecessor while becoming deeper and more challenging. The addition of an advancement system for Ratchet and his weapons allows a wider variety of challenges while providing an incentive to use more of the game's excellent set of weapons. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando joins Sly 2: Band of Thieves as a platformer sequel that rises to the top of the Playstation 2's vast game library through an impressive combination of smooth control and dead-on style.
- Ratchet and Clank's fun platform-shooter gameplay returns for a second outing
- RPG-style advancement system enables deeper gameplay than the original
- Series' humour and style are intact with a few positive tweaks
- Weapon experience grinding is sometimes necessary and tedious.
- Racing sequences can require perfectionism to complete
This writeup is copyright 2008 by me and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.5/ .