May 03, 2016

Ratchet & Clank - Review

I never played the original Ratchet & Clank game, something I regret as I never had a PlayStation 2, but over the years with the constant release of games in the series, I still never got a chance to play the original, until now. While this is not a remaster of the first in the series, it is a remake and a pretty decent on at that.

The story starts off with a prisoner being escorted to another cell, refusing to break and claiming they will escape from this new prison, only to find out the prisoner with whom they are meeting is Captain Qwark, the former leader of the Galactic Rangers, but why is he in prison and what happened, well he decides to tell the story, which he does by adding a little of his dramatic flair. Ratchet and Clank however, have less grand introductions, Ratchet works in a garage, but longs of becoming a galactic ranger and after finishing his chores, he rushes to the site of the recruitment for the ranger try outs, only to beat the course but still be told no, disheartened, he heads to a spot he can think at, meanwhile Clank is assembled at a Warbot factory and is considered a defect and escapes, less he be destroyed. He steals a ship and then crash lands near Ratchet, who gives him the name Clank and together they start to make their way to the Rangers, to tell them of the coming threat.

The story itself, is pretty basic for a space fairing game, an evil that threatens the galaxy and only some plucky heroes can stop it and while there is a nice fake out, it is a pretty by the numbers adventure. What adds fun to it are the characters that your meets along the way, the Rangers for example are pretty much shoot first, shoot second and shoot third and then ask questions, but their support team wants to change that, the people in charge of the various planets and companies you interact with all have personalities that conflict with the positions they hold, which is entertaining. Ratchet and Clank though are the stars, with Ratchet wanting all the glory and admiration that comes with being a Ranger, Clank however simply wants to do the right thing and find a purpose, together they set off to each get what they want, by blowing up as much as they can.

The gameplay here is pretty much your standard shooter platformer, in order to progress to the next area, you will either need to clear the space you are in of enemies or solve a puzzle which opens the way forward. At no point did any of these sections prove to be too difficult, each provided a challenge, but the game never felt like it was trying to punish you, stopping you from moving forward. What I did find though was there was very little room for exploration in the levels, outside of what the developer wanted you to do, with some spaces feeling nice and open, but containing very little to actually do. No matter the planet you land on, there is always a pretty clear direction that you need to head in, if you explore around the ship, you might find another direction, but it will usually be blocked off by the lack of an item you don’t have, which you will get at the end of the path you need to follow. Each planet, these things repeat and when you do have the chance to take a different route, it will always loop you back to where you started it, these diversions are not without reason, they will provide you with some new gear that will help you out, or sometimes grant you a gold screw, but their length is ok, while exploring the worlds would have been more fun, it’s still nice to see more of them. What the worlds do usually contain is a few puzzles, these can be as simple as moving water from one location to another, or a little trickier with the hacking of access panels, these are fun little diversions from the run and gun gameplay, but they are too infrequent to make much of a difference.

There are times when you are allowed to partake in different elements of things, there are a few flying segments, where you need to take down enemy vessels around you, but there are also the hoverboard races as well, which provide a break from the shooting everything pattern. While flying the ship is pretty straight forward, the controls are nothing like most other games that feature flying and shooting, which is to say, they lack depth, you can’t actually apply any break, but you can boost up, so making tight turns is something that is not possible, the ship you pilot can take a fair amount of damage, I found most of mine was inflicted by the buildings I was hitting, rather than from enemy fire. Racing around on the Hoverboard however is a different experience altogether, with things feeling pretty slow over all, but with some solid course design, they can stay fun, at least until you try to get 1st place in the gold cups.

When you are not attempting to save planets from invasion, you can collect cards, which when you complete a set will grant you a bonus and depending on the set, the bonus can be an increased drop rate to the games currency, or a weapon unlockable, if you complete the right set. The cards are mostly rewarded when enemies are defeated, but there are times when you can find them hidden in alcoves and secret rooms. Gold Bolts are the other thing you will see a lot of, with most of the time, requiring something specific to get to them, but as you collect them, you will start to unlock options to tweak the game, this could be something from a series of filters that change how the game looks, to something that changes the currency from springs and cogs to coins, nothing that will impact the gameplay too much, but still fun to mess around with.

While the gameplay might not be as exciting as I would have liked, it is solid, but it is only secondary to how the game looks and that is pretty amazing. It was at the start of the last generation when people claimed we would see games that would be like interactive Pixar movies and while that may not have happened, Ratchet & Clank is really, really close, in fact I think it will be a while before we see something better. Ratchet is the character where you can see the details the best, his fur will move around in the wind, but even the ears will move around as he runs, which then the fur on those ears will also bounce around as well, it is a small and simple touch, but it helps make the world believable. Once you get out into the larger spaces, the draw distances are staggering and while you will most likely be focused on the action around you, taking time to admire the vistas is worth your time. The enemy design is pretty standard, keeping the basic look of what came from the original game, but with modern touches, carrying mobile phone type devices and such. There are some issues with textures that pop in and some rough edges, but they are nothing at all compared to the rest of the visuals.

From an audio perspective, the game also shines, with each of the unique weapons having nothing but pure fun with their sounds, the pixeliser was fun to shoot and listen too. The voice acting was on point, Ratchet and Clank were once again voiced by their voice actors and along with a few additional characters as well, but for the most part, the main characters were voiced by the same Hollywood talent that is doing the same for the movie and while the delivery of the lines is great, there are more than enough times that the jokes being told are not funny and tend to ground things to a halt. The score is well rounded, providing the right mood for the story elements at play, but I can’t recall any singular time that I felt moved by it.

Ratchet & Clank is a game that the PlayStation 4 needed, not only does it fill the role of providing kids a game on the machine, but it also helps tie things back to the older platforms. While it does not provide gameplay different to other games of its type, the game stands head, shoulders and worlds above almost every other game out there visually. 

Thanks to PlayStation Australia for supplying the game for review

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