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The Ratchet and Clank Trilogy

12:4613/07/2012Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

Whether they’re saving worlds from an evil businessman, preventing the catastrophic release of the Protopet or simply killing time (and thugs) in the combat arena, Ratchet and Clank have earned their place among the gaming greats. It’s been ten years since we were first introduced to the destructive duo, and many of us have been hopping platforms and blowing grunts away ever since. The series hasn’t always been as successful at retail as it rightfully should, making this latest collection a must for those foolish enough to have passed on the first, second and third instalments. Stalwart fans can rejoice as their requests have at last been answered. What they might be surprised to learn is just how well these games have held up in comparison to some of their more popular rivals.

When the first Ratchet and Clank begins with a 4:3 ratio and a blurry opening cinematic, you wonder if this is indicative of things to come. Your fears are soon put to rest however, as the game begins proper and opens to a gorgeous widescreen landscape in crisp HD. The visuals are stunning, even in the original title, so it’s hard not to stand for a moment and appreciate the sweeping cityscapes and vivid worlds that you’ll be exploring. By far, this is the best looking of all high-definition re-releases, presenting lands that are not only pretty to look at, but functional as stages without making you feel as if you’re simply ‘on yet another level’. Everything has been designed with care, which is a staggering feat when you consider just how many worlds are waiting to be discovered. The music is also stellar in its own right; though it’s more a case of atmospheric tunes as opposed to memorable beats. You may not be tapping your feet or nodding your head, but you will always feel like each stage is alive and unique in its own right.

In the original Ratchet and Clank, the heroes are thrust together in a bid to alert Captain Qwark of Chairman Dreck’s plan to destroy peaceful worlds for his own ends. As you might expect, the tale takes a twist and the unlikely pair has to put a stop to Dreck’s misdeeds themselves. The dialogue is sharp and amusing, showing how the heroes develop into the close friends we know and love. You’ll have access to a fantastic arsenal, most of which remains specific to the franchise. It’s not only telling of modern games developers and their over-reliance on standard modern weaponry, but also a sign of Insomniac’s amazing creativity. It’s not just what the weapons and gadgets do that will impress either, but rather how they’re used in the worlds that make things all the more interesting.

This isn’t always the case of course, as Ratchet does contain a small number of duds, such as a few of the weaker firearms and overused mini-games which must be completed. This is also true of Ratchet 2: Locked and Loaded (or Going Commando depending on your region), where your perception and reactions are tested before a path will open. These moments slow the otherwise perfect pacing of a trilogy that gives you time to discover what each locale has to offer, but never holds you in one place for too long. The sequel’s space combat is a hit-and-miss affair too, but Ratchet 2 does have smoother animations, more weaponry and a good deal of other improvements that make for a better adventure overall. Simply moving the character feels slick when compared to the first game, which is exactly what you should want from a sequel.

The journey to discover the truth behind the Protopet takes its own twists and turns as before, where our now famous heroes shoot off to new lands which look more detailed and animated. The most graphically polished of the three titles is the third game, though it may not become your favourite of the three. It’s possible that you’ll tire of the formula come time for Ratchet 3, as each game is fairly extensive, offering new weapons and gizmos that you’ll have to obtain and so many worlds to get through. You’ll be awarded with in-game freebies and discounts for playing them in order however, so it’s worth sticking with that tough stage to reap the rewards later on.

As open as each world might appear, it’s all just a wonderful illusion. The mission list at times will look open, but there’s a set order in which things can be done – it’s a linear adventure which evokes a sense of freedom; you may think that you went to a specific planet in search of an item and then took a left, found a recording that opened up coordinates to yet another world and eventually came back to collect some key objects. In reality, this is exactly how you were expected to do things, but by making you feel like the choice was in your hands to take things at a doddering pace, the developers have made each game feel open and undemanding. That’s not to say that you won’t be tested… in fact each game has its share of challenging moments.

You should expect to die numerous times during surprise ambushes, tense boss battles and run out of ammo at inconvenient times. Not having an instant ammo refill upon death makes things less helpful, but the sense of triumph upon besting a tough foe is just as good, if not better than you might expect given the funny or dramatic scenes that follow. It’s the sequels that not only make up for the original’s harsh checkpoint system, but also throw in a light RPG element in the form of experience and upgrades. Use a weapon enough and you’ll be granted a souped up version, and simply fighting your way through groups of enemies results in extra health segments referred to as nanotech. This gives a sense of progression that adventuring fiends can sink their teeth into when they’re not side-tracked by the thousands of bolts which litter each game. This really is a collector’s paradise, where you’re drip-fed new items at a steady pace and no effort goes unrewarded.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the franchise, you have every reason to dive into these games in all their HD glory. They’re stunning as far as games of the last generation go, and suffer from few visual issues. Most surprising is how the gameplay has aged so well, earning classic status by having ignored popular trends at time of release (something the likes of Jak and Daxter are guilty of). It’s worth noting that the third game includes the multiplayer component found in the PS2 version, but in this case it’s merely a nice addition to an already incredible single-player effort. If you’re looking for a fun adventure that will absorb weeks of your life and leave lasting memories, then the Ratchet and Clank HD collection is the one for you.

This review is based on a copy provided by Sony.

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