Review by dunkeriffic
"Bang, Bang and BANG!"
Ratchet and Clank: Up your Arsenal is the third game in the popular series made by Insomniac Games, with one coming out every year. So, how good is this one?
The game is a third person shooter/platformer, with the focus on the shooting. Very little platforming is actually required, unless you want the bonus items, so if you dislike platformers, don't let that put you off. There are twenty different and original weapons, all of which are upgradeable 5 times. Upgrading weapons not only increases ammo capacity and power, but also the way they work. For example, one gun turns enemies into ducks, which just stand around, but by the time the gun has upgraded to version 5 it will transform one duck into a flaming flying duck which will zoom into enemies, and any other ducks will lay explosive homing eggs and draw enemy fire. There are traditional weapons such as a shotgun, grenade launcher, and machine gun, but the majority of the weapons are unique. You start off with two weapons (the shotgun and grenade launcher) but you have to buy the rest. The weapons upgrade uniquely.
In most games you would find/ buy weapon upgrades, in Ratchet and Clank you upgrade the weapons by using them. Each weapon has a bar, and when you kill an enemy with that weapon some experience goes into the bar, when the bar fills up, the weapon upgrades. Your health can also upgrade: from 10 to 200, it upgrades in the same way your weapon does, except it doesn't matter how you kill it. As well as weapons to buy there is also armour, which reduce the amount of damage done to you. Also available are gadgets, like a Hypershot. When you need you to use these it is fairly obvious, but not in a bad way. They are used to break up the shooting and to inject a little platforming into the action. Fortunately, they are entertaining and not grating.
Platforming and puzzles come in the form of using your gadgets and the robot Clank. Clank attaches to your back and you have him for practically every level. He can be either a Heli-pack or Jetpack, with the only real difference between the two being aesthetics. They allow you to jump higher, jump further and glide, using these functions soon become second nature. They are used often, and you really notice when you don't have him. Your gadgets consist of items such as a Hypershot, which allows you to activate machinery and swing on objects. You also get foot objects such as magnetic boots that allow you to run on any surface. Clank can also turn into 'Giant Clank', which only happens once in the game, but it is fun. Clank becomes huge and you fight a boss armed with your fists, missiles and energy bomb. This bit is surprisingly fun, but it's just a shame that you only do it once. There are two vehicles, a jeep type vehicle and a hovership. They are only available at certain points but they are fun and have their own weapons.
Money in the R&C world comes in the form of bolts, found on the ground, in boxes and from dead enemies. To earn bolts you can play through levels, or do arena battles. These are a bonus feature that are not necessary to complete the game but that earn you bolts and are fun. There are also 40 special bolts in the game and other useful items in the game that require platforming to reach, but are not required for game completion. As well as all those there are skill points that are awarded for anything from turning all enemies into ducks to completing a section without being hit. These all unlock bonus features, but you can skip all of them. Generally, there is a lot of stuff to do, but you never become confused. One bad aspect of the gameplay, that will only be noticed by players of Ratchet and Clank 2, is the amount of side missions. In Ratchet and Clank 2, to earn bolts and take a break from going through the levels, you could fight in the arena, have hoverbike races or spaceship fights, with you even being able to upgrade your ship. These were well thought out, enjoyable sections. But in Ratchet and Clank 3, you can only have arena battles. Although these are fun, R and C veterans will feel disappointed with the limited amount of extra stuff.
There is one new set of side missions though. Qwark Comics. The five levels are 2D platformers with there only collectibles and these are very well made and are a worthy alternative to the main game. They are fairly simple but good fun nonetheless. Because of the challenge mode differences and the fact that you will not be able to buy, upgrade or unlock everything first time through ensures that you will have to play through it at least twice. Even after unlocking everything you will probably play through it about three or four times before getting bored. There is also a Insomniac Museum with tons of stuff they couldn't fit into the game, and, while not as good as the museum from Ratchet and Clank 2 it is still a worthy reward for completing the game 100%.
Instead of, as in previous games, there being two paths on each level there is only one route on each level, but they are usually longer than in its predecessors. This means the levels are quite linear, with the only real side distractions being the Arena battles. If there is more than one route on each level, then usually one is necessary to completing the missions and the other one contains an item that makes the game easier, for example a gadget that allows to grab bolts from further away, but is not required for game completion. There are about nine bosses, and three are optional. Bosses are not too hard but they do provide a decent challenge and are quite fun.
The game is generally not hard to beat, due to the fact that if you get stuck you can upgrade your weapons and health and try again, but you will never become too relaxed, and the enemies become quite powerful later on, forcing you to hone those dodging skills. So, the difficulty is not frustrating, although it could have done with being a little harder. The controls are fine and easy to adapt to, but there are other control setups including a first-person mode, so you should not have any problems.
The story is fine, but won't be winning any awards. Ratchet returns to his home planet to fight off an alien attack, and ends up as part of a team fighting the evil Dr. Nefarious. The story is quite funny, but occasionally the humour sounds forced. Nothing particularly unique, but you won't skip the cut-scenes. One good aspect of the story is that it makes little reference to previous games, so even beginners to the series can enjoy it.
The graphics on this game are very similar to the previous two games, but they are not bad. In fact, they are good. Some special graphical things are the Quantum Whip, and a level which sees Ratchet running around in spirals with pink flashing lights everywhere. Draw distance is decent and there is no pop-up. Another advantage is that each planet/level has its own graphical style. For example Metropolis is a bright busy city, whereas Aridia is a barren desert planet. Background music is not outstanding, but it will never get on your nerves as you will not be able to hear it over the shooting. Sounds such as gun fire, etc, are good with each gun having its own sound. Voices are well done with exceedingly well-done lip-syncing and generally good lines.
Multi-player offline is bad. If you buy the game for the off-line multi-player, you will have wasted a lot of money. The bots are just plain stupid, with the game being ridiculously easy. However, on-line, it is a different story. The action is fast paced and frenetic, with an appropriate clan system. Unlike some games, it has a busy and friendly on-line community. There are only 3 modes of play, but Siege mode will last you ages. There is a real teamplay element in on-line mode with you being able to communicate, take over sections and have two people in each vehicle, one as a driver and one as a gunner. On-line mode will survive long after one player mode.
Going through the solo game once is short, and if that is all you intend to do you might as well just borrow it off a friend. However, after you beat the game, you unlock challenge mode, where you can buy greater versions of your weapons, get very rich and face tougher enemies. With skill points, etc, getting everything can take a while to get everything. If you have on-line multi-player
this will last you ages. It will also persuade you to buy Ratchet and Clank 1 and 2, as having save files from those games unlocks bonuses for this game.
[Rent or Buy?]
If you just want to play through it once, then rent it, if you want to complete it 100%, buy it, and if you have on-line multi-player, buy it. Anyone who hasn't played this is missing out on an amazing game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/25/05, Updated 12/26/05
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