Review by Leebo
"What the heck is a Lombax?"
The Ratchet & Clank series has always been at the forefront of the battle for the title of Playstation 2's Best Platformer. It's had some pretty nasty competition, too, in for the form of the Jak series. Ratchet & Clank excels in this genre through its well-executed level design, its multitude of fun weapons, and the story of this lovable duo. Up Your Arsenal brings together all of the great aspects of its predecessors as the third game in the series.
The game's story, which isn't connected to the plots of the first two, begins as Ratchet and Clank are enlisted to save their galaxy from the evil mastermind, Dr. Nefarious. Together with their group of friends that are collectively called the Q Force, they must unravel Nefarious' plan, and save the good people from certain and horrible doom. The story is well told, and it never really takes a back seat compared to the action. The characters and events are created with humorous undertones, so some scenes are a little silly, but the whole experience offers and enjoyable and rewarding tale. There is enough adult humor (through the use of double entendres) that players of all ages should find the game funny.
Insomniac has blended plat forming elements with some aspects of third-person adventure games. The gameplay never gets repetitive or dry. Ratchet's basic abilities include the use of his handy wrench, which is useful for breaking boxes and killing lesser enemies. He can do what you'd expect most platform characters to be able to do. He has a three step wrench attack, a double jump, rocket pack/helicopter pack abilities, and then there are the weapons.
Each weapon starts with a baseline attack power, as well as a baseline ammo limit. After repeated use of a single weapon, it will be upgraded. Upgrades include increases in attack power, increases in the ammo limit, and additions like a lock-on mode. Since the ammo limit is important to consider, one must always upgrade the weapons. You wouldn't want to get to the end of the game with a very high powered Nitro Launcher, only to find that you run out of ammo, and must use your pitifully weak substitutes. So, the use of many weapons keeps the action lively and engaging.
The course of the game will involve getting a mission and corresponding coordinates for a new planet, so that you can travel there to further the plot. You are never forced to continue on to your next mission, so you can roam freely among the planets collecting goodies and extras until you're prepared to move on. The missions are pretty well varied, but they do get a little repetitious at the end. Each mission usually does a pretty good job of keeping the action balanced with a little puzzle solving. There are a lot of enemies to take your weapons to, but there isn't always a great range in how it's necessary to destroy them. For instance, the different enemies can be broken into categories according to size, and you'll never really have to know any more that it's size to determine an appropriate way to defeat it. If the weapon use hadn't been as varied, like was stated earlier, then this would have led to the use of three weapons, basically.
Ratchet & Clank: UYA also sports multiplayer action, which is new to the series. The offline play is decent, but lacking in certain areas. The controls feel compromised and the split screens take away some of the epic feel of the single player mode. Fortunately, if you have the PS2's online capabilities, you can battle anyone over the Internet. This takes the feel of the single player and gives you excellent modes of play, the ability to join clans, and a whole screen! The online multiplayer makes up for some of the offline multiplayer problems, by offering an experience that most plat formers just don't offer.
The graphics in this game are quite excellent. The character actions are always fluid and interesting to watch. The weapon animations are typically creative and diverse enough to really treat your eyes. The world of Ratchet & Clank is a colorful and lush one. The environments don't try to suffocate you with intricacies, but they really immerse you. You know how you can sometimes tell, in certain games, that there is a cliff wall or a blockade of trees that only serves the purpose of allowing the designers to draw less area? I never got that feeling in R&C: UYA. The different planets are beautiful and I never felt like the visuals were trapping me in a confined space.
There are plenty of extras to make the value skyrocket. After you play through the game once there is a Challenge Mode, which ramps up the difficulty and even allows you to earn items that were unattainable before. In the game there are plenty of optional missions and side events for you to focus your wandering efforts upon. The Insomniac Museum also returns with inside looks at the developers and their process of making the game.
The music is often nothing spectacular, although there are a few hum-worthy tracks. I particularly liked the epic sound of the Starship Phoenix music, which was a moving orchestral piece. The sound effects were also good, but again, not unbelievable. The voice acting is what really makes the sound notable. Insomniac made sure that there was a well seasoned group of veterans behind the voices. Ratchet is voiced by James Arnold Taylor who, whether or not you liked him as Tidus in Final Fantasy X, does an excellent job. The other characters are also well done except for maybe Al. I found his voice annoying.
Insomniac has brought us another great adventure with Ratchet and his robot buddy, Clank. This game is a must have for all fans of plat formers and anyone looking for a fun and rewarding game on the PS2. It will definitely have you coming back for more, be it the intense single player campaign, or the stellar online play.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/11/04, Updated 12/13/04
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