Review by essellAY

"A fantastic follow-up to a lacking sequel"

Over the course of only 2 games, the Ratchet and Clank series has gone through a startling change in quality already. The first game was a true classic - it showed a lot of promise prior to its release, and managed to deliver a product which more than lived up to the hype: something which doesn't exactly happen every day. Likewise, the sequel was surrounded by hype but this time it had something missing which made it seem too formulaic and boring by the end of it. Although this, the 3rd in the series was surrounded by great expectations, but I was one gamer who wasn't expecting amazing things from it.

The whole structure of the game is changed this time though - you are no longer given a group of missions to do, but rather a mission, which is sometimes split into several parts. This allows follow-up missions to take place in the same location, and adds a whole new dimension to the mission system. This also allows them to include a vast amount of missions in the game without sacrificing the variety by making dozens of similar planets. The controls will be familiar for those who have played the previous games and easy to pick up for those who haven't. They can also be customised fully, which is a nice feature to have, regardless of the ease to pick up the controls. The difficulty is somewhere in between the previous 2 games - it's not so difficult as to make anyone give up before the end and it's challenging enough to prevent gamers from breezing through without an effort. It starts off with a steep learning curve for anyone not used to the games, but it soon sorts that out and keeps a steady slope with nothing that difficult.

The new weapons are much more innovative this time through than in the last game; while there are still many that are similar to the old favourites, there are plenty of creative and fun new weapons put in. These include a Plasma Whip for Indiana Jones-style antics and an Infector which causes enemies to turn on each other. Each of the new additions is quite original, and keep the game fresh as you progress through it by encouraging the use of all the different weapons to upgrade them.

One of the most enjoyable features is not in the main sequence of missions, but is a fantastic Metroid-style side-game in which you play through the fantastic adventures of Captain Qwark. As simple as it sounds (and is), it provides a lot of fun, especially the cutscenes showing the "true" story of Captain Qwark's legendary fight against evil. There are plenty of laughs to be had with these ridiculous stories, and it compliments the main game well.

The graphics are adequate, but aren't breathtaking by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that recent games such as Jak 3 have managed huge environments and fantastic detail with no loading time makes this somewhat disappointing. The loading screens are still there for each planet and there haven't been any real graphical advances since the last game in the series; this is probably what gives the impression that this game is like an expansion of the previous one. The music is nothing to write home about and soon blurs into the background and the sound effects are identical to the ones used for the rest of the series, which are sounding quite dry after 3 games.

The storyline follows on from a while after the previous game finished and keeps on the tongue-in-cheek style of story well. While there's nothing here to make anyone think, "Wow! What a great story!" and it won't keep you on the edge of your seat, there's more than enough random humour to go around and it'll keep anyone entertained.

You can easily pick up hours and hours of playtime on this game and the skill points and other side-missions will keep most people entertained for several plays through the game. Take the online play option into a consideration and you have a game which you can pick up again and again and it wouldn't be surprising if, a year from now, there are still just as many people playing this game: it just doesn't seem to get boring.

Overall, it's a must-buy for fans of the series and of any similarly styled games and is still worth a rental for people who aren't normally into platformers, just to see if this gem can change their mind. I would still recommend the first in the series over this though.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/20/04

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