Review by brutusmuktuk

Reviewed: 05/18/05

Insomniac's original series is in need of fresh material

Video game developers seem to have forgotten how to make a game fun and original. Now it’s about great graphics that look good in screenshots and make gamers drool over magazine pages. To be honest, I don’t know why gamers haven’t gotten sick of all the pretty graphics – it’s the same for every game. It’s a requirement for a game to look good, which I admit is nice, but games like the original Super Mario Brothers games looked, and still look, nice not because of the amount of pixels onscreen but because of Nintendo’s creative style. I miss those Nintendo days when the next Mario game had a different graphical style than the previous one and also played a lot different. Games now aren’t about progress and actually seem to be regressing. The challenge, the ingenuity all seem to be lost in the process of making the game look good so it’s marketable. Insomniac could have done something comparable to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. days but fell short with this third installment of their Ratchet and Clank series.

Story – 6/10

The only successful story in the Ratchet and Clank series came from the original game, sadly. The original game featured a villain so business-like in his evil schemes that he reports to the galaxy his intentions of taking chunks from planets to make his own perfect planet as though he would be doing a good thing for everybody, when in fact he will only be doing good for himself. Ratchet and Clank in the original game weren’t as boring as they are now. Ratchet had a strong urge to party or race instead of save the galaxy at times, and Clank was so focused on the mission that he was blind to treachery at one point. Not to mention, Clank’s nerdiness and ignorance to culture made for some entertaining cutscenes. It also introduced the series’ funniest character in Captain Quark (who, thankfully, plays a large role in the third game). Going Commando, while a better game overall than the original, failed to create a compelling, or even funny story, because it lacked a villain. At this point in the series, I realized neither Ratchet nor Clank make the games funny, but the villains do. Up Your Arsenal brings a new villain who gets so worked up his frequency changes and he picks up radio transmissions in the middle of an outraged cry. He’s so intent on turning everyone into robots he’s insane – yeah, nothing special. He has a butler who makes dry remarks in his monotone voice, so dry and monotone that the humor is lost. Quark makes a comeback, though, and the few scenes he’s in he’s put to good use. Quark is funny because he’s so arrogant he doesn’t realize his own incompetence. When Ratchet and Clank come back from a mission, Quark says “Congratulations should be in order,” – meaning, of course, to himself because his plan worked. The game focuses so little on the story or any of the characters that the gamer doesn’t know why they are traveling from one planet to the next, nor does the gamer get to know any of the characters. Some of you may be saying, “Well, this is an action game, I don’t care about the story. I only care about the gameplay.” Everyone says that, and I think a good story in any game is very nice. Not too mention, if the gameplay is subpar the gamer needs something to entertain him/her.

Gameplay – 7/10

The original Ratchet and Clank stood out because it mixed two popular genres – shooter and platformer – and made something original and fun. It provided creative weapons and challenging gameplay. In my opinion, the weapons get better and better as the series goes on, but the challenge becomes less and less. I enjoy Up Your Arsenal’s weapons better than the previous two games’ weapons, but find the game much easier. Going Commando made an evolutionary jump in the series by adding a new genre – RPG. You gained experience with each kill, gaining a new hit point; while weapons, over time, grew to a new, more powerful form. Up Your Arsenal does the same thing as Going Commando, but more. The weapons have more upgrades, health can be upgraded further. The only thing more upgrades do is make the upgrades in the previous game that much more precious and rewarding. In Up Your Arsenal, playing through the second play through, Ratchet can have up to two hundred health and each weapon can become level eight. Only the level five upgrades pose any interest, though, adding a neat new feature to the gun or even changing it into something better. All the level ups in between make no difference, except for damage and sometimes ammo. I do have to admit though, that some of the guns in Up Your Arsenal are unmatched by those in the previous games. The Quack-o-Ray, for example, which turns enemies into ducks, becomes the most destructive gun of the series once the ducks start lying explosive eggs and creating a bomb field for enemies running through it. The Rift Inducer, one of the series’ coolest weapons, creates miniature black holes which suck enemies into them. Some people have bragged about the Infector, a gun which can make enemies attack each other, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should – it either doesn’t last very long or kills the infected enemy before they do any damage. Well, I guess I’ll get into other aspects of the game.

Insomniac has always added a little variety into the Ratchet and Clank series, although they like to keep mainly to the shooting focus of the game. I won’t complain, especially since the other portions of the game are considerably weaker than the shooting sections. I don’t think, though, that Insomniac realized the potential for the Clank sections in the previous two games. The sections designed for Clank were fun and original – a nice diversion from the running and gunning, but not used enough or to their fullest. Up Your Arsenal skewers Clank’s sections by making them ridiculously easy, short, and rare. A toddler could figure them out, and they don’t get progressively harder. Insomniac pretty much holds your hand through these sections without making it seem like they’re holding your hand. They don’t tell you with words where to go and what to do, but the solution is so obvious anyway and the path so linear that these sections are completely pointless. Insomniac only added them to make fans happy – I’m a fan and I’m not happy. A few other diversions in the game include the Qwark vidcomic mini-games that have you running around as Qwark in a side-scrolling platformer. These games are entertaining for a little bit, not spectacular, and not worth playing multiple times. Up Your Arsenal’s new puzzle – used to unlock doors and such – is better than Going Commando’s two puzzle games (one of which had so much onscreen it could only be completed by memory, and the other was a guess and check, also relying on memory). While difficult to explain the puzzle, it relies more on skill than memory, but sometimes throws so much at the screen it becomes overwhelming. I will admit to having fun for a good amount of time in this game, so it’s not a waste of money, it’s just not as good as the previous two games, despite what critics say. They only like it so much because of the online aspect, which they fail to realize very few console gamers care about.

Graphics – 7/10

Like the Jak and Daxter series, the graphics look the same as before, they’re just growing, well, tired. Up Your Arsenal looks the same as Going Commando, which looks better than the original, but overall all three games look similar. It’s difficult to enjoy the graphics when Insomniac decides not to do anything interesting with them. A couple of things do stand out, though. The plasma whip is very cool. While using that as a weapon, that’s what you’ll be looking at as opposed to anything else. It stands out in the game because it looks like what it’s trying to be – a magma whip – as opposed to a series of polygons put together to look like a robot or a brick wall, or something. Upgrading the whip to level five only makes it look more impressive. One of the game’s levels, too, has an interesting look. It has all sorts of neon colors not present anywhere else in the game – pinks, purples, and some whites. The level has no floor or ceiling and allows Ratchet to run all around, creating a psychedelic trip.

Sound – 8/10

As usual in the series, the voice acting is well done and some voices do a good job of adding character and humor to the characters. Weapons have appropriate noises, from the explosions to the sizzling crack of the plasma whip. The sound works without adding very much to the experience of the game.

Longevity – 9/10

The first play through may total about 15 hours, but the game warrants a second play through, just like in the previous two games. The second play through is a breeze and upgrading weapons to level eight takes hardly any time, so you’re not very likely going to spend 30 hours with the game. Compared to Going Commando’s 60 hours I played with it, this is miniscule, but that doesn’t matter, not everyone, including myself, likes to play 50 hour games all the time. Online might add some more replay value, unless you, like me, are sick of the same old deathmatch games. This game is worth playing, especially for fans of the series who might enjoy seeing some of their favorite characters from the previous two games team up. These same fans might also hope for something more from the upcoming Ratchet: Deadlocked game than the same old, same old.

Score – 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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