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Review: Ratchet&Clank 3

Posted Dec-14 2007 by ron, created under common review policies
For Playstation 2, optional widescreen support, has issues on PS3

For PS3 owners from all walks of life, Ratchet&Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction is not merely the only option to dip their toes into the series, due to as of yet unresolved backwards-compatibility issues with the earlier installments, but it's also a good option. ToD is fun, funny, varied, satisfying to play and stunning to observe, and if you have skipped it so far despite having the means to play it, no matter what genres you usually gravitate towards, there can be no excuse to prolong its absence from your life any further.
However, the PS2 itself is still alive, and that means we can still take a look at some of its best games from time to time. If those are the same games that formed the foundation for our current darlings, it's all the better.

The characters Ratchet and Clank

Ratchet (official job description: unemployed rocket mechanic) and his robotic side-kick Clank, gathering intelligence on their perpetual quest to improve life in the galaxy, one evil genius's invasion plan at a time.

All Ratchet&Clank games are third-person shooters with a sprinkling of platforming, but the cartoony sci-fi setting opens up tons of possibilities far beyond the warzone grit, featuring one or two alien races and fifteen different brands of assault rifles, that is usually evoked by the term "shooter". It's more of a sci-fi cartoon, a fresh start in its own unencumbered universe. As a result, no other game series matches the sheer amount and variety of weapons in Ratchet&Clank, ranging from a more traditional guns such as laser cannons, grenade launchers and shotguns over plasma whips, blade guns and deployable turrets to really unusual means of offense. Ratchet&Clank 3 features devieces such as the suck cannon, that allows you to vacuum in smaller enemies and fire them right back at larger enemies, or the bouncer, a kind of mortar that fires wads of smaller mines that then start bouncing around the original place of impact, homing in on enemies.

All of the weapons can further be upgraded simply through use, in a mildly RPG-like fashion, where the effects of a new weapon level are not exclusively firepower upgrades, but more often than not new effects, such as acid-coated rounds that make the shot deal more damage for a while after the actual hit, improved lock-on capability, or the shock mod that makes lightning bolts spring out from the first target to zap any nearby enemies.
Acquiring and upgrading your next, even crazier gun is very rewarding, and the game somewhat enforces experimentation by keeping the player always a bit short on ammo for any singular weapon. Weapon switching works just like it does in Resistance: Fall Of Man: you press triangle to pull up a small circular menu, and select your weapon from there with the analog stick. As long as the menu is up, the action is paused. The weapons that appear in this menu can be customized, and indeed there is a second ring that can be toggled, so up to sixteen different weapons or gadgets are in immediate reach during gameplay.

Ratchet blasts three robots at once with the Spitting Hydra gun

The Ratchet&Clank series has always put a strong focus on combat, and delivers what must be the most varied arsenal of weapons in any game series ever. This electricity-based weapon that locks on to multiple targets at once and then goes to fry them simultaneously is still one of the more conservative designs.

The controls are flexible and effective. Players can rotate the camera around, and strafe and lock on to enemies in the middle of view if they so wish, but Ratchet can also be moved freely and just shoot in his own forward direction at will. Plus there's a way to enter a first-person mode, which is the most useful for dedicated sniping weapons, but is available whenever you want to, irrespective of what you're wielding. Frugal players can also conserve ammo and just swing (or throw) Ratchet's trusty wrench.
Ratchet has no lack of agility. He can perform double-jumps, back-flips, special long and high jumps, and as long as he "wears" Clank as a back-pack, he can also slow down his falls and glide around by popping a rotor out of Clank's head. Over the course of Ratchet&Clank 3 he will also acquire the means to swing around on grapple points and create platforms in predetermined places. The most impressive movement ability though is a pair of magnetic shoes that allows Ratchet to walk up walls and ceilings in ways that make you forget what exactly the ceiling is to begin with. So there are a lot of elements to build platforming challenges on, and sure enough, they all get used in the game in ever more complex mixes. That is the second half of Ratchet&Clank's identity.

Ratchet blasts three robots at once with the Spitting Hydra gun

Ratchet&Clank 3, like its predecessor, features a couple of very small planets. They are so small that you can see an entire hemisphere if you hop into the right place. Navigating platforms at any height above these "spherical worlds" (which is a nonsense moniker, because it's their size, not their shape, that sets them apart) is a pretty mind-bending experience.

The other good thing about the sci-fi setting is that you will have access to a small fighter space craft virtually all the time, and this not just allows you to go back to optional stuff you skipped earlier, but is also instrumental to the structure and variety of the main game. While you're fighting and investigating what's going on in the galaxy, you will be hopping from planet to planet, which makes the rather drastic changes in the environments seem completely plausible. Individual planets are bite-sized chunks of gameplay and story, with maybe twenty to thirty minutes of focused play to perform your main-story duties. So the game moves along at a constant pace, it never takes long to get to somewhere new and do something that feels different.

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