Ratchet & Clank
12 April 2016
Ratchet & Clank was first released in 2002 for the PS2. Ever since then, there’s 2 sequels and a spin-off on the PS2, two PSP games, two mainline games on the PS3, two downloadable releases, and two spin-offs. That’s.. 12 different titles overall. They’ve been around a lot, being mostly a 3D platformer and a decent third-person shooter.
Ratchet & Clank’s debut on the PS4 is an interesting one, as it is a reimagining (or what we clumsily referred to as a reboot and a remake) which happens to be a movie tie-in. But do fans of the series would enjoy another retread of the original story? Would newer fans who missed the original PS2 title can enjoy the title that was missing a lot of great features introduced in the later series? In a word: Yes.
Graphics & Sound
With its legacy as a 1st-party game, Ratchet & Clank games are always a looker, and this 2016 reimagining has greatly increased in visual fidelity. Image distortion from heat waves, plenty of flares and soft lighting. Huge colourful explosions. All of this at a cost of running in 30fps.
It shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, but since the series usually maintains a stable 60fps on their mainline console games only dipping slightly when the action gets too heavy, it’s worth noting. However, that 30 fps count is mostly a stable one, even when there are many enemies on screen.
A good compromise, as Ratchet & Clank 2016 features a denser count of enemies per area, making the shooting bits even more satisfying and engaging. Even the bolts you collect looks spectacular as it draws into you. Plus, it fits in better with the movies CGIs that it sometimes used for cutscenes. This is a movie tie-in after all.
On the sound front however, it feels very hectic. Too hectic. Many levels use an announcer of some sort to give you context and narration. Ratchet & Clank themselves quip in many sorts of situations, such as when you’re out of ammo, low on health, and location sensitive ones. Unfortunately some are triggered every time you reached the location, alerting you of enemies despite the room being cleared already. Add another layer of narrative by loveable jerk hero Captain Qwark on top and it’s just messy.
The sound effects are punchy as it should, and the background music is a different one this time around. Plenty of orchestral sounds with a hint of dubstep, but most of them fit well with the tone the game’s going for. I personally love the orchestral jingle as you found a hidden collectible. Very memorable, that one.
You control Ratchet, a Lombax who works in a garage hoping to be a hero like his idol Captain Qwark. One day he found Clank, a defect robot who has the knowledge of an evil scheme by Chairman Drek that threatens the galaxy. The duo teamed up and explore the galaxy as they try and stop him.
To tie-in with the movie, the plot has undergone some tweaks and minor characthers have changed. Captain Qwark is part of the Galactic Rangers, a team of heroes which Ratchet aspires to be part of. Dr. Nefarious, a villain only introduced in the third entry of the series, also makes an appearance in the flesh. Literally.
On the point of the story, I don’t believe this is a better retelling of the original story. It’s just a bit different. Some parts of the story are delivered with clips of the movie before smoothly transitioning to the game. One particular part, however, the game’s story and the clips used for cutscenes feel very disjointed. All I can say is it involves that defining moment about Captain Qwark- fans who are waiting for the moment to happen will feel confused and then underwhelmed. That one sore spot made me enjoy the story less. Plus, some of the in-game cutscenes have a lack of animation- some are just idle stances.
However, the story moments are not why you’re playing Ratchet & Clank. So these are all small issues.
If you’ve played any of the recent Ratchet & Clank titles, then it’s going to be a hard time playing the original 2002 release. There’s no weapon upgrades, health upgrades are very rare, complicated button presses to dash and throw the wrench, and most importantly: no strafing. Developers Insomniac didn’t want to do another remaster so they have carried over many of the innovations that made the series such a blast to play into this reimagining. All the features mentioned make a return.
Level design is of the linear variety, with some branching paths for optional objectives. The levels are tight, some follow really closely to the original- at least what I can remember of it- while some get a complete makeover. Planet Gaspar, for instance, is now the one open-ended level with an optional objective to collect stuff. Just don’t search too hard on each nook and cranny. There are odd glitches due to areas that Ratchet can explore aren’t mapped properly to the level’s geometry, which will cause you to get stuck in invisible walls a lot.
The main draw of the series, the shooting, is on point as expected. Enemy count is now denser and all have different varieties of attack to deal with. Some even fight each other. The weapon selection this time uses mostly weapons that had appeared in previous games instead of strictly using the weapons that appeared in the original game. Some do make the cut- the Glove of Doom makes a surprise return. Sadly some brilliant weapons from the original like the Suck Cannon is not seen here.
However, some reappear as a different version of the same weapon archetype. The original’s Blaster is replaced with the Combustor, and the Decoy Glove is replaced with the Groovitron- which makes enemies (including bosses), NPCs, even the weapons vendor dancing to the groove. The weapons don’t have much variety compared to other games of the series (but still a good selction) , and the only new weapon is the Pixelizer, which is a shotgun that changes enemies into 2D sprite-like voxels.
To break up the pace, Ratchet & Clank has some moments where the gadgets take a limelight. While most of them make a return, not all of them are used to their potential for clever puzzles. The Grindboots and Magneboots sequences are fun, the Trespasser’s puzzle are okay until the last two obligatory ones, but the Slingshot and Hydrodisplacer are just.. there. I feel like the original title played around more with the nifty gadgets. But then after the second title and beyond, it was never a focus. So that’s why it gets underplayed.
Sequences where you control Clank do make a return at the right places, but again, puzzles are not as inventive but a good diversion nonetheless. The puzzles are brand new, and there’s also the running-toward-the-camera sections that reminded me of the old-school Crash Bandicoot experience.
There’s also ship combat in the game, and it is not as good as previous titles that included one. These are all mandatory and appears in the story but it doesn’t feel as fun as it should be. Hoverboard races are difficult as in the original. Expect to repeat a lot of them if you’re gunning to win the Gold Cup.
Basically, the other stuff you do outside of shooting isn’t the best thing in the game, but gets the job done in providing different experiences to keep the shooting from getting stale, and provides a nice pace of gameplay variety.
Content & Longevity
One playthrough of Ratchet & Clank 2016 should take about 10 hours to complete, a bit more if you’re compelled to get the collectibles first time around. Once that’s done then the game keeps on giving with New Game+: Challenge Mode. Ever present since the original title, Challenge Mode allow you to play the whole game again with all weapons and gadgets carried over and the ability to buy Omega versions of the weapons allowing an additional 5 levels of upgrades. Enemies are tougher and you now have a bolt multiplier for each enemy defeated but resets after a hit.
These Omega weapons need to be unlocked first by collecting Holocards. These sets of trading cards come in randomly as you collect it. Completing sets of cards will net you some bonuses, and weapons sets unlock the Omega version for Challenge Mode. Plus, there’s a rarer set of cards needed to collect to get this game’s version of the RYNO, a very expensive and totally overpowered weapon.
Aside from Holocards, you can collect gold bolts hidden around the levels that will unlock cheats and some extras. Skill points are gone, but those hidden feats now make up some of the hidden trophies. Then there’s the classic Insomniac Museum to visit for some cool tidbits of the game’s development.
In short, everything you expected from a Ratchet & Clank game is here, but you won’t be spending hundreds of hours in this budget title.
Verdict: Ratchet & Clank 2016
Ratchet & Clank 2016 is a blast from the past. It captures the right moment from the original while remixing others to make the modern rendition much more palatable in this day of age. The new retelling of the story is not anything groundbreaking and feels okay. However, the spectacle of exploring beautiful worlds, shooting enemies, smashing crates and messing around with the gadgets are a fun ride even today. Puzzles have been reduced in favour of more exhilarating shooting, and you can spot more glitches if you go search too hard. The voice acting is okay, but can be too much of a good thing.
Despite all that, I enjoyed Ratchet & Clank. I find it hard to put down until the game ends. If you’re a fan of the original Ratchet & Clank, it’s worth a revisit. If you’ve missed the boat, now’s the time to hop in. If you’re looking for a light-hearted shooter that also plays like a 3D platformer of the yesteryears, this is the game to get.
Review is based on the retail physical copy, purchased by a Gamer Malaya crew
The tone of 2002 original, now with improvements of later titles
Graphics are spectacular despite being 30fps
Overall pacing is just nice, with enough diversions and activities
Shooting feels solid, impactful and fun
Glitches are apparent if you explore too hard at each nook and cranny
Weapon options are not as varied and missing some classics
Puzzles and gadgets get underplayed a lot compared to the original game
Story isn't as good as it should be