Ratchet and Clank has always been one of my favorite series for the Playstation. In every game, there is an incredible array of weaponry, a number of vehicle sections that aren’t TOO hideously painful, and enough varied platforming and environments to keep the experience fun and interesting. For those of you who value story, we’ll put it gently and say that Ratchet and Clank is not known for its twisted plot lines. These games have always been dependent on the personalities of the characters to move the story along with very little content to the plot. The most fun part and, as far as I know, unique to the series is weapons that evolve and eventually mutate as you use them. I’m just going to come straight out and say it, that fucking kicks ass.
The HD collection of the first three Ratchet and Clank games for the PS2 is a good way to get an introduction to the series for people who missed out on the PS2 era or who would like to have a chance to play them again. I’m not gonna lie, HD collections are always a little difficult for me to embrace partially because I think the original art and graphic style lends character to the original, and partially because I still have trouble accepting the fact that the Playstation 2 was released 12 years ago. No seriously, the following conversation has happened more than once:
“Why are they making a collectors edition? The game just came out!”
“It came out 5 years ago dumbass...”
This remake of Ratchet and Clank plays exactly the same as the older games, warts and all. While the in-game content has been upgraded with more detailed sky boxes, better textures and crisper images, the cut scenes have been left largely untouched. There is a small degree of sloppiness to the visuals - seams and glitches like disappearing eyeballs are occasionally visible and I did notice that the sky boxes were reused - but it’s not enough to be break the game or be particularly distracting. Trophies have been added into the mix as well which just about brings the entire experience up to speed for the current generation.
The evolution of Ratchet and Clank over the three PS2 titles could be given as an example of the best use of fan-feedback. A comparison between the first and second games shows a rather striking level of maturation including improvement of the auto-aim, the combat and even the characters. The games allow for a variety of play styles - anything from running in guns a’ blazing to sniping from afar, and there are a decent number of guns to keep your options open. For example, the RYNO (Rip ‘Ya a New One) is the most powerful gun in the game but requires hours to grind up the necessary bolts for purchase. Acquiring the RYNO is in no way required, but having it can change the final boss fight from difficult to piss-easy. Whether you want to win using skill or superior firepower is left entirely up to you.
We start out the first game with some finicky auto-aiming and no ability to strafe which is a pretty shitty combination for a third person action/shooter/platformer. Additionally, the game doesn’t pause when you go into the quick select menu and while the guns in this version upgrade with use, they do so only once and any further upgrades (really just an increase in damage) must be purchased with gold bolts. The plot in this game introduces the main characters, how they came together and how they’re saving the world (you ain’t gonna find any Pulitzer Prize writing in these games). Ratchet’s character in this version is a skater. He is capable but not very responsible or interested in saving the galaxy (and with no strafe feature I can’t fuckin’ blame him) until a threat to his own world forces his hand.
By the second game Ratchet has learned the joys of stardom and is eager to reclaim his superhero status, this time in another galaxy. The combat in this game is more polished, the game now pauses when you enter the quick select menu (thank GOD) and the guns upgrade with a satisfying regularity. While the camera and targeting still feels a bit finicky, the addition of a strafe feature allows the player to do the necessary acrobatics to survive the incredible bullet hell they start putting you through. Ratchet in this edition, has gone through rigorous training (including ballroom dancing and origami apparently) so he takes on a rather military-like mentality of trusting the chain-of-command even if that may not always been the best idea.
The third game is my favorite in the series. The characters are now well developed - Ratchet the brawn, Clank the brains, Dr. Nefarious the slightly effeminate arch villian and Captain Qwark as the self absorbed dumbass you love to hate. There are three modes in this version for your camera including first person and the strafing and auto-aiming has been polished to a mirror shine. You can now swing that camera around as fast and as merrily as you like all the while leaping and diving about like a frog on methamphetamines. This game is absolute hell to watch because between the bullets whizzing by, the wildly swinging camera and the leaping and diving around, your buddy on the couch will immediately lose track of what is going on and probably become motion sick. For the player though, this level of control over the camera is an incredible boon and absolutely vital during those aforementioned bullet hell moments.
Three PS3 games for $30 ain't bad and they're good games in my opinion. As an added bonus, I have yet to see the game update itself. For the PS3, that is a super ultra mega thumbs up.