Ratchet & Clank Collection Review
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The remarkable gameplay of Ratchet and Clank's first three adventures holds up in this great HD package, but don't expect a pitch-perfect port.
- Tremendous gameplay that plays like a dream despite subsequent years of refinement
- Addictive leveling and RPG elements that hook you for hours
- A nostalgic refresher on the history of PlayStation platforming and how far we've come since
- The feeling of design laziness that crops up when high-def elements don't blend seamlessly
- Online multiplayer is appreciated, but totally forgettable
- Where's Deadlocked HD?
For a 10-year-old Lombax, Ratchet sure gets a lot of love. Insomniac Games has kept up with nearly annual releases of the Ratchet & Clank franchise since the series debuted in 2002, and with a couple exceptions, the adventures of Ratchet and his robot pal have grown progressively more awesome with each installment. Still, many PlayStation veterans hold fond memories of the original trilogy on PlayStation 2. With that in mind, Insomniac (alongside developer Idol Minds) has seen fit to release Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal in full 1080p glory as the next in a growing line of PS3 HD collections. And while technical issues and strange design oversights add sour taste to this three-course meal, the flavor has by-and-large stood the test of time. You'll devour these games like it's 2004, and remember why Ratchet and Clank captured your heart in the first place.
First, let's take a look at what's new and noteworthy with this collection. All three games are presented in 1080p high definition (if you choose), stereoscopic 3D (if you dare), and offer full Trophy sets (if you care). Upon booting up the collection, you can freely select which game you want to play from a menu that is - oddly enough - adorned with artwork from Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. Changing games requires quitting to the XMB, but that's typical for collections of this sort. What's not typical is the inclusion of online multiplayer, which was introduced in Up Your Arsenal and is now fully integrated with PlayStation Network. Well, sort of. You'll still have to create an in-game profile with the name of your choice, and it's impossible to hook up with PSN friends directly - their in-game profiles have to be added as "Buddies".
The fact that online multiplayer was included for this collection is remarkable and should be applauded, but eight years later, it simply doesn't play well. At all. Single-player tactics of strafing and flipping to avoid enemy fire are your only real defense, and the image of two player characters using the same avoidance strategy against each other is laughable, especially when hardly any shots are connecting. Team Deathmatch is essentially a frantic weapons-grab, but you might find a bit more fun with Capture the Flag and Siege. On the whole, multiplayer is far from the main attraction; I appreciate that it's there, but I forgot about it in minutes.
Such is not the case with the games themselves, which hold up remarkably well despite years of innovation and gameplay additions since. Each game boils down to a roughly similar formula: you'll travel from planet to planet in a mostly linear fashion, hunting down quest objectives, new weapons, and rare items as you go. Almost everything you find is brimming with variety. Gadgets like the Hydrodisplacer and Dynamo allow you to manipulate the environment in clever ways, while traversal devices like the Swingshot and Gravity Boots add spice to impeccable level design and platforming. Certain items are optional, and thorough exploration tends to reward the player with a funny cutscene or useful new abilities.
Of course, any Ratchet fan knows that these elements take a backseat to weapons. Revisiting these classic tools of destruction is both a nostalgic blast from the past and a breath of fresh air that showcases just how creative and forward thinking the folks at Insomniac can be. Everything from the Visibomb Gun to the Rift Inducer has its place, and the satisfaction of utterly destroying enemies both robotic and organic with the *CRACKLE POP* of the Bouncer or the *FSHINNG!* of Chopper stars never, ever gets old. It's a good thing, too, because the weapon-leveling and RPG upgrades of Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal will keep you playing and shooting for dozens of hours apiece. The latter ups the ante considerably, giving each weapon five levels of destructive power, functions, and mods. That's BEFORE Challenge Mode kicks in, which nets you extra experience, bolts, and weapon upgrades in a New Game Plus with significantly harder enemies.
Challenge Mode is present for all three installments, but with only a few extra weapons to buy and no difficulty increase, it feels rather empty in the first. In fact, ... (continued on next page) ----
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