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?
(continued from previous page) ...first. In fact, the original game is another beast entirely, as many of the Ratchet & Clank staples we've come to love weren't introduced until Going Commando. No strafing, no weapon upgrades, and limited mini-games make Ratchet & Clank feel especially dated, but for all that it lacks, excellent level design, beautiful art direction, and the nostalgic origins of our heroes make the experience worthwhile. Chances are you'll get much more playtime out of Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal, but Ratchet & Clank is still a surprisingly fun jaunt 10 years later.
Much of the games are exactly how I remember. Going Commando is the hardest of the three, but hits a home run with excellent side attractions. Up Your Arsenal is tremendously deep and moves the overarching plot in a satisfyingly epic direction. Ratchet & Clank has uneven pacing, but represents the series' truest platforming presence. All of the original content that I loved is preserved: catchy music, gorgeous cartoon visuals, and pitch-perfect humor that ranges from slapstick to not-so-subtly sexual. What's here is undeniably awesome, but technical losses in translation muddy an otherwise exceptional product.
Maybe it's because I'm a diehard Ratchet & Clank fan, one who has lost countless childhood hours to playing and replaying and replaying all three games. Maybe it's because I'm a nostalgia junkie with an unyielding desire for perfect preservation. Maybe you won't notice that each game's trophy logo is a carryover from the differently-named European versions, or that All 4 One artwork inextricably adorns the game's entrance menu, or that framerate problems are more prevalent here than they were in the original releases. The aspect ratio of certain cutscenes breaks from widescreen and shifts to 4:3. Ratchet's Nanotech health meter and HUD are somewhat noticeably lower-res than the rest of each game's visual display. The cumulative impression is one of laziness.
The purist in me wants all of these quirks to be remedied because Ratchet & Clank is (and continues to be) undeniable PlayStation history - this trilogy deserves impeccable preservation. Of course, I understand that these issues won't bother some of you. What WILL bother most of you is the fact that starting a Challenge Mode playthrough will automatically overwrite your save at the first opportunity. You can't revisit your old adventure for collectables, or travel back to your favorite planets to earn Trophies - you start the journey from scratch. It's the only feature that's well-and-truly stripped from the original games and a maddening oversight. And while we're on the topic of stripped content, where's Ratchet: Deadlocked? The fourth game in the series was divisive among fans, but as a fellow PS2 installment, this collection seems just a bit lacking without it - especially since an HD version of Deadlocked is already confirmed and in development.
As Insomniac continues to explore means of innovation (All 4 One focused exclusively on co-op and Full Frontal Assault looks to be tinkering with tower defense), it's nice to go back and replay three absolute gems that defined PS2 platforming and left an indelible mark on PlayStation history. It's not a perfect restoration - odd design choices and framerate drops mar the experience - but a fantastic amount of literal bang for your buck awaits in a trilogy that is still one hell of a lot of fun. You certainly won't regret your purchase, but you might wish that Ratchet and Clank were treated just a little better in their epic return.
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