The Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1, 2-4 multiplayer
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Released in time to celebrate the original game’s tenth anniversary, this excellent collection is Sony’s latest HD update in a long line of the PS2’s finest offerings. I played the games at the time and look back on them with a great deal of nostalgia. I was fully expecting my rose tinted specs to be shattered. How wrong I was.

Firstly, it should probably be said that if you’re new to the series then the first three games play pretty much like one very long game. It’s all about exploring the various planets, bashing (with Ratchet’s trusty Omniwrench) and shooting enemies. Ratchet gets some legendary over-powered and comedy weapons and gadgets to play with along the way, and there are plenty of puzzles and arena battles too. Throughout the series, the duo will frequently encounter a character named Captain Qwark, an ego-driven, vain and completely deluded superhero (he could be related to Zapp Branigan from Futurama or Stan Smith from American Dad) that may help or hinder Ratchet and Clank's missions somehow along the way. Whatever victories Ratchet & Clank achieve, Qwark always seems to take the credit.

You collect bolts (the game’s currency which allows you to buy upgrades for all your weapons) by killing enemies and smashing objects all the way. It’s difficult to explain just how addictive smashing items and collecting bolts becomes and I found myself smashing things to collect bolts long after I actually needed them.

There really wasn’t anything broken to fix with Ratchet & Clank, so for the second (Going Commando) and third (Up Your Arsenal) games little changed, apart from some slight improvements with the graphics and tweaking of the menus, selections screens and icons.

Ratchet rescues a broken Clank and from then on the two are virtually inseparable friends. Ratchet is a Lombax, a kind of bipedal anthropomorphic cat-type thing. Clank is a small silver robot with the ability to interface with almost anything electronic, and spends most of his time riding around strapped to Ratchet’s back.

From the off the Ratchet & Clank games played well, although I did have to fiddle with the preferences slightly in order to make the controls feel more like current third person shooters. Ratchet is the energetic and agile main protagonist (you’ll be amazed how much incoming enemy fire you can avoid with a swift sideways somersault), although Clank does get to star in his own sections later on. The mixture of platform adventure, shooting action and on-foot and vehicular fighting and exploring works superbly, and the three games get the mix just right.

Ratchet & Clank 3: (Up Your Arsenal) Multiplayer.
R&C3 introduced a multiplayer mode for the first time, a thing that would virtually become a fixture in future games. The multiplayer game is all about capturing nodes which allow you to spawn new drones, weapons and vehicles, which will help you destroy the other team’s defensive turrets and AI drones, so you can eventually enter their base and destroy its power core, thus winning the game. It can be played split-screen or online with 2-4 players, and the matchmaking seems to work pretty well. The one big problem with the basic game with no time limit set is that it can go on for AGES, it’s quite difficult (particularly if you’re new to the game) to even take control of one node, as they are protected by extremely aggressive and accurate neutral drones and defensive turrets. Combine this with the fact that your opponents may be attacking you as well and a battle for a single node can go on indefinitely. Die and you respawn either at your base or your nearest node (if you control any), and any weapons you collected are lost, all you’ll have is the basic N60 Storm rifle, which wouldn’t even scare cowardly Captain Qwark. The weapons are set to their basic power levels and you constantly have to look for ammo, so destroying anything at all-whether enemy player or AI drone-is quite a tough thing to achieve (i.e. a direct hit with a gravity bomb, which is an extremely powerful multi-target area clearing weapon in the solo game won’t destroy an AI drone, it takes TWO), and it kind of spoils the game as achieving anything is such a slog. Fortunately you can put a time limit on games (our practice game lasted an hour and six minutes!) and there are simpler to play deathmatch and capture the flag games as well, both which have more definite and easier to attain goals.

If, like many gamers these days, you’re looking for a game that’ll last you for more than the 5 or 6 hours that now seems to be the acceptable norm, then the almost unbelievable 65, 57 and 54 hours respectively I spent on the three games (I was determined to get 100% on all three) indicate that if you stick with them then you’ll certainly get more than your money’s worth in terms of lifespan.

The only grumbles I’d have here are that the "remastering" (by both original developers Insomniac Games and Idol Minds) doesn't actually seem to have been done that well to me; cut-scenes that were originally obviously displayed in 4:3 aspect ratio are still in a "square box" format and now even seem squished vertically (which makes no sense whatsoever, and a few glaring, if insignificant and difficult-to-fix bugs from the orignal games were never addressed, The other thing is that Insomniac seem to expect you to play their games through at least two times in order to unlock and see everything—which may have been acceptable back in 2002 but seems a bit much by today’s standards. Fortunately the gameplay is inexplicably addictive and now rewards you with PS3 trophies regularly, so replaying the games through a second time fully powered-up with enhanced weapons is both a pleasure and a breeze—even boss and arena battles that may have had you sweating the first time around.

The Ratchet & Clank games are always beautifully presented and details like a cut-scene showing Ratchet’s ships zooming to the next planet that masks the loading time show a level of thought not displayed by many designers. The R&C series has maintained a high standard, and it's great to be able to play the three games that started it all off in high definition.

Best Bits

- Three classic games for less than the price of one new one.
- That R&C addictive gameplay.
- Probably 100 hours-plus gameplay!
- Fun, but flawed multiplayer mode is a bonus.
Worst Bits

- Sometimes unfriendly camera.
- Could cause relationship problems and lose you weeks of your life.

by: Mal Function

Copyright © Gamecell 2013