You are walking down a dark alley in the city. Lost and trying to find a way home, your attention is arrested by a nondescript wooden door. A barely legible sign seems to read, “Hypeway.” Your curiosity aroused, you open the door. Warm light and soft music pours out, as though the universe is trying to equalize some sort of pressure. Your eyes adjust to the brightness as you enter and you spy an elegant looking bar. A familiar looking bartender with aviator glasses stands in front of an army of bottles – positioned rank and file like old soldiers.
He stops polishing the pint glass in his hand to wave you over to the bar – a plush stool inviting you to sit. You take a seat and your eyes fall to the counter top. In its polished depths you see old warriors and famous poets staring back at you. After a moment transfixed, the sound of glass on wood draws your eyes to your new companion – a shot glass filled with glowing amber fluid.
You know what this is. A mystical tincture said to turn cowards into heroes, boys into men, and men into GODS: LIQUID HYPE.
Ratchet & Clank
Good lord is this a series near and dear to my heart. Published by Insomniac Games and available exclusively on Sony platforms, Ratchet and Clank spans 12 games (including spin-offs and smaller titles) with the thirteenth (and 7th full length) game having been recently announced and a MOVIE on the way as well. The first three titles were also recently re-released in upscaled HD for the Playstation 3.
Ratchet & Clank’s Story
The games center around the two titular characters: Ratchet, a fuzzy Lombax mechanic who is the last of his kind, and Clank, a small robotic companion with a past shrouded in mystery. As the games progress, these two quickly forge a strong friendship that sees them through numerous calamities. But while the focus is on these two, the games really shine in the cast of supporting characters. From Captain Quark (a complete sell-out failure of a space hero) to Dr. Nefarious (an evil, crazed robot who randomly picks up soap-opera transmissions), Ratchet and Clank share the spotlight with plenty of endearing and returning characters.
There are two distinct arcs the series contains. I call them the Hero Arc and the Future Arc. The Hero Arc spans the first three games (Ratchet and Clank, Going Commando, and Up Your Arsenal) and covers our heroes’ rise from nobodies to galactic saviors. Deadlocked (game 4) serves to take our characters out of their comfort zone and starts changing the tone.
The Future Arc starts with Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, continues in A Crack In Time and looks like it will end with Into The Nexus (which has yet to be released). This arc deals with both Ratchet and Clank exploring their individual destinies; A Crack In Time actually has the two separated for most of the game! Ratchet works to uncover the secret of what happened to his species (and to where they disappeared) while Clank discovers the circumstance and purpose of his creation.
But enough about story. You want to know about gameplay, right?
These games are about two things:
- a fetishistic approach to collecting Bolts (the standard currency)
- OVERWHELMING FIREPOWER.
I guess technically you could say they’re third-person platformer/shooters, but let’s get back to the firepower. Every game has its share of overpowered weapons of mass carnage – the two reliable standbys being Ratchet’s wrench (which at one point gets infused with the power of a black hole) and some sort of gun that turns your enemies into livestock.
From there, the sky’s the limit. Basic blasters and shotguns give way to guns that open rips in space-time so that a giant tentacled horror (named Fred) may reach out and devour your foes. The weapons are what can really make or break the individual games and many players have either favorite weapons or favorite sets (my personal faves are the weapon set from Up Your Arsenal, which had five stages of growth eventually becoming OMEGA weapons).
My per-game breakdown is as follows (only counting the big games):
Ratchet & Clank (Original)
Good game, very dated graphics and lacks the tight controls of later entries. Weapons are decent, but not as crazy as later games. What’s really important is that it sets up everything. I had forgotten how much of a douche Ratchet was at the start of the series, so it’s good to see where he goes from there and how he grows.
This is the game Insomniac really started playing around with, and it shows. The controls are much tighter, and the weapons a bit crazier, but it has one big drawback: too many new mechanics. The space battles in particular are not handled well.
Up Your Arsenal
Now we’re talking. My personal favorite, Up Your Arsenal is where everything comes together just right. They’ve cut down on the mechanics from Going Commando. The weapons feel good and chunky (and boy can you level them up), and the game is the first to feature leveling up health. There is a ton to do, and this is personally the first Ratchet and Clank game that I 100%ed (platinum status!).
Basically an expanded series of arena matches. Not a lot of people liked Deadlocked (at least that I’ve talked to) but it remains one of my top games. Everything feels nice and tight, just like Up Your Arsenal, but Deadlocked has some of the best dialogue in my opinion. Between your two robot allies and the announcers, there’s plenty of banter to go around, and the storyline features Ratchet coming back from the bottom and still being a hero in an environment that devours heroes.
Tools of Destruction
The first one on the PS3, ToD features absolutely gorgeous graphics. Still a good entry in the series, it feels a little looser than Up Your Arsenal and the weapons aren’t as impressive as some of the prior entries. The graphical upgrade makes up for it, though, as keeping a good frame rate and not having the jagged edges (JAGGIEZ!) were really necessary upgrades.
A Crack in Time
Probably the weakest of the series. Worked on by Insomniac’s B-Team, the biggest problem I have with ACT is the weapons; they just don’t feel satisfying. There are weapons you control with the six-axis control (which never really works). There is a rocket launcher that just feels…. Meh.
The second problem I have is the introduction of the Fongoids. These guys are basically the “Jar-Jar Binks” of Ratchet and Clank and annoy me endlessly. The storyline is good, and the graphics are phenomenal (especially the cutscenes, I swear some are Pixar-worthy). But the weak weapons and annoying aliens keeps it from being top-tier.
Basically, it’s an overall great series, and now is a good time to pick it up. Do you like humor, action, and gratuitous amounts of explosions?
Of course you do, you’re reading this article! Go try it out!