Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded - Review
A quick search of the word Ďinsomniací reveals it as ďexperiencing or accompanied by sleeplessnessĒ (courtesy dict.org). It appears as though over the last year since Ratchet & Clank was released, the guys and girls at Insomniac have been getting little sleep themselves, putting all their effort into Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded instead. After success with earlier 3D adventure games like the Spyro series on the PSOne, Ratchet & Clank painted the PS2 adventure genre with a humorous blend of enemy-killing and platform-jumping action. At the time however, small handful of problems made this game slightly pale in comparison to Jak & Daxter, which was released a little earlier. Since then the sleepless nights and grumpy mornings have paid off for Insomniac, with Ratchet & Clank 2 improving on the first game in all aspects.
|The heroes, destroying enemies.|
Ratchet & Clank 2 picks up the story of Ratchet & Clank, a year or so on from saving the galaxy from the evil Chairman Drek. Itís been several months since their last public appearance, and their hero tags are starting to wear off, with the future not looking too bright for the jobless duo. The CEO of Megacorp, Abercrombie Fizwidget, is watching the current televised interview of Ratchet and Clank (about their now not-so-exciting lives) and summons the pair to retrieve Megacorpís recently-stolen prized experiment.
And so the game beginsÖ Ratchet and Clank head off to the Bogon Galaxy to embark on a new adventure. Rather than just sticking to the traditional platformer gameplay involving exploring and killing, Ratchet & Clank 2 has racing, dogfights and spherical-levels being some of the many innovative levels. Being a progressive-styled platformer (where upgrades and new technologies are obtained throughout the game rather than all at the beginning), there are many levels where you can see alternate paths and bonuses without being able to reach them. So for example, you have to wait until you can walk up walls or jump large gaps before you can return to grab that precious platinum bolt thatís been sitting just out of reach. Given that there are 20 monstrous levels in the game, each with unique extras and skill challenges, you canít help but play them again and again.
|Time for some shooting.|
To add some depth to the standard adventure game mentality of collecting 100 stars/apples/cookies to obtain an extra life/credit, Ratchet & Clank 2 has an RPG-like setup behind it. Now your character and weaponry can evolve over time with experience, making you stronger for the later levels (which would be pretty darn hard without it). In the same RPG vein items can be either earned and collected, or purchased using the rather odd currency of bolts. Bolts are obtained from hacking or killing absolutely everything in the game; from boxes to enemies, from light-poles to bushes; if it breaks into pieces, youíll get bolts for it. Using the entire combination of weapons and upgrades, itís possible to have 41 distinct weapons; a mind-boggling amount!
|Gorgeous visual effects!|
Given everything that is included in Ratchet & Clank 2, setbacks are about the only thing that isnít included. My only criticism would possibly be that the game seems to have a learning curve which is a little on the steep side. For example, the first level involves a lot of jumping on moving platforms (erÖ Ďdino-platformsí) over poisonous goop; which wouldnít be too bad except for the fact that if you fall in youíre back to the beginning of the level. To make matters worse the enemies youíve killed then respawn, so youíre forced to retrace your steps through the level past enemies (again) as well as the platform puzzles. In hindsight now that Iíve passed the level (after dying one too many times mind you), it isnít too bad, but it may come as a shock to those who are not familiar with platformers.
Just when you thought the PS2 might be nearing its peak graphics-wise, Insomniac have pulled a rabbit out of their hat by further improving on the already-impressive engine behind Ratchet & Clank. Characters not only have a high polygon-count, but are animated brilliantly too. This counts for all parts of all the characters, down to the fine details; such as Ratchetís tail which bobbles about and follows his movements with an apparent ease. Levels are huge, rich and vibrant, with a draw-in distance too far to measure. The architecture behind each level too is a credit to the designers; all levels share a cartoon-like feel, while at the same time being sufficiently unique such that they are easily distinguishable from those on other galaxies. Realtime cutscenes are included throughout too, to not only tell the story but also show the illustrious detail that may get missed when playing the game. Cutscenes can also be played back at any time during a level, which is a fantastic feature if youíve gotten sidetracked and forgotten what the objectives for the current level are.
|Yep, that's a big Clank!|
The sound in Ratchet & Clank 2 is of the same caliber as the graphics; great quality from the most important sound effects and tunes, all the way down to the minor sound effects and music breaks. I found too that audio played a big role in enemy location and status, by where I could tell which enemies were approaching from behind or around a corner based on the sounds alone. One strange thing I noticed with the sound is that Dolby Pro Logic II isnít supported in the PAL version, while the NTSC version has it included! To my knowledge the NTSC-PAL translation has little to do with the game audio, so Iím curious as to why Insomniac omitted it from the PAL version. Itís a shame that stereo sound is the best on offer, but it still does a great job.
|The gorgeous city...|
Ratchet & Clank 2 is an A+ game that deserves to go to the head of the class. Itís been one game that Iíve enjoyed immensely, and will play through it again over Christmas just to make sure I get everything I missed during the first pass; the game is huge, and will definitely make you come back for more. If it wasnít for Daveís begging and pleading, I would have almost certainly awarded this game the best platformer for the 2003 Futuregamez awards; itís everything you ever wanted in a platformer and more.
Review By: Chris Gobbett
Talk about Ratchet & Clank: Locked and Loaded in this forum topic now.
|GRAPHICS||Top grade visuals backed with animation to match.||95%|
|SOUND||A wide variety of high-quality effects and BGM.||90%|
|GAMEPLAY||RPG components work wonders for the platform-adventure genre.||92%|
|VALUE||It keeps on going, and going, and goingÖ which is a good thing!||93%|
|OVERALL||Ratchet & Clank 2 is a sexy, inspiring platformer that is challenging without being frustrating at the same time. With over 15-20 hours gameplay from start to finish (without fully completing), it will keep your thumbs busy till the wee hours of the morning for a long time.||95%|