Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal

After the success of Going Commando, Ratchet & Clank continued the following year in 2004 with a third game, Up Your Arsenal (you've probably noticed the double entendres in these titles). This game offers a few enhancements to the series' gameplay style, as well as the addition of a new Multiplayer function, which would continue to be featured in later games of the franchise.

It's been a while since the events of Going Commando, as the titular Ratchet and Clank are seen playing a game to pass the time, that is until Clank tunes into his new television show, Secret Agent Clank. Disinterested, Ratchet changes the channel to a news broadcast, where it is reported that his home planet Veldin is under attack by an alien race known as the Thyrranoids. It is also reported that the culprit behind the attack is a robot that goes by the name of Dr. Nefarious. A native of Veldin himself, the Lombax (Ratchet) decides to take action, getting himself into something much more than meets the eye.

Along with returning characters from the first installments, the game introduces a handful of new and interesting characters, helped by the great voice cast, among them the aforementioned Dr. Nefarious. I found this new villain to be much more interesting to watch than the previous two, especially with his high-pitched voice, a quirk where he freezes and picks up radio broadcasts of a soap opera whenever he gets excited, and the conversations he has with his assistant Lawrence. The quirkiness of this character has given me a few laughs and he is so far my favorite Ratchet & Clank villain.

The gun play of the previous title returns here, but now comes with a nice improvement. Your Quick Select can now hold double the guns and gadgets, totaling 16 instead of 8, and you can switch between two rings of your arsenal by holding R1. This helps in that it becomes less time consuming to figure out what items go into either of these wheels, though you may still end up changing around your inventory a few times. As with the last game, if an old Save of the last adventure is detected when you visit a Gadgetron Vendor, you can recover some of your old weapons for free, so you can save your bolts for something else and increase the range of items to pick from in either wheel. The upgrade system also returns, except now you can boost your weapons by up to five levels rather than two, this time including the ones you previously owned. Another change is the Health display, in that it's represented by numbers rather than in segments, which makes calculating damage you take from an attack a little easier.

On the topic of variety, a series of mini-games is introduced in the form of Qwark Vid-comics, which tell the story of how Captain Qwark previously went up against Dr. Nefarious. These comics not only have amazing art and break up the gun play a little, but they also provide a few laughs as well as add more depth to the overall story. These mini-games are actually quite fun to play, and the music provided for each of them is very catchy and quirky in itself, providing an atmosphere unique from the rest of the game.

While I enjoyed my time with this older game, there was one thing I didn't like in particular, namely the ways Bolts can be spent. The previous game had special flying segments where you can use Raritanium (introduced in the first Ratchet & Clank) to change the design and capabilities of your ship. Here, you can instead use your regular Bolts, but they are instead used for cosmetic purposes, which led me to wonder why the option was even included in the first place. Then there's Titanium Bolts; while I admittedly could not figure out how they were supposed to be used previously, when they were called Platinum Bolts, I did manage to find how they could be spent here: Skins, which serve no gameplay purpose other than to make yourself look different. Like with customizing the ship, I couldn't help but wonder what exactly the point of this is, unless you really, really want to play through the game as a snowman. This also isn't very much of a complaint, but traveling around planets is more linear here than in the last two games, since in those there was more incentive to not only go around each planet but also revisit older ones for special rewards. However this is minor and doesn't impact the experience at all.

A notable aspect of this game is that it is the first in the series to incorporate Multiplayer, including an Online option. However, since this is a PS2 game from 2004, I will not be covering the Online portion of this option, but rather the Local aspect of it. There are three different gameplay modes, two of which appear on every map: Seige, Capture the Flag, and Deathmatch. Today these are standard for many games with Online Multiplayer, but they still provide a challenge in Local, though I would recommend playing with more than two people, since it can get a little boring if you don't have enough friends to play with nearby.

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is a must-have for Ratchet & Clank fans, and a game one should definitely have in their PS2 library. It's a fun and quirky title that keeps you invested until the very end. If you have any friends with you and want to play something old-school, give the Local Multiplayer in this title a shot; you may end up having a good time.

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