Tying in to the upcoming movie later this month, Insomniac has released a re-imagining of the original Ratchet & Clank game for PS2 for PS4 (or, as they dub it, “the game, based on the movie, based on the game”). This is not an HD remake of the original game or a complete reboot of the franchise, but rather it’s a game similar to the original, but done a little differently. On multiple levels, I was excited for this game, and, though there was a pre-order mishap, the game did not disappoint in any way.
The basic premise of the game is similar to that of the PS2 original, however there are some key differences. For one thing, as seen in movie trailers, Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman) is also involved in the plot, and Ratchet’s (James Arnold Taylor) personality matches that of how it is starting from Going Commando (not a total jerk), and the plot seems to be influenced by this change in personality (not that I mind). However, as it is based on a movie that is also based on a game, it may spoil you on some events of the movie since some cutscenes are scenes from the movie; thankfully, it’s not the entire movie, but it does display key plot points. The game is also narrated by Captain Qwark (Jim Ward), since the framing device is him telling the story to an inmate while in prison (said inmate was also looking to play a Ratchet & Clank hologame based on a holofilm based on the events of the original Ratchet & Clank, leading Qwark to explain what really happened).
The gameplay is more in line with that of later Ratchet & Clank games, with the weapon options being a mix of the original game’s and those of later games, as well as some new ones, such as the Proton Drum. While you can use the Glove of Doom from the original game and the Warmonger from a later game, Mr. Zurkon and the Groovitron (my personal favorites) are also in this game, which can make things a lot easier. Some items from the original game, (including the Trespasser, Hydrodisplacer, and the Swingshot) are also tied to button prompts this time, which removes the hassle of juggling the items with the Quick Select. Raritanium is also (perhaps ironically) easier to come by compared to other games, as are Gold Bolts, which, when collected, unlock items in the Extras menu.
A new addition to the game is cards, which can be found either in packs or in singles by defeating enemies; completing sets of 3 can net you a bonus, and you can trade in duplicate cards for a new card. In addition, there is a special set of 9 R.Y.N.O. cards, which you will need to obtain the R.Y.N.O. rather than having to have an unreasonable amount of Bolts (which are also much easier to come by). The cards themselves feature characters and locations spanning across the entire (canon) history of Ratchet & Clank, and flipping over the card tells you more information about what is depicted, including its game of origin. This alone adds a good amount of replay value, as I am currently (as of this writing) in the process of collecting all the cards.
The graphics of the game are simply amazing, coming close to the actual movie coming out and displaying the potential of the PS4; though the original game is from two console generations prior, the difference between it and this new game is like night and day. The music of the game is also good, with at least some tracks being new versions of tracks from the original game’s soundtrack along with some new flavor to match the game’s different tone. The experience from returning voice actors (James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Armin Shimerman) really shines through in their respective characters, and is quite possibly some of their best work in the series yet. Returning villains Chairman Drek and Victor Von Ion are voiced by new actors, turning in good performances that work better for this new interpretation as well as doing amazing impressions of their voice actors from the movie; Drek is voiced in the movie by Paul Giamatti, which can be heard in some of the movie clips, though Eric Bauza performs well as Drek to the point that I thought it was Giamatti; similarly, Mark Silverman as Victor Von Ion does a spot-on impression of the character’s VA in the movie, Sylvester Stallone, to where I could not tell the difference.
This re-imagined Ratchet & Clank is a perfect jumping-on point to the Ratchet & Clank franchise. It feels just like a Ratchet & Clank game should, plus it manages to feel fresh in the process of going back to the series’ roots. It seems to slightly date itself though with an offhand mention of social media and hashtags in one moment (in the context of Gadgetron Headquarters trying to get good word on their products), but the game itself is overall fun in spite of that, especially with the addition of the card-collecting mechanic. As mentioned above, I give fair warning in that it might spoil the major events of the upcoming movie the game is based on, though I still look forward to seeing the movie regardless. Made for the 15th Anniversary, this game clearly shows how much Insomniac cares for its IP, and I hope they continue to treat Ratchet & Clank right going forward.