Ratchet and Clank – Retro Review
RatcheRatchet and Clank is a 3D platformer shooter game released on the PS2 by Insomniac in 2002, it was also re-released in the Ratchet and Clank HD Collection in 2012. It built on the platforming style from their Spyro the Dragon franchise while adding in extremely fun and responsive 3rd person shooter combat.
The story of this game is the classic tale of a young hero who desperately yearns adventure away from his planet or hometown. The story begins when Clank crash lands on Veldin (Ratchet’s home) and gives our favorite Lombax the opportunity to travel the galaxy.
What makes the story interesting is the differing objectives between the two titular characters. Ratchet wants adventure and excitement in his life, while Clank (being a robot) is naturally the more down to earth and logical character. Conflict arises between the characters throughout the story, and while this doesn’t affect the gameplay much it is still a good way to keep the player interested.
The characters of this universe are one of the strong points of the game, Ratchet and Clank both have their own motivations and goals, the characters introduced along the way are also entertaining great. Captain Quark in particular is one of the best characters of this generation.
This is the first game where Insomniac begins showing us the amazing weapon ideas and designs that they are well known for today. Each weapon has it’s own feel, and they all have their advantages in combat. Never before had I seen a game where there was such a variety between the weapons, allowing the player to switch weapons quickly during combat means that their play-style will change dramatically as they collect new weapons and gadgets.
This was also the first instance of the weapon selector wheel which is present in all of Insomniac’s future games. This was a great change from the standard inventory system, and allows the player to instantly change between 8 different weapons, meaning that the way they approach enemies can differ throughout every combat encounter.
The designs of each planet you visit throughout the story are great, while many of them follow a fairly linear path (Not uncommon for an action platformer from 2002). They are all animated and designed well enough that they fell alive. The levels feel very unique, from the bustling city of Metropolis, to the tropical Jowai Resort or the snowy Blarg Depot. Each planet is wonderfully crafted with different enviroments, obstacles and enemies.
A subtle loading screen at the start of each planet means you never have to stop during your time in a level. This was an important feature which was making its way into many games released around the same time, the focus was on giving the player an uninterrupted experience.
As you get further on in the game your stash of weapons begins to grow quickly, this wealth of options in your hands as well as other mechanics introduced such as the heli-pack, swingshot and grindboots mean you feel a sense of progression as you move through the story. The gadgets you collect which help you advance further into the game are all extremely fun, and several of them allow you to go back to past levels and explore further.
Graphically this game is awesome, a reliable frame rate even when you have multiple explosions and enemies on the screen is a great accomplishment. At times the game can turn into a bullet-hell shooter, and in a 3d environment on the PS2 hardware, Insomniac makes it look amazing.
The level which really shows how impressive this game is from a graphical standpoint is Metropolis. The entire level takes place on huge skyscrapers in the sky, and with lanes of hovercars constantly flying past the city really feels alive.
Ratchet and Clank is a fine blend of shooting and platforming, complete with memorable characters and unique weapon design. It was the start of one of the defining franchises of a generation of games. Insomniac showed where their true strengths lie with this game, and we can still see elements from Ratchet and Clank in their games today.