Ratchet & Clank 3 (PS2) - Jason Julier - 9/10
Ratchet & Clank 3 [game information] Version Tested: PAL Genre: Adventure Publisher: SCEE Developer: Insomniac Games
Twelve months on from the hugely enjoyable Ratchet & Clank 2 and Insomniac deliver the third instalment in the critically-acclaimed series. Asking the developer to trump what went before (in such an incredibly short period of time) is a task of Everestian proportions; but somehow Insomniac have cranked up another gear and delivered.
Forget your Jak and all the other contenders in the clustered platform genre, as Ratchet & Clank prove yet again that this is the series to follow. Except the previous games didn’t rely mainly on jumping and all that the genre brings. Rather the humour, invention, weapons, story and graphics were all combined to create something that stood apart from the rest. And this continues in instalment three, as there is little (if any) discernible platform action.
There is no real need to have played the previous releases in the series, but Gamestyle would recommend that you hunt down the previous two, as this will increase your enjoyment. Insomniac have layered Ratchet & Clank 3 like a lasagne; each level is totally enjoyable, but to fully appreciate everything that they’ve done, you need to familiarise yourself with the characters and what went on beforehand. The story itself is set twelve months after the last adventure, as the heroic duo find themselves pressed yet again into action. It seems another crackpot techno-freak is intent on controlling the galaxy, and only Ratchet & Clank (alongside Captain Quark) can prevent it.
After the initial forays you’re sucked into a galaxy-hopping adventure where each new planet represents a new level. The sheer variety and scope of each level is what we’ve come to expect from Insomniac: each acts as a canvas for the destruction you wreak, courtesy of an arsenal of insane (or genius?) weaponry. Slowly but surely the series has reduced its reliance on the platform dynamic, and introduced more variety, mini-games and carnage - lots of carnage.
Being the third in the series, one would expect this affair to be a visual treat and it certainly is. It is extremely colourful, detailed and solid, and boasts a steady framerate. There are no criticisms we can level at the graphics or level design. Similarly, the sound is extremely well-handled, with the characters’ dialogue enhancing the fun element tenfold.
It’s just impossible not to enjoy Ratchet & Clank 3 although there is one main criticism - the difficulty - as number three is the most accessible of the series and perchance the easiest. Where previously ammunition could be purchased in packs, which instilled a level of discipline in the player, frequent sales booths now offer Ratchet the opportunity to buy the maximum ammunition for each specific weapon. Of course this leads to more extravagant destruction, but the appetite diminishes somewhat. The occasional boss does prove to be a minor hindrance, but the game is perfectly balanced. It lacks the unfair nature that has blighted the Jak series, and allows the player to retreat, rearm and return ready for combat.
However it’s all about balance, and Insomniac know how to keep players busy long after the main story has been completed, which is good, as it does feel a little short. Still, the Captain Quark missions offer something totally different, and have a distinct old-skool feeling as you guide the least-likely “superhero” known to man. Then you just have to acquire every weapon possible, and uncover every last secret. Gamestyle plays hundreds of games each year, and for all their extras and hidden levels, few are actually worth the effort required. Ratchet & Clank 3 of course is different.
There have been some tweaks to the gameplay as mentioned, along with an improved weapon system, but the biggest addition is the multiplayer mode. Online, this is one of the most enjoyable Playstation 2 releases currently on the market. It takes all those games made famous by Unreal, Quake (and so on), and then coats each with the humour brush that so distinguishes the series. At E3, the team showed off what was possible during the marathon Playstation 2 press conference - yet even that doesn’t prepare you for the fun that arrives when you go online. There aren’t any real revelations online, but the execution is of such a high standard that you won’t complain. Meanwhile, finding someone to actually play against is slightly more difficult (but hopefully this will improve after Christmas).
So, there you have it. Insomniac has managed to do it again and deliver another wonderful instalment in the Ratchet & Clank series. Perhaps now is the time to go out on a high, and rest our heroic duo for longer than twelve months - goodness knows they certainly deserve it - but for the time being this is certainly amongst the best releases on Playstation 2.
Game Score: 9/10 Reviewed By: Jason Julier