So what is the secret of the Lombax?
The Ratchet series has been a staple of the PlayStation since the first entry came out on the PS2. And it was with that game that Insomniac cemented its importance as a part of Sony’s success, with it’s strong commitment to the platform; this is especially true in Japan, where the series is very popular, and continues to have strong sales with each new release. In any case, I’m sure this was a highly anticipated game for many PS3 owners; I know it was for me.
One of the more shocking revelations about the game as more info was released was the fact that it would not include a multiplayer component whatsoever. This came as a big surprise to many who had gotten accustomed to having this included in more recent releases, and some began to doubt whether or not the series could hold up with just a singleplayer portion this time around. Insomniac has proved itself once again, though, and there shouldn’t be ANY worries about whether or not the game stands on its own just because it’s singleplayer.
R&CF starts off with a bang, with our heroes being caught in the midst of an attack on Metropolis. As you traverse to the end of the map, you meet the main villain of the game, Emperor Tachyon, who is new to the series. It is after this that you begin the game, flying from planet to planet trying to piece together a way to stop the Emperor, which involves figuring out the “Lombax Secret.” The game’s story is original, and therefore doesn’t really require you to have played the previous games, which is good for newcomers. And there are numerous things that old fans can appreciate, especially the return of Qwark.
The visuals are really shown off from the very beginning in Metropolis, with a variety of beautiful effects and background action going on. The way in which the city is truly ‘alive’ is something that really immerses you into the game’s world. The framerate is very smooth, with no slowdown that I noticed. Through and through, the game really delivers with graphics. Realistically, I have no qualms about this game’s graphical prowess. If they had to fix anything, it would be the usual more AA/AF. But otherwise, this is one of the better looking games out on next-gen, especially on the PS3. R&CF also delivers some solid sound, with the return of some of the better voice acting in today’s games. Sound effects and music are great, but nothing special.
As Ratchet, your mainly going to try to clear areas with various weapons, collecting bolts,
and doing a lot of jumping/gliding. The fact is, there are so many things that you can get as you progress through the game through NPC’s/vendors is quite amazing. In addition to weapons, you can get different types of items, such as the “Groovitron”, which is a disco-ball used to keep your foes mesmerized as you either retreat, or take them out one by one.
In the segments where you take over as Clank, you can control time, and must solve puzzles using the Zoni, small aliens that Clank can control. These entail just surviving the somewhat difficult and sometimes mundane mazes. There are only a few of these in the game, and while sometimes I felt they were unnecessary, these do indeed change the pace up to a slower, more poignant pace.
For this entry in the series, I would have to say Insomniac has near-perfected this aspect of the gameplay, with just a few issues. The biggest problem of the shooting elements is perhaps the fact that there are too many weapons, and only a few of them are truly useful, and some of them really don’t progress very well towards the end-game. Also, one weapon in particular can make the game easier as you upgrade and progress through the game, especially with boss fights. These are minor complaints, though, and the important stuff is well-done, such as aiming and quick-select.
The platforming is the one area that can get frustrating. Many times I’ve died because of minor mistakes in my timing; this, of course, is the object of a good platform game: to maintain difficulty of moving from one point to another. However, I feel that some levels could have been play-tested better to make sure that cheap deaths weren’t abundant.
Running around and shooting stuff can get boring if done for long periods of time, so the game breaks up the monotony with different segments, sort of like how Half-Life 2 has the airboat and car.
The first one involves using a sort of ‘goo gun’ to solve puzzles. You are able to shoot cubes of this that allow Ratchet and Clank to jump to higher elevations, though the gun only functions in these specific areas. Next, we have the spaceship turret missions, which is self-explanatory enough. I personally don’t enjoy these as much as others, but thankfully you only have to do it a few times, and they aren’t incredibly difficult or long. The “Gyro-cycle” is another type of mini-game in which you control a motorized cycle around challenge courses. Then there’s the arena, where you fight for money, as well as your freedom during the course of the story. Finally, there are the small hunting missions, which are also part of the main story, but can be completed to get extra money as well.
The game itself has a few areas where you will most certainly die multiple times if you’re not careful and don’t pay attention, but overall the difficulty works well up until that last quarter of the game. There, it ramps up significantly, and average players may have some problems getting through this portion of the game in a timely manner. It feels as though the first 3/4 of the game are perfectly matched in difficulty, and in that last part they decided to make it much harder. The great thing about the game, though, is that if you are stuck in a troubled spot you can usually just play it safe and upgrade a bit before you take on that specific area. Just be sure to save a lot.
There are quite a bit of unlockables, just like the other games in the series, but whether or not they make up for the fact that there is no multiplayer is going to vary from person to person. I personally am glad that Insomniac didn’t compromise the game’s main content by shoe-horning in a mode that really isn’t needed right now. The PS3 got quite a bit of multiplayer games over the holiday season, and I’m sure not too many people would be interested in playing the title in lieu of UT3 or COD4. The game itself isn’t very long, but there are some things to keep you playing. Once you beat the game, you unlock a “hard mode” that allows you to play through the game on a much harder difficulty. To even the odds, though, you get to upgrade your older guns, and all upgrades carry over to this new campaign.
As one of the more anticipated titles of 2007 (at least on Sony’s system), did the game deliver? I would have to answer that with a resounding yes, but there are still improvements needed to be made in the sequel. The game’s content is great, and the gameplay is top-tier for its genre. But Insomniac really needs to cleanup and trim some of the items/weapons, as well as maintain a better pace of difficulty, and make sure that there aren’t too many of those frustrating areas where you can potentially die quite a bit. I’m sure the next entry will be a lot more polished, and hopefully these problems won’t be an issue.
There are no truly wrong instances in this game that jump out, and many of the problems are just minor enough that they can be easily forgotten about after you actually get into the game and begin to enjoy it. It is definitely worth a look for those interested in something that has variety, and delivers great fun at the cost of being a short game with a few minor issues.