Looking back at my Ratchet & Clank review I made two years ago where I, with a great amount of hubris, promised to review all my Ratchet & Clank games (never happened) and I also urged you to get the revamped version of the classic for the PS4. Well the game has been out for a little over two weeks and, while the film has performed about as well as a outdoor barbecue in a hurricane (though I will still watch it if I get the chance), my hopes have been riding on the game being the anchor that successfully secures the franchises place in the new generation.
In this rebooted version, Ratchet works in a garage on Veldin for his adoptive father Grim who dreams of becoming a Galactic Ranger alongside his hero Captain Qwark. Although Ratchet breezes through the physical examination, he is rejected due to his less than perfect past. Meanwhile, a defective warbot (later named Clank by Ratchet) escapes from his factory and crash lands on Veldin while trying to reach the Galactic Rangers. Ratchet recovers him from the crash site, repairing him and offers him to take him to the Galactic Ranger HQ on Novalis. Together, and with the assistance of the Rangers, Ratchet and Clank form a powerful union to thwart Chairman Drek and the mad scientist Dr. Nefarious.
After playing this game I can see why the film bombed critically as Ratchet & Clank’s characters are very formulaic. Ratchet was brash, selfish and arrogant before progressing to be more humble character with serious intent about thwarting Drek while Clank was the intelligent but naive counterpart to Ratchet. Instead Ratchet is a typical teen longing for something better and Clank is the intelligent robot without any of his shortcomings that made him a joyous companion to Ratchet.
Not only this but they becomes friends right off the bat which stands in stark contrast to the original game, where it took it’s entire length for them to become true friends. I know this is based from the film more than the original game, but to lose something like this that made the original game great is such a disappointment.
Not only are the main characters wrong, but the original villain of the piece, Chairman Drek, is completely and utterly devoid from his previous incarnation. The original game had Drek as the main antagonist while this rebooted version has Dr. Nefarious as the primary villain, with Drek as his puppet. This, for any long term Ratchet and Clank fan, is heinous act. Drek was corrupt and despotic, a megalomaniac bent on getting his way and all the bolts that came with it. Drek in this game is more of a comic foil than anything else that serves only to highlight how much worse Nefarious is, but with so little done to show just why Nefarious is worse until the “big reveal” both characters are wasted.
And then there are the holocards which, although I know they allow stats improvements, as well as unlocking Omega weapons in the challenge mode after you complete the game, it felt a bit tacked on to the game’s weapon upgrade system. Furthermore, since the cards referenced characters from previous games, any new player may be a bit befuddled by what these are meant to be referencing.
While I could also bemoan the loss of planets and characters that made the world of the original Ratchet & Clank so vibrant, I can understand why it was done in reference to the films, especially with elements of certain planets and space stations being melded together, i.e.: Nebula G34 and Umbris, Batalia and Hoven, as well as the loss of planets like Eudora and Otlanis, the thing that irritates me the most is the lack of difficulty changes. Perhaps it may be down to me being a hardcore Ratchet & Clank gamer, but the difference between normal and hard difficulties was only slight and I still managed to complete the game within a day and with little problems.
Also, and stop me if I seem a wee bit too critical but I feel we’re passed that point now, but (and spoiler alert) why did Insomniac pull the whole Ratchet went home after failing one mission only to return within a cut scene, and also had an entire planet destroyed yet everyone was evacuated in time? Really? This is just sad to see. It’s poor writing and I know this game is for 7 year olds upwards but no game should pull that sort of rubbish. No good writer can justify this, it is flagrantly lazy and just wants us to believe that the main character is still the golden boy with no blood on his hands. It’s sad really.
Right, now after reading all that you probably believe that this game is clearly the worst thing to have happened since Michael Bay discovered the Transformers but no actually. Despite all it’s flaws, Ratchet & Clank does have admirably qualities to it that had me playing almost non-stop.
Firstly it is absolutely gorgeous. Seeing all the worlds redone in glorious HD and up-to-date graphics makes my Ratchet & Clank heart sing. The care they’ve given to updating the planets of the Solana Galaxy is tremendous, along with the weird and wonderful characters that reside in it. Aside from Chairman Drek, whose redesign I will never fathom and their choice of Eric Bauza over Kevin Michael Richardson is beyond me, this game has had a lot of care taken to transition this game to the future.
Also, and this is usually the critical point for Ratchet & Clank games, is the weapons. If the game does not have a great stockpile of comical and powerful weaponry, then the game has failed and Ratchet & Clank 2016 does not fail in that department. Bringing together a collection of weapons from the franchises many games together in one game allows for a beautiful blend of awesomely overpowered weapons, which just get stringer with use, as well as the absurd but hilarious additions like the Groovitron or Sheepinator. The weapons hold the game up, even with the weak and underdeveloped plot line, making Ratchet & Clank still enjoyable to play.
Finally, and this lets us breathe a sigh of relief, is that Insomniac have not lost their touch for humour. While the humour is sometimes appears to be trying to hard, most the time (especially with Captain Qwark) the jokes land perfectly and the references are spot on. Even with all the meta-humour about this being a game about a film about the original adventure, it somehow brings a smile to me and that in itself helps the games numerous defects slide away to the back of my mind. Well, at least until the next plot driven cut scene.
In the end, is 2016’s Ratchet & Clank worth your time? As an avid fan of the franchise, I would advise all other fans to pick it up, but for a newcomer, I’ll just give a tentative yes. It’s still as fun and flashy as ever, with dollops of cartoon-ish humour thrown in, just know that this is not their greatest effort and, if you want to sample true Ratchet & Clank greatness, you may have to travel back through the console generations, to return to the days of PS2 and PS3 when Ratchet & Clank reigned supreme.