Ratcheting up the fun.
Fame has a funny way of turning you soft. When last we left Ratchet, a furry cat-like creature, and Clank, an esoteric, height-challenged robot, the duo had just saved the galaxy from another interplanetary threat. Since then, Clank has found work in television starring as Bond look-alike Secret Agent Clank. Ratchet also has a role" as Clank's chauffeur.
But when the mad scientist Dr. Nefarious threatens galactic peace, Ratchet and Clank must mount up once again to regulate in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, the latest and best in the series.
The last few years have seen striking improvements for Ratchet & Clank.The first game introduced and loosely defined the two heroes.Going Commando fleshed them out, but in Up Your Arsenal, Ratchet and Clank's personalities are fully realized. The two characters balance one another out really well in a story that's consistently funny from beginning to end, with many quirky surprises along the way. You'll find plenty of pop culture stabs alongside the screwball comic book antics of has-been hero, Captain Quark.
The story keeps things moving at a fast pace, rocketing across the galaxy. As you run through the fairly straightforward levels, all manner of evil aliens and robots are thrown in your path. Ratchet, with his vast arsenal of weaponry, must dodge, blast, destroy and occasionally platform jump his way through the game.
Destruction begins with Ratchet's 30+ guns, each one distinctly different. It isn't a matter of 'Gun A' simply being stronger than 'Gun B'; each is ideal for a different situation. A small sampling includes the vacuum gun, which lets you suck up small enemies and blast them at the larger enemies, a black hole gun that absorbs enemies into a dense field of nothingness, and a nifty whip that can take out enemy swarms.
With so many guns at your disposal, the combat strategy is completely open. You could jump right into the fray and toss out a bunch of mini-turrets and robot bodyguards, or you might try throwing up a force shield and using a sniper rifle to take out enemies in the distance. This open-ended strategy is excellent and is where the game shines brightest.
The weapons don't come cheap, though. Bolts, the galactic currency, are earned every time you slice up an enemy or destroy a part of the environment. There are some incredibly high-priced weapons and armor available for sale, which compels you to keep fighting and improving your payload.
Speaking of which, the best thing to happen to Ratchet & Clank's gameplay is the ability to level up Ratchet's weapons. First implemented in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, the fluid leveling-up system rewards you with upgrades as you use weapons. Less powerful weapons can be improved into mighty powerhouses simply through continued use.
The game's improvements don't stop there. All the fat from previous games has been trimmed, such as Going Commando's subpar space battles. This time, if you don't want to go through all the battle challenges or war skirmishes, the game won't twist your arm. You're required to complete some Captain Quark side-scrolling levels, but those missions are cute, nostalgic, and fun.
Up Yer Arsenal is a more streamlined game as well. The weapon quick select system lets you easily pick the right gun in the heat of battle. In previous games, weapons and ammo stores forced you to buy individual ammo for each of your different guns. Now, there is an easy option to buy ammo for all your guns in one fell stroke.
The game goes so far as to offer three completely different control scheme options. While the platform style controls are best suited for the single-player game, you can also play the game entirely as a first- person shooter or use a dual stick, third-person view control, both of which work well with the multiplayer.
The multiplayer is completely new to the series and offers the chance to duke it out in up to 4-player split-screen or up to 8-player online matches. You'll find standard Deathmatch and a team-based Capture the Base style game; the former is self-explanatory, while the latter is much more involving as you capture multiple points on the map using guns, vehicles, and A.I.-based support troops. One of the coolest Deathmatch arenas lets you use gravity boots to run up the walls and fight on the ceiling. Up Your Arsenal's unique platformer feel and combination of guns make for some great, chaotic games.
The visuals help immeasurably, as they are BIG - big explosions, big enemies, and big environments filled with numerous objects. The textures are a little flat and not very detailed, but this is in favor of the game's cartoon style, smooth framerates, and constant, explosive destruction. While the game does look good, it isn't a great deal better than the already sharp previous games.
The sound is also rather similar to past Ratchet & Clank games; it's still filled with pumping beats and comical sound effects. The music melds well with the gunfire and action, though none of the tunes will really stick with you. The voice work is spot on, particularly in the Galactic President's Clinton-esque twang and Dr. Nefarious' psychotic babbling, which strikes the right balance between threatening and comical.
Really the only problem with Up Your Arsenal is that it doesn't do anything new so much as merely refine the heck out of its past. While this third outing does offer plenty of replay bonuses and challenges, a less linear adventure with a branching story could have really put it ahead of the pack. Oh, and the shiny box packaging used for Going Commando should have also been used for Up Your Arsenal. Just sayin'.
But when it comes right down to it, Up Your Arsenal is a testament to good game development. It is the culmination of three years of hard work, an action game so well refined that it's now clearly the best of its breed. Get your head out your arsenal and pick it up.