Ratchet and Clank 3
It's time to up your arsenals with the season's new guns 'n' gadgets, as Ratchet and Clank are back!
One-eyed monkey! No that isn't a euphemism, I'm not referring to something rude, I literally mean a cyclopean primate. Now I believe that the monkey is a comedy staple and thankfully it would seem many games developers feel the same, including it seems, Insomniac Games, developers of the Ratchet and Clank series which now includes this third release.
The moment in the game, not too far from the start, when you fire bananas around to control where Skrunch the Monkey goes, was when I really started to enjoy this game. OK it isn't the most original gaming concept, but is done well and importantly it is fun. That sentence about sums up the entire Ratchet and Clank 3 experience.
Considering the Ratchet series has seen a sequel released on a yearly basis since the first game, there expectedly isn't much more here than there was last year. The biggest addition has to be the all-new online multiplayer aspect, but more on that later. Otherwise there are a few new additions to the weapons (with higher levels of upgrades), slightly more varied missions including more for Clank and more in the way of optional extras. New gadgets allow you to visit previously inaccessible areas in earlier levels, though not to the degree of something like Metroid.
It still plays as good as it ever did, with tight controls and an only slightly wayward camera (though personally I wish Ratchet would run a bit faster). It isn't a small game by any means, the main story missions will last a fair while but factor in arena fights, titanium bolts, sewer crystals, trophies, skill points, leveling up weapons and Captain Qwark vid-comics and you'll be playing for some time. To top it off, once you've completed the game once there is an extra Challenge mode, with higher levels to power weapons up to.
There is certainly a lot of replay value here, moreso than Sly 2, indeed there is even a hidden demo of that game included. It is by design a very repetitive game although the different strategies you can employ with the vast array of weaponry, and the fact that there is always something new to see helps to keep things interesting.
Ratchet 3 doesn't look a lot different to last years game either, but considering it was already considered top drawer in this department then it's all good. The beginning of some levels have some nicely cinematic views, the character designs are great (though perhaps not as charming as past genre favourites) and everything is solid enough.
Story and cutscenes certainly aren't the biggest draw for many especially considering this game wouldn't suffer much to lose them, but they are occasionally amusing and well written, with even fairly decent voice acting, though overall not as funny as it wants to be. The melodic sound when picking up bolts still makes you feel all warm inside, and even some of the music itself is worth actually listening too.
Now back to that multiplayer. This year's biggest new addition certainly isn't just a bolt-on upgrade; it has obviously received a lot of due care and attention and provides a solid and enjoyable experience. With up to eight players online, or four player splitscreen offline, the large arsenal of weapons and employable strategies give this aspect a lot of depth. The use of Gravity Boots on some of the maps adds an element fairly unique to multiplayer games; being able to walk up walls and on the ceiling made me a little nauseous but was a great laugh nonetheless.
In terms of actual multiplayer options you have your traditional Deathmatch and Capture the Flag games, plus a Siege mode that plays a little like Star Wars: Battlefront. Not wholly original but the Ratchet style makes it an interesting change from what is currently playable online for PS2.
Overall then Ratchet and Clank 3 is without a doubt the best platform game of the big three releases this Christmas on Playstation. Sly 2 comes close and is better in some aspects (presentation, graphics and character design), but for the larger replay value and the amount of time you could lose to the multiplayer, Ratchet 3 just pips it. Plus, you know, there are one-eyed monkeys in it (and thankfully no one-eyed trouser snakes).
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Ratchet and Clank 3
Direct feed gameplay 1 (640x480, 1Mbps)
Ratchet and Clank 3
Direct feed gameplay 2 (640x480, 1Mbps)