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Ratchet & Clank HD Review 1/3

July 30, 2012

Having completed one third of the Ratchet & Clank HD box set I thought I would give you a semi-review of the HD upgrade so far.

First of all I have to say, before I get all negative about the HD transfer, that I loved replaying this game. It was a trip down memory lane and I loved every second. Ok, I have played it before to death, but for a ten year old game it still stands up against its modern game counterparts (Ratchet & Clank:  Tools of Destruction, Crack in Time)

Up, up and away

The graphics may have gotten a bump up, but the game still exists on its charm, its zany characters and brilliant, totally rememberable one liners (“Look, Plumber’s crack”). And of course we have to remember the weapons. It’s always about the arsenal in Ratchet & Clank. It was the day one formula. My favourites include the Glove of Doom, which sends out tiny metallic critters to seek and destroy enemies close by; The Walloper, a giant boxing glove that blasts apart those too stupid to get close to you; and obviously, my weapon of choice, the Tesla Claw, a golden mechanical claw that fires out arch lightening – it’s literally game breaking. It has a great area of effect for taking out the tiny swarms of enemies, the lightening homes in with the greatest precision and it has great damage and range to take out even tougher enemies. The game literally gets easier once you pick this thing up, but for 30,000 bolts it does take some saving on your first playthrough.

I spoke about zany characters, but lets not forget the vile villain of the piece. Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Drek … yep, that’s his whole name. A small man (or rather Blarg) with a very BIG name and that is wonderful about Drek – he obviously has a classic case of short man’s syndrome. He’s angry and bitter, probably got bullied a lot in school, but that’s no excuse because hell, most of the time he’s just mean for the sake of it in Ratchet & Clank. His grand scheme is to recreate the Blarg homeworld, which is heavily polluted, using other planets by literally grabbing chunks off them and gluing them together. But this is not for the greater good. He wants to sell the land on his new creation for high prices then pollute the sucker all over again and rinse and repeat the process for maximum profits. The design for Drek is still fantastic; the slick backed black hair with little pony-tail and the funky wheel-dealer pinstripe suit, and he has my favourite line of all the Ratchet & Clank games:

“Thank you for your co-operation… [“And Cut”] And if you don’t like it you can take your whiny snivelling snot-nosed populations, form a line behind me and kiss my … what?! We are still on? Well turn it off you idiot!”

Finally I have to say how strange it is to have Captain Qwark acting less the buffoon than usual. He must have taken quite a few bumps to the head in the intervening years between this first adventure. He’s certainly still the same kind of character. Selfish and cowardly, but he also has a villainous side in Ratchet & Clank, something I completely forgot, as in the newer instalments he was more offish, a little more lovable and stupid in a sincere way. Still, the self-proclaimed alias after his defeat to Ratchet in this first instalment is by far the best name ever. STEVE MCQWARK.

My first child may be burdened with such a name and that child will go on to be president cause come on, what a great name.

One thing that actually is about the game that seems to have soured my return is the realisation of what a bratty and obnoxious person Ratchet is in the first game. He literally is the most annoying character. He’s petty, unforgiving and kinda hateful after a while. I know he came into a lot of criticism for it, but not until now did I actually notice. Also what the hell is up with his hands? They are HUGE in the first game, literally twice as wide as his head!

Another thing that took me by surprise is how much some aspect of the first Ratchet & Clank game reminded me of Insomniac’s earlier platformer Spyro the Dragon. The boss battles in particular. Just like in Spyro they are always in big open arenas when the boss implores large area of effect attacks. One in particular is the boss at the end of Captain Qwark’s base. Having to lure the giant beast into lava feels a lot like a Spyro boss and I did notice some of the sound effects implored throughout the game had been used in many of the Spyro games. But that’s not a negative. Just something I noticed.

Though still, the game is just as I remember it and I did love every moment, albeit apart from Ratchet’s continual whining. Bloody teenagers!

Now about the HD upgrade … the in-game looks sharp and crisp, but something is definitely wrong with the game cutscenes and menus. The cutscenes don’t upscale to a new aspect ratio which makes them look like a badly formatted screensaver. They literally sit in the middle of the screen, with big black borders surrounding them. Same problem with the models in the games menu system. The weapons in the game weapons menu (not the quick select) are all bunched up and jammed in like they couldn’t make the menus transfer properly from standard to HD. Very odd.

Another small niggle was some random moments of slow down and frame-rate jitter, this usually accorded when I was spamming an explosive weapon, but it’s surprising to have a PS2 game running slow on a PS3 console. Again very odd.

But for all the problems the HD upgrade has the story is still brilliant, fun and challenging. The ending still makes me feel warm inside as Ratchet and Clank seal their friendship for years to come.

More on Ratchet & Clank 2 and 3 will come as soon as possible.

Image Link: The Sage Abyss

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