Ratchet & Clank is a series that kept evolving as it continued. From humble beginings as a charming successor to the Spryo series that had new takes the 3D platformer (focus on gunplay) too greatly enhancing the shooting controls to offer a great combat experience.
With this latest adventure for Ratchet & Clank, they still have it’s heart in the 3D platformer but as they continue refining gunplay, Insomniac drifts the series closer to the third person shooter.
Up Your Arsenal is a great example of what I feel is a ‘perfect’ game. It takes everything I really enjoyed from Ratchet 2 (Going Commando) and makes things even better. Lets jump into the great beyond and see what adventures await Ratchet and Clank.
Like Ratchet 2, development on this title started not long after Ratchet 2 went gold and most of Insomniac moved on to the next project, Ratchet 3. I remember reading the Game Informer issue covering this and Jak 3 when I was little.
Insomniac commented on wanting the weapons to have more RPG like elements (citing the Infector weapons, with it being able to poison foes and have them attack others) and make things more streamlined from Ratchet 2. More weapon wheels, more weapons, small little things (like full-ammo refills at weapon vendors) and ensuring that the new elements they wanted to bring into the series fit.
They also wanted to bring some of the tension between Ratchet & Clank back that was in the first game, with them citing making Clank the ‘star’ of his own show being something Ratchet was annoyed by. Not to mention bringing in a new villain for the duo to fight. The last addition was online and local multiplayer, with that being a big thing they highlighted on. With the amount of weapons in the series, an online shooter was a good move, which we later see expanded up on with the next game Deadlocked.
Insomniac were saying all the right things and when the game finally hit in Fall 2004 and many loved the game. Very few critics gave it under low scores and many called this one of the greatest games of that current year. Critics even commented on Ratchet Dreadlock/Gladiator, where they said ‘How can they top perfection?’ when reviewing the game
It starts out with Clank and Ratchet playing halo-chess and Clank sees his own TV show going on, ‘Secret Agent Clank’. He is a James Bond-like hero in the show and Ratchet is his butler. Ratchet turns the TV off after a bit, annoyed with the show, as Clank is a bit puzzled.
Then they hear a distress call from Ratchet’s homeworld; Velden. Ratchet is ready to go and Clank soon follows, with both fighting off a new force, aliens called the Teranoids. Ratchet and Clank soon learn that a old super villain from the past is back and wants to turn all ‘Squishes’ into Robots.
Ratchet and Clank planet hop across the galaxy with members of Ship Phoenix providing support along the way.
This story a personal favorite in the series. I greatly enjoy the dynamic between Ratchet & Clank as they are really close buddies now; they bounce off each other perfectly and are in-sync with each other. Ratchet shows a lot of concern over Clank with a later scene showing how sorry he is for not realizing something sooner or how Clank cracks more jokes this time out.
Both shine here and I love how great the voice acting they both offer. This extends to everybody, and I love how Quark sounds in this game. The VA really got him this time and its great seeing his character grow a lot. In past games, he was just a ‘hero’ but here, he honestly tries to be a hero.
One thing I love is the humor here, as its the best in the entire series. From the nods to reality outside the game, the video previews before you head into new planets, Dr. Nefarious himself, the entire game is a trip. I laughed my head off at almost every scene in the game and I played through it well over 20+ times.
Overall, fantastic story and one that really makes the game shine.
I think it is best to ask this first; How do you top Ratchet 2? That game established new ground rules for the series and it was a strong experience. Ratchet and Clank 3 has literally every single element from Ratchet 2 that was either a bit annoying or just a small problem being fixed completely.
You have multiple weapon wheels, so you can equip your entire line up of guns without ever going into the main menu (you can even set up control options with the weapon wheel). You have an ammo refill option for all your guns at the weapons vendors. The x2 ability that you have in Challenge Mode is now a crate you can smash early in the game to get double the bolts for a limited amount of time. Weapon upgrades are more streamlined with no upgrade mods; they just get better the more you use them.
And the more annoying issues people had with the extra gameplay styles like flying and racing? They are gone now, replaced with really great 2D platforming levels with Quark that really should be their own game with how fun they are, pushing the gunplay more with base missions, and giving Clank a more advanced AI partner to work within him during his sections of the game.
This entire game feels like Insomniac knew they had gold with Ratchet 2 and said “That’s good…..but what else can we do here?” and that shows in spades. However the game isn’t just fixing things from Ratchet 2 and also offers a lot of special level-types that you need to complete as you get through the game.
The Base missions take the platformer that Ratchet 2 was, and turns it into more of a shooter. This doesn’t change things much; the game is still a platformer at heart but during these portions of the game, it turns into what I call ‘a shooting game with platforming elements’.
You still run and jump, but the focus is smart combat and completing specific missions in each area. Defend X amount of troops, blow up X amount of bases, turn X amount of Bolt Cranks, etc. These are highly enjoyable thanks to the great gun play controls, having the ability to control the game as a first person shooter/third person shooter and even having the ability to hop into various rides (buggy, powerful flying carrier, and turret).
The weapons here though, are my favorite line up in the series. Just going to list the different guns you can get and then I will move on.
-Lava gun that shots hot magma and when fully upgraded, can freeze people
-Suck Cannon that can pull in boxes and smaller foes, and shoot them back. When upgraded fully, it can shoot flaming versions of foes/creates you pick up
-Black Hole gun that can pull in a lot of foes at once
-Gun that launches a bomb that explodes into smaller bombs
-A gun that turns you foes into flying ducks. When fully upgraded, it can create an army of flaming ducks that home-in into your foes when flying over them.
-Infector weapon that poisons your foes and makes them attack other foes when infected.
-Lava Whip that when upgraded can shoot a stream of energy at people
-RYNO III that shoots PASMA blasts that kills everything it touches
……….Amazing stuff, isn’t it? Greatest weapon selection in any game and while future games have great line ups of weapons, the line up of weapons in Ratchet 3 is my favorite in the series.
And the last gameplay bit is Quark himself; he gets five (six if you count the secret one) 2D platforming stages that are a mix of running, gunning and platforming. They play with mechanics in the main game (wall jumping, jumping, shooting various weapons) but are a blast. The level designs are really well done and I love how great Quark controls here. Overall these are a fun way to mix up long shooting sessions or a tricky 3D platforming challenge.
Ratchet 1 was a more moody take on Spyro but in space and Ratchet 2 was a mixture of more serious alien locations but with a light touch at points regarding it’s presentation. Ratchet 3 is the action movie to the series in many respects; more serious locations with torn up planets but you still get a lot of color. The world in the game really pushed the engine and is one of PS2’s best looking games. Particularly love the animation, as the cut-scenes and gameplay really show how lively the characters are animated.
The music though, one of my favorite soundtracks in the series. Again, pushing for that action movie tone that the visuals try to do but man is it effective.
One of my favorite gaming soundtracks honestly and I remember every planet just from listening to this OST.
What else is there to say? Insomniac stuck gold with Ratchet 2 and made things even better. This game is one I honestly have no problems with and one of the few games I feel is ‘perfect’. Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal is one of the series brightest moments and cemented the franchise as one of PlayStation’s best.
The series only continues from this point onward and while few games after this in the series compare, they are still wonderful adventures. We will be talking about more of Ratchet’s space adventures in the future on 3WIREL!