Remembering Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando (2003)

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This game in the series continues where the original left off, with Ratchet & Clank heading out on a new adventure after a year of just relaxing on Veldin.
Ratchet 2 is the turning point for the series, with the core gameplay completely changing in really clever ways and a lot of the groundwork that latter games expanded upon being established. In many respects, the Ratchet & Clank we know today was birthed from this installment in the series.
This shift in gameplay focus and design does a lot in expanding the series and today, we will be talking about how Ratchet & Clank went into the battlefield locked and loaded for a brand new adventure.

The History

Sony funded this sequel mid-production of the original Ratchet & Clank. So, three months before Ratchet 1’s launch, development of the sequel was well underway.
Insomniac wanted to play with a lot of concepts for the sequel game and really push the PS2 hardware with Ratchet 2. Better visuals, more RPG elements added to the core gunplay, modern aiming systems for your weapons and more streamlined design compared to the original game. Some effects like very advanced water texturing was cut due to the game’s frame rate tanking when it was in action, so they used simpler water technology.
So this released in Fall 2003, a year after the launch of the original Ratchet and Clank, with it being very successful. Like Ratchet 1, a sequel was starting development three months before Ratchet 2’s launch and some developers leaving both Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog to form High Impact Studios. Will touch on them when we get to the PSP games.

The Story

A kinder and calmer Ratchet is relaxing on Veldin with Clank being interviewed about what they’ve been doing since being Drek. They’ve more or less been relaxing with Ratchet desiring to be part of a new adventure.

Literally seconds after saying that, they are warped to Megacorp and see Fizwidget, who asks Ratchet & Clank to find a creature called the Proto-Pet, a experiment that was stolen from the location. Ratchet is ready to go while Clank stays behind to relax.
The story here is fantastic and it is largely thanks to strong character dynamic between the entire cast. Ratchet is a kind fellow thanks to James Arnold Taylor being his new voice actor (Insomniac really didn’t like the voice direction for Ratchet originally and stuck with James since Going Commando onwards). He does a great job giving Ratchet a lot of life and makes him a very likable character. Something story-wise that makes since, as Ratchet got kinder from his past Adventure with Clank.
The writing is sharp like it was with the original Ratchet but I really laughed hard during a lot of the cut-scenes. When you visit the Megacorp-Testing location, the cut-scene you get there is great, with a kid being terrified while the Proto-Pet is trying to kill him at every turn!

Story-wise, this is one of the best in the series and Ratchet 3/Up Your Arsenal just gets better.

The Gameplay

The gameplay is major here, as Insomniac did a lot to make this more playable compared to the original Ratchet. While Ratchet 1 was a great game, it felt more like Spyro, with the guns more or less being grander versions of the different breaths. Now saying that doesn’t mean Spyro was bad, but when you have various guns and gadgets to utilize, the control should be present to allow for fast shooting and response time to avoid damage/attack.
The weapons have offer lot of impact and are blast to use. They feel fantastic and they all control greatly thanks to the strafing feature being added to Ratchet’s core moveset. Just hold R2 and you are locked to the side, with the right stick allowing you to aim far more carefully. This leads to combat being a ton of fun and while you don’t have a lot of weight to your weapons/movement, the snappy nature of the gameplay more then makes up for it.

You also got the weapons wheel (where you have all your weapons) pausing the game, Ratchet’s core movement being more tighter feels great. You also have Clank’s core abilities and basic items (hovering, jet-pack, hydro-pack, breathing helmet) unlocked right from the start. This makes everything feel like a ‘natural’ progression for the series and this is further shown off with the ability to get various Ratchet 1 weapons for free if you have a save of the original game when visiting a specific planet.

Ratchet also levels up, same with his weapons. Like in Role Playing Games, the more you kill, the more EXP you get. And when you get enough, you get more nano-tech (your health) and your weapons get stronger. This is addicting and one of the best additions to the series. Between the large line up of great weapons like the Lava Gun, Bouncer (which explodes into lots of little bombs), Turrets you can plant on the ground, and even other useful items like a shield that can damage foes when you level it up. I love this line up of weapons and it is my second favorite line up in the series! In addition, you can also give them special mods (acid effects, lock-on features, etc) if you find Silver Bolts. These are found through exploring through the game and completing space flying levels, which I will get to soon.

Ratchet’s core sections have never felt better and Clank also is his own playable character again. Like Ratchet, his core movement got a lot better but he also got new robots to command like a bridge robot that can allow you to cross long gaps and a Lifter robot which can pick up heavy objects. These mix up his stages and make them a lot of fun.

Giant Clank comes back when exploring a moon, which is as awesome as it sounds. You fight a giant creature on this moon with missiles, massive jumps and powerful punches; a ton of fun. And the last two gameplay points is the hoverbike and the space combat. The former is F-Zero or Wipeout like racing but with weapons you can use. Its fun and makes up a small portion of the main game.
The Space levels though, make up a decent amount of the game. You have three/four main space locations to visit and they are Star Fox all-range mode like fights. They have great design with a lot of places to fly around in, extra missions to complete when beating the main mission, and even different weapons you can get when you pay enough Raretainum (currency you get from fighting foes and blowing up stuff in these levels).


The Presentation

Visually, this game looks fantastic. Levels are a bit smaller then the original game but they still have a lot of pathways to explore with a ton of detail. Love the animations in this game though, with it having a lot of squash-and-stretch.
The music is one of my favorite gaming soundtracks. It is action packed, filled with great tunes and is memorable. Ratchet 3 continues the style of music shown here and it is just as great. It continues the high-quality sound work and design that Ratchet 1 set out to accomplish.

Overall, this is how you make a sequel. Fix every issue that people have with the original game and make everything even more polished. This is to me of the greatest games ever made on the PlayStation 2, coming very close to perfecting the series gameplay. But how can you improve upon it? Well, it gets even better with the next game. If this game is close to perfect, Ratchet 3 to me is a great example of a ‘perfect’ game and I can’t wait to talk about that soon enough.

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