Having been a concrete member of Club Gamecube, I missed out on most of the PS2 lineup. Aside from mega hits like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid,my formative years were filled with Smash Brothers and Metroid Prime. I actually never even knew anything about the series other than the characters are anthropomorphic; I’d just assumed it was Sony’s version of Banjo-Kazooie with guns.

Unsurprisingly, I was going to give this one an easy pass and forget about it. Who needs it, right? All of my Vulpini space pilot needs are about to be filled by Star Fox! However, at the insistence of multiple friends of the site, as well as an interest in the upcoming film of the same name, I caved and decided to give this game a try.

I’m glad I did for a very specific reason:
Antonio and Daney.

They. Love. This. Series…
Seriously! They have been through the roof for so long about this game coming out that it became a bit repugnant. I know personally that being a long time fan of a series can give you blinders on a critical level when it comes to games. Just look at me with Zelda, even at it’s worst I can’t admit there is a terrible entry. Because I’ve never played a prior game in the series, I feel like I’m in a unique position to give an unbiased impression on how the game works.

So, without any prior experience; here’s my unbiased, completely virgin takeaway:

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I’ve finally played my first Ratchet and Clank game; and it was wonderful.

Honestly, I was absolutely blown away by this game! I bought a one way ticket on the hype train and I\’m not getting off! It’s rare that something keeps me awe stricken from beginning to end, but Ratchet and Clank did the trick. Here are my takeaways:

A Thing of Beauty
This game almost screams production value. From beginning to end, the visuals and audio don’t disappoint. Its colorful settings and gorgeous backdrops caught me with my mouth dropping on more than one occasion. I was never bored with repetitive textures or recycled objects. In fact, the sheer amount of variety in characters and set pieces is a testament to how much Insomniac love their product. Granted, it does have all of your typical gameplay environment tropes (ie:“forest, ice, lava”), but they are engaging and never draw attention to being so textbook.
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Likewise, and unsurprisingly, the audio is amazing. Sony’s always been known for great sound design, but between the unique weapon sounds and (mostly) A-grade voice acting, I was tempted on more than one occasion to play this with headphones.

Guns! Guns! Guns!
If the NRA gave video game ratings like they do political votes, this would get an A+ record.
R&C puts an impressive arsenal at the player’s disposal, and never disappoints. Pistols, Flamethrowers, even grenades that force the enemy to dance like it\’s Saturday night make the game’s combat style one of my favorites. Where drab, cover-based shooters like the division play it safe; R&C kicks things up to 11 with wacky, but not too childish gunplay.
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Also on the topic of guns, here is my absolute favorite part of the game:

There is an abundance of Ammo.

Seriously, this is important.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is more frustrating than getting a rad weapon, saving the ammo for a “just in case” scenario, and finding out that situation never happens. Ratchet and Clank drops ammo for every gun like its Tax Return season at Walmart. Respawning ammo crates throughout every nook and cranny keep your guns loaded and hot for action. The game also boasts a very generous aim assist, which allows you to focus less on your precise movements, and more on the fun shootin’ and lootin’. Because of these features, I felt encouraged to be creative with hordes of enemies; finding fun and colorful ways to dispose of the baddies, rather than just stick to one or two primary guns.

Space: The Final Fun-tier
This is a sci-fi game.

Obviously it has spaceships… and boy, do I love spaceships!
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Throughout the campaign, you will be treated to incredibly constructed space battles. You get to zoom through packs of bad guys, defending bases and execute wonderful maneuvers. I definitely found the space combat to be a fond love letter to the Nintendo space shooter “Star Fox.” It has the same type of responsive controls, quirky cockpit dialogue that the other games use. Insomniac even pays homage to the “Star Fox” series by telling you how important it is to “do a barrell roll.”

Unfortunately, they’re too short. Each ship segment lasted only a few minutes. This is the one feature I wish Insomniac would have spent more time fleshing out, as it was hands down one of my favorite pieces of gameplay. I hope if there is a follow up to Ratchet and Clank, this area of the game sees more love.

As much as I loved the game, there were a few shortcomings that I want to point out, thankfully, none of them are game breaking in anyway. But hear me out.

Hover-bored
This game has a stupid, frustrating, ugly, slow, gross, and I hate it, hoverboarding mechanic.
It’s only mandatory at two points in the campaign, where you hop on your floating skateboard and race some generic guys for glory and the ability to proceed, but they don’t work. Apparently, Insomniacs top programmers were on vacation for this, as it\’s completely ugly.
I’m serious. I turned the game off for a while because how stupid these hoverboard races are.

This… Actually made me rage quit.

(source: Gamespot.com)

First, there is a serious rubber banding effect. You can boost by the competition, take shortcuts which guarantee a pole position, then be passed again almost immediately. Because of this, there’s absolutely no sense of speed. It’s almost like you’re dragging a pile of bricks behind your board. When it comes to racing, that’s a bad sign.

Also, I would take jumps or boost around corners, only to find myself being caught on the geometry and coming to a near complete stop. Once again, while the AI racers cruise along like they’re Marty McFly.

I hated it.

Characters are Dullsville

This game has a lot of colorful and fun characters. The series main hero, Ratchet: a weird cat-fox aspiring to be a galactic hero, Captain Qwark: the narrator of the game and overly confident underperformer (Think “Futurama’s” Zapp Brannigan for kids), and Dr. Nefarious: the nerdy bad guy bent on domination and power. They’re creative and funny! I loved hearing what they had to add to the story. Unfortunately, for every character that brought substance to the game, there seemed to be an equally droll and boring supporting cast member that was either trying way too hard to be involved, or was painfully underutilized. None of them were as disappointing as Clank.

Ratchet and Blank
This cute little guy…
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Why is he even here?

I’ve been assured by everyone by now that this isn’t the case for all of the games, but Ratchet’s robo-buddy, Clank, is under-utilized in an awful way. He only speaks at key moments of the campaign and he only has a brief number of playable missions. I really can’t wrap my mind around why a headlining character like this, especially one you’re forced to look at for a majority of the game, is so painfully absent! I often had to remind myself that he was attached to my back rather than just a voice over a communicator. When he did speak, it was a great addition, but it happens so infrequently that I walked away feeling as though he was little more than a backpack that let me jump higher. Essentially, I didn’t take him as anything more than Kazooie.

Ultimately, none of these setbacks were enough to keep me from loving the time I spent in the game. I’m excited to see the film when it releases, and I hope there is a follow up game in the same scope as what we have now.

I can now safely say I’m a Ratchet and Clank fan.

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