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Ratchet & Clank Going Commando

Developer: Insomniac | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/11/03 | Genre: Platform

I really enjoyed the original Ratchet & Clank. The game was a great mix of action and platforming that kept you hooked all throughout the multitude of massive levels. But when I heard a sequel was coming out a year later, I was a little concerned. How could anyone get a completely new game ready to go in a year? Even after witnessing it at E3 and earlier this year at Sony's Gamers' Day 2003, I was not that impressed with Ratchet & Clank Going Commando. Perhaps I was too impressed with Jak II or that R&C looked too similar to the first title. Once I started playing the final version, I got sucked into a time warp and months later I was still begging to play more...

It was another boring day for a couple of heroes who had nothing better to do. No longer the center of attention, Ratchet & Clank sat around doing absolutely nothing and reminiscing on their past glorious adventures. During an interview, our heroes were taken away by the Fizzwidget of MegaCorp to reclaim a stolen experiment from a thief. This leads them on an 8 to 10 hour adventure to save the stolen experience. Just when you think the game is getting ready to end, you discover that your journey is just beginning. Don't worry about rushing through this game. Ratchet & Clank Going Commando is about twice as large as the original Ratchet & Clank.

The biggest complaint I have heard from people is that Ratchet & Clank Going Commando is just a slight upgrade from the original. While on the surface it may appear this way, there are several changes to justify this game as a true sequel and not an upgrade.

Players will find several RPG elements in Going Commando. Instead of picking up additional health bars, Developer Insomniac has decided to include an experience bar. As you defeat enemies, your experience bar raises. When it fills up all the way, you regain all heal and get a port of a new bar. As this bar gets larger, it will shrink on the screen so you have room for the health bars. Players also can upgrade their weapons by using them. When the experience bar gets full, the weapon will gain a level and become more powerful. As my arsenal slowly began upgrading, I found that some weapons I only slightly liked before became my new favorites.

After seeing this experience system play out in Going Commando, it is clear to me that this is a feature that will be copied by other games in the near future. If you think about it for a little bit, I am surprised that this type of system hasn't been used before. Also, if a player is not able to progress through a certain portion of a level, they can always level up in another area in order to gain the strength needed to continue.

As in the first game, weapons are a big part of Ratchet & Clank Going Commando. While your character is equipped with a wrench, the majority of the time, you will use some sort of other type of weapon. Most of the time you will do this because the wrench is far too weak to stop the opposition without you taking a pounding. However, like in the first game, you are required to purchase weapons by collecting enough bolts. Bolts can be found by destroying enemies, crates, and other items in the world. If Ratchet is nearby, the bolts will automatically go towards him. If you are in need of a new weapon to get through a particular part of the game and don't have enough bolts, it can be a little frustrating. On the other hand, because you have to buy all weapons and ammo for them, you will have to earn everything you purchase. Just like in the first game, this adds another element that makes the Ratchet and Clank series a little more unique than your standard action platformer.

The gameplay is much more polished since the original. Visually the game is just stunning. The colors Developer Insomniac used fit each world. There is so much variety in the environment that you will not get tired of what you see in the game world. Most of the items in the world can be smashed by your wrench or one of the many weapons you have in your arsenal. I made it a point to try and destroy everything so I could get the largest number of bolts possible in each world. While you don't have to do this, I found it helpful in replenishing my ammo when it came time to purchase it.

While it is true that Going Commando looks similar to last year's title, the game engine is much better. Each of the characters moves more realistically. That includes the enemies. Also, the enemies have much better AI and won't let you just destroy them without putting up a fight. For example, I got behind a machine gun and begin firing at the enemies who were chasing me. They ran away and hid until I stopped shooting and walked away from the machine gun. While not all the enemies are this intelligent and there are certain situations where the AI could still be improved, it is overall better than the last version of Ratchet & Clank.

Controlling our heroes is as simple as the first game. You can jump, use your wrench, shoot, and change weapons. To help make switching weapons easier during the heat of battle, if you hit the Triangle button, you will get a quick select menu. By double tapping the triangle button, you can switch back and forth between your current weapon and the last one used. The only problem with the quick select system is that with the vast arsenal you have available, I wish you could have been given the option to increase the size of the quick select. There were many times when I found myself wishing I could hold more of my weapons in there.

Ratchet & Clank Going Commando is full of humor. I found that the lighthearted approach to every situation made the environment more enjoyable to play in. Each of the "bad guys" in the game trip over things, say the wrong words, or something else to make sure that players know this is a fun adventure. It is like the developers are sitting back asking us to just have fun with every aspect of the game. While there is definitely some challenge here, I found that while playing a difficult level in Ratchet & Clank Going Commando, I was much less frustrated when I died. I was eager to jump back in and get it done the next time around!

This may seem really insignificant, but I found a small little feature very entertaining. As the game loads up, if you just sit there, Ratchet and Clank will be sitting back in their own recliner. Clank will be reading a book and Ratchet will have a controller in his hand. On the TV screen in front of them, Ratchet will be playing various scenes from Jak and Ratchet & Clank. While this has nothing to do with the gameplay, it does add a bit more character to the game.

Just like the first game, this is one long adventure. To help ensure you find all of the hidden goodies in each level, know what weapons to use against what enemies, and boss strategies, you need to pick up a copy of BradyGames' Ratchet & Clank Going Commando Strategy guide. You will find all the expert tips and tricks you need to succeed in your adventure.

So the question must be asked, what is the better game--Jak II or Ratchet & Clank Going Commando? I have a hard time answering this question... but I lean towards Jak II. Honestly though, instead of comparing which title is better, why don't you just go out and buy both of them? With the Christmas season around the corner, you should have no problem convincing Santa to bring you both titles. If you have a PS2, there is no excuse not to have both Jake II and Ratchet & Clank Going Commando in your gaming library.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 12/08/03
ESRB Details: Mild Violence
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Screenshots for Ratchet & Clank Going Commando

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