Ratchet & Clank – Up Your Arsenal – Review

g-ratchet200Ratchet & Clank

Up Your Arsenal (Insomniac for PS2)
by Mike Delano

The closest you’re going to get to the video game high (outside of the NoDoz-induced delusions brought on by a.m. sessions of Final Fantasy or Resident Evil) is the elusive sensation known as being in the zone. Shooter fans know it best: The Zen-like equivalent of a runner’s high when you’re maneuvering so deftly amidst an inhuman amount of enemy gunfire that it seems you’re channeling the skills from beyond.

Alas, outside of Ikaruga on Gamecube and the recent Gradius and R-Type throwbacks on the PS2, shooters as they once were are few and far between on today’s consoles. For the pursuit of Zen in 2004, gamers turn where they have for the better part of the past ten years: First-person shooters like Doom and Halo. They provide the zone experience just as handily as the shooters of yore, but like their predecessors, they’re often light in the storyline department for the sake of trigger-happy carnage.

Not to say there aren’t exceptions to that rule, like Goldeneye, Half-Life, and the Ratchet & Clank series. Although it always appeared to be kind of the younger brother to the annual holiday installments of the Jak titles, with Up Your Arsenal, the Ratchet & Clank series is more than ever a full-blown first-person shooter with a real sense of adventure.

g-ratchetscreenIf your platforming skills are rusty, fear not, they won’t be given any kind of a workout here. Right from the beginning, you’ll be thrown like a lamb to the wolves into the bullet and laser-ridden skies of a fevered battlefield. From then on, you empty the clips you’ve got, strafe left and right between enemy fire, and take cover as you dismantle wave upon wave of robotic adversary. Save the precision jumping, head-scratching puzzles, and timely exploration for another game, cuz here it’s just blast-and-go.

Thankfully, all the gunplay is tempered with an amiable storyline considerably bolstered by some great writing. The characters are likeable and spout some truly witty dialogue, which helps make the cut scenes interesting rather than a dreaded bore. And taking the feel of a first-person blaster, applying it to the third-person, and setting it somewhere outside of dark caverns or cold futuristic settings makes it endearingly original. The environments are certainly futuristic, but colorful, organic, and well-designed in a way that sets them apart from the norm.

As with so many 3D action games, however, the sheer amount of things you can do makes the controls suffer a little, and the dizzying amount of selectable weapons this time around doesn’t help. It’s not the fault of Up Your Arsenal, but somewhere along the line, games this good will have to find a way to simplify their control schemes to make them a little more intuitive and less menu-heavy stop’n’go. It’s a minor point, though, so in the meantime, happy blastin’.