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Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PlayStation 2)


By Michael Palisano

As the third game in the long-running franchise, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal does an excellent job of maintaining the series' flavor while adding some new elements. The single player mode is somewhat familiar, with new weapons and more elaborate cut-scenes, while staying true to the series' action-oriented roots. The biggest change this time is the addition of a new online mode, where you can fight it out with other players in a variety of maps and different modes. The new multiplayer mode is quite addictive and smartly implemented and adds tons of replay value to an already outstanding single player experience. Read our review and find out why Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is another winner in the series, and a definite must-purchase for any PS2 owner.

It has always been difficult to categorize the Ratchet & Clank series, it's mix of traditional platforming and shooting has means it doesn't fit neatly into either genre. However, the smooth implementation of this hybrid approach has always been incredibly polished and enjoyable. That is the key to the series' long-standing appeal, with the numerous weapons and ingenious level designs giving it much more replay value than many more traditional platform titles. Of course, the series' trademark sense of humor doesn't hurt, either. The developers at Insomniac Studios deserve credit for keeping R&C true to its roots, once again delivers the enjoyably addictive action players have come to expect. However, they've added some interesting twists, many new weapons, features and gameplay modes to keep things fresh. What's really important to know is that despite all the new bells and whistles, the gameplay remains as sharply defined, polished and addictive as ever. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal picks up with our heroes in some kind of a stupor, where the galaxy has been seemingly neutralized by robotic soldiers. However, Ratchet misses the action of saving the universe and is annoyed by his robotic sidekick, Clank grabbing much of the spotlight in a popular television series. Suddenly, the universe comes under attack from the evil Dr. Nefarious, who wants to destroy all living things. In order to pummel the universe, he's enlisted the Thyrraniods to terrorize the galaxy, and they'll attack you mercilessly throughout the game.

R&C: Up Your Arsenal picks up where the previous games left off, as our heroes once again battle floods of enemies through dozens of levels scattered throughout the universe. As you play through the game, you'll find bolts scattered around - collecting these allows you to purchase items and ammo at the shops located at the beginning of each level. You can also find the usual health-power ups and other items. As far as weapons go, Ratchet has his trusty wrench at his disposal once again. He can use either by swinging at close range or by throwing it at opponents. You can combat some enemies with this standard approach, but some require additional firepower. Fortunately, you can collect a ton of different of weapons on each level by destroying crates or finding icons scattered on each level. Some of the weapons have returned from previous games, while many are new. Ratchet's can use blasters, nitro launchers, plasma whips, Nitro Storm weapons, which target foes, rifle guns, mini-rockets and more. Players can also upgrade certain weapons and collect additional ammo for each weapon. In addition, you'll find a number of special items called gadgets which you can use. These include the trademark Morph-ray, which turns enemies into harmless sheep, a special Suck Cannon, which allows you to vacuum smaller foes. You can also collect two types of boots, Gravity, which let you walk up the sides of buildings and Charge boots that let you hover over the ground for a short time. This arsenal of weapons is quite impressive, and allows you to cause almost unlimited destruction and mayhem throughout the game.

Most of the weapons in the game can be fired from third-person view, while many others can also be fired from first-person perspective, to increase their accuracy. As in previous games, managing your weapons is simple, just call up the menu, select which weapon you want to you and commence attack. Ratchet & Clank's controls are excellent, allowing the player to move and shoot through the levels with ease. Players will find it necessary to switch from first to third person at many points, but this is simple, as is changing from standard to strafing mode. The essential gliding, jumping flying maneuvers are likewise easy to control, making the platforming portions of the game. Ratchet & Clank's menu interface is smooth and intuitive, allowing you to focus on the action at hand effortlessly. The responsive movement of the characters is excellent, and the camera system allows you to change viewpoints using the right analog stick. In addition to merely controlling your characters, you now also have the opportunity to drive vehicles in some areas of the game. Jumping in to a vehicle gives you additional firepower, but you can still take damage and must exit the vehicle if it takes too much damage. Another new feature this time allows take over enemy gun turrets and fire away. The driving and turret elements immediately remind you of Halo, but this works well and enhance the overall experience without being distracting. Playing the game is an absolute blast, requiring almost no training before you can jump right in. Ratchet & Clank's smooth gameplay is incredibly polished, ranking up there with the best 3D platform games on the PS2 while offering an intensity most genre titles lack.

The game design itself is just as smooth and polished as the previous games with the same arcade-style play gamers have come to expect. Things start off fairly tame, but the action quickly intensifies, throwing a lot at the player at once. Most of the enemies are easy to defeat thanks to their somewhat predictable attack patterns, but they often attack in groups which makes them much more dangerous. In addition, Ratchet will face off with a number of stronger sub-boss and boss characters who are trickier and require multiple hits to take down. The game's level design is superb, as you've come to expect with challenging layouts requiring large jumps and platforming leaps and more. The pacing is excellent, as the game starts relatively slowly, but picks up in intensity as you move into the later levels. There's a lot of variety in the levels, with range from urban settings, to darker tunnels and more open levels. Fortunately, the level designs are straightforward in design, but the game encourages players to explore to find hidden areas that contain bonus items and more. As usual, the harder an area is to get too, the more likely you'll find a big reward waiting for you, making an excellent risk to reward ratio. You can get through the game without exploring all its edifices, but the experience isn't quite as rewarding if you don't. For example, the developers have included several bonus 2D levels starring the infamous Captain Qwark from previous games. While they're nothing to really get excited about, this old-school flashback makes a pleasant diversion from the main action and a nice extra. You won't find these levels if you simply blast through the game, so a little bit of patience and exploration is definitely in order.

While the single player game is excellent and remains the main attraction, Up Your Arsenal ups the ante with impressive multiplayer support. The game allows you to compete against other players in a variety of modes that supports both split-screen and online modes of play. Players can choose from a variety of maps, set parameters such as weapons, timed matches, the use of vehicles and more and compete against other players in three basic types of online matches. These include Capture the Flag, Siege and Deathmatch modes. The rules for these modes are fairly self-explanatory and don't need much elaboration. These are all quite enjoyable and addictive and bring an entirely new type of gameplay to the series. The online modes performed well, with little lag using the broadband network adaptor, though the matching and loading seemed to take longer than we expected. While it might seem odd to include online play in a platform title, the game's shooting elements and combat translates well to this type of play.

The game's overall appearance is one of the few areas where Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal disappoints. While the environments and levels are still quite large, and the character designs look decent, it seems that the overall graphics engine hasn't undergone much of an upgrade from previous titles. This gives the game a slightly dated feel. However, Insomniac has mitigated this by adding more cinematic scenes and a slightly more interesting plot, which fleshes out the storyline a bit more than previous titles. As usual, the voice acting is excellent, and the series' trademark offbeat sense of humor makes things more entertaining than they would otherwise be. Overall, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is an excellent extension for the long-running series. It's mix of non-stop action, clever level designs and new elements makes for an impressive sequel that should please fans of the series. The additional weapons and drivable vehicles keeps the single player experience fresh and exciting, while the new online multiplayer modes offer an exciting new element that's quite addictive in itself. While it isn't flawless, this superb platform/combat title is a highly-polished, thoroughly enjoyable game that will make a solid addition to any PS2 owner's library.

Grade: B+

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