Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank impressed many gamers when it came out last year, offering a mix of platforming and shooting. The sequel, Going Commando offers much of the same satisfying gameplay but adds a few new twists including more puzzles, additional weapons and, even gladiatorial combat. In addition, there are space combat missions and massive rotating circular worlds that make for an experience unlike anything attempted in a platformer to date. The intuitive controls and gorgeous environments make for some impressive production values. R&C: Going Commando is an excellent sequel expands on the ideas from the first game and adds ingenious new elements that make for an intense platform title which fans of the genre should definitely enjoy.
Ratchet & Clank was probably one of the best platformers to come out for the PS2 and its sequel displays a lot more polish and variety. Building on the successful formula from last year's edition, Going Commando adds many new elements to the already solid gameplay mechanics that make for a larger and more varied gameplay experience. The story begins with the semi-retired duo lounging on the success and fame they achieved. They've become wealthy and accustomed to their celebrity status, but they're also getting a bit bored. Ratchet and Clank receive a phone call from MegaCorp and jump at the chance to become the company's mercenaries. Their mission is to recover MegaCorp's top-secret experiment from an evil thief. This leads you into a wild and intense adventure that will take players to many different planets throughout the galaxy. While much of the platform action seems familiar, Going Commando implements entirely new types of levels that take place on circular worlds. These levels are quite cool and give a unique spin on the genre. These rounded levels present players with an entirely new type of challenge that really adds to the game's depth.
Like the first game, there's a lot of platforming and exploration through some massive levels. This is cool, but the main fun comes in using the many mechanical devices to slice through enemies like butter. As in the first game, you have access to many types of weapons and gadgets. You have a couple basic weapons at the start of the game, and can earn more as you go along by collecting bolts. Weapons can also upgrade themselves if you progress high enough. Some of the weapons include Gravity Bombs, which clear out an area with a single devastating shot. You can also equip Choppers that ricochet off walls, Lancers which lock onto enemies and your trusty wrench, which can hit close enemies or be thrown at them. Gadgets can be used in the puzzle areas or to unlock areas. These have a variety of functions including turning on holographic ramps. There are also grappling hooks which help you cross gaps and you can use the tractor beam to move heavy objects. You have a lot of weapons at your disposal and the game's intuitive weapons management interface which allows you to quickly switch weapons and gadgets is excellent.
You'll have to maneuver many tricky jumps and gaps while blasting everything in sight. During the missions, you'll also have to destroy a variety of mechanical and natural enemies from vicious mutated animals, to laser blasting robots and dangerous boss encounters. When you defeat enemies, they release bolts which you can use later on to purchase weapons, gadgets and ammo at the various vending machines. During the game, you can break open crates and boxes that contain a variety of items. Some of these boxes give you extra ammo, health and other options. You can also find special energy power-ups and more. There are also items that can upgrade your weapons or increase your total nano-tech. You'll fight a variety of enemies and most are unique to each planet, some of these are easy to defeat individually but the game throws a lot of them at you simultaneously. In groups these enemies are far more dangerous because they attack from many directions at once, making their fire harder to avoid. While the automatic weapons are the most effective in wiping out foes, you may want to fight some of these with your handy wrench in order to save ammo. While fighting these foes head to head wins you the most bolts, you can perform a variety of cool acrobatic moves including jumping, climbing and, strafing to escape their attacks without taking too much damage.
R&C: Going Commando's structure remains largely linear, since new levels are only unlocked once previous ones are completed. The levels themselves are quite large, but fortunately, the game's map feature allows you to easily find where you are. However, you can return to planets you've previously visited later on in the game once you find the right weapons and gadgets to unlock hidden areas. This definitely adds to the game's depth, but the levels are easy to defeat. In addition to standard platforming fare, there are puzzles and maxi-games that add to the gameplay's appeal. Some of these mini-games are relatively simple, where you have to guide a circuit through a screen, while others are more complicated and involve mutltiple steps in order to succeed. There are also some pretty intense boss battles, and some really wild gladiatorial levels where you find yourself in an arena as dozens of enemies come at you.
Obviously, any good platformer needs excellent controls, and the intuitive controls in Ratchet & Clank are tight and responsive. Shooting at enemies is a snap and you can auto-target them as well. Performing the special moves is likewise easy to do, and players should have no trouble climbing walls. Using the special gadgets couldn't be simple, just press the button and they work automatically. The default camera angles are decent, though you can change your viewpoint easily using the right analog stick. Targeting enemies is hit or miss and largely depends on thew weapons you use. This is a game that's very easy to play with a very short learning curve. The game's smooth menu interface allows players to call up a map and change weapons with ease. Overall, the highly polished gameplay shines throughout making for a fluid experience.
From a visual standpoint, the game is quite impressive and features some incredibly expansive and impressively designed environments. Each level features an array environmental and lighting effects, character design and lots of really big explosions. You can interact with many objects as well, which really brings the game to life. While the standard levels are cool, once you see the dazzling rotating worlds, you'll definitely be impressed by the smooth scrolling and unique approach, though the angle used can be a little disorienting at points. There are also several outer-space combat missions where you have to fly your ship through asteroid belts and battle other ships. These levels are really cool as well and make a nice change of pace from the norm. However, they're a bit too easy for us. Once you're back on the ground, the game's fluid character animations give the action a sense of urgency. The graphics are excellent by PS2 standards and the action moves at a smooth frame rate with very few jaggies. From an audio standpoint, the production values are also excellent with an epic orchestral soundtrack that lends the action a cinematic feel. Going Commando's voice-over acting is surprisingly good, and the storyline itself mixes humor and action effectively. This helps to bring the characters to life. Insomniac has done an excellent job with the game and most players should have no complaints about the superb presentation.
& Clank: Going Commando is an excellent sequel that expands the ideas in
original game. It retains the basic mix of traditional platforming and weapons
mechanics that made the first go so appealing, yet adds a new spin with its
circular levels to keep things fresh. The expansive levels are large, but things
never become frustrating. The overall design is intelligent and player-friendly,
offering a variety of enemies to defeat and different puzzle tasks to complete.
The overall pace and flow is excellent for a platform title, gradually
introducing weapons and new abilities for you to master which keep your interest
level high throughout. While many platformers get dull after awhile, Going
Commando throws many different challenges at you, so you'll rarely become bored.
The visuals are highly polished and players will definitely enjoy the game's
evocative planets, at least until they blow the environments to smithereens.
Ratchet & Clank is turning into one of the most consistently entertaining
franchises on the PS2. The second installment is highly recommended for fans of
the original, and those players new to the series should check it out and will
definitely have a blast.