As many are probably aware, Insomniac Games will be releasing a PS4 remake of the original Ratchet and Clank game this April. As a die hard fan, I’m thrilled. When I was a kid, I loved playing the first few PS2 games that Insomniac created. I remember watching my father play the Going Commando title until I was confident enough to try it out for myself, and might I say that I was terrible for the longest time. But that didn’t matter! It was fun. It was a great time; it was memorable.
While I’m greatly hoping that the newest installment of the series will hold up to these standards, I do have some reservations for the next game. Once Insomniac Games started creating titles for the PS3, a few of the games lost the loving touch that nurtured the original trilogy. Granted, I absolutely adored the Future trilogy – especially A Crack in Time – but the later titles were lacking. Once the company produced All 4 One and Into the Nexus, the art and play style had changed enough to a point where it felt like the developers lost the connection with the parts of Ratchet and Clank that truly made the series.
As an aspiring artist myself, I want to take a brief moment to discuss the changing art styles of the games and why the later interpretations bothered me. The art in the first few games was great for PS2 standards, and I enjoyed seeing the graphics progress throughout the Future trilogy; Ratchet went from being a cute character with huge fuzzy ears and oversized hands, to being a high-definition work of moving, playable art. Insomniac hit their peak with Ratchet’s design in A Crack in Time, and I can’t say enough how let down I was by the heavily-altered art style that All 4 One threw at me. It felt almost lazy.
I understand that the developers were running in a whole other direction completely regarding gameplay style and mechanics which did, in a sense, require a different art type, but I still think that they could’ve kept some of the character finesse that they created in the Future trilogy. One thing that I did appreciate from All 4 One though was the environment. Insomniac still did a fantastic job with the scenery, and I had a few genuine moments where I had to stop and admire the world.
Back on the topic of the new game, from watching the trailers and bits of gameplay, it looks like Insomniac Games is attempting to bring back the magic from the original PS2 titles. Thus, my excitement returns. Now, Insomniac Games had already made an HD remake for the first three games for the PS3, so some of you might be wondering why they’re going at it again. The answer? The PS4 version won’t just be a definition boost; it’ll be an entire re-interpretation of the story from the first game, as well as a new take on the characters from the entire series.
Okay, so I keep referring to how the PS2 games were great, but what exactly made them great? In order to figure out the proper recipe for success in the next game, we need to take a look at what made the first few games so good. In the first Ratchet and Clank, there was an intriguing dynamic between Ratchet, the main playable character, and Clank, the pivotal character that got Ratchet off the rock known as Veldin. The interactions between the two characters were rather bitter at times, as Ratchet kind of came off as an ass for a while (sorry, Insomniac!), but they were both interesting enough that the player truly cared about how their relationship progressed.
Ratchet and Clank aren’t the only memorable characters form the game though. I always thought that it was interesting how the truth about Captain Qwark, a major NPC, affected the narrative and the motives of the main characters. For instance, Qwark is the reason that Clank pairs up with Ratchet; Clank hopes that he can find the proclaimed hero and get his aid to save the galaxy. However, upon actually encountering Qwark, the main characters realize that he’s not what they thought he was, and the story arc progresses in a different direction from there.
Aside from well-crafted narrative, the original games in the series had a lot more to offer. One of my personal favorite areas of the games was always the diversity in the worlds that players were able to explore. In fact, Insomniac Games has never faltered in the realm of map creation, even when some of their other areas might have diminished from the standard.
In jumping from planet to planet, one will find very few similarities. One map could be a space station with tons of little frog-like monsters, while another map is a futuristic metropolis with robotic dog creatures. Although some planets show up multiple times in the span of all the games, Insomniac Games has always been careful to explore diversity with their levels and create scenery that people can’t help but look at. As I mentioned previously, even in Insomniac’s weaker title of All 4 One, they still created an amazing world to interact with; the icy stage of that game was breathtaking.
I always enjoyed the wide range of unique weapons that the developers made available in each game. Very few weapons carried over from one game to another – really only the Ryno ever did – but even in the similar name or gun type, Insomniac Games always found new ways to make the weapons bigger and badder than the last ones.
Given all of this, let’s look at how the new game seems to be stacking up. Since the Ratchet and Clank remake will be mostly following the original narrative, I have no quarrels with whatever direction they choose to take. Ratchet will still serve as the main character (perhaps he won’t be a total jerk in this one), and Clank as the pivotal character that actually sets the story in motion. Qwark, as well as other memorable NPCs, will make numerous appearances throughout the installment, which will help drive the narrative. In addition, I have no doubt that the worlds will be as pretty as ever, although we most definitely will be seeing a lot of the same worlds from the original game; but, they’ll be given a boost both in graphics and in explorability.
Speaking of graphics, from what I’ve seen in the trailers, I think I’ll be extremely happy with the new art direction. Ratchet doesn’t look like a rubbery cat with overly large eyes, and instead looks like the great fuzzball that I’ve come to expect. I’ve got to give Clank some more love here too; Clank looks amazing as usual, although I’ve really never had a problem with the way his character model progressed. I haven’t seen much in the way of weapons for the new game, but, knowing Insomniac, I’m sure that the weapons will be as crazy as ever.
And with that, I’m pleased to say that I’m thrilled for the release in April, and am positive that it will successfully live up to my standards for Ratchet and Clank titles. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet!