Ratchet & Clank Retrospective Part 3: Up Your Arsenal
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (or just Ratchet & Clank 3 in Europe) represents the final game in a loose trilogy that also encompasses Ratchet & Clank and Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. This represents the “classic era” of the series to most people, and whilst they don’t have too much in direct story correlations they do share a lot of mechanics, weapons, and even read each other’s save files. There is a sense that each game directly built on the last one mechanically; refining and honing each element rather than attempting to completely revolutionize and re-invent the game each time.
It’s difficult to pin down what makes Ratchet & Clank 3 such an excellent entry in the series because on paper the single player seems a little bit cut down. The racing and space combat that saw use in the previous two games have been removed, and new combat or challenge oriented sections have been added in.
These two modes allow you to flex the muscles of the teeming array of weapons the series is known for, and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal does not disappoint in this respect. The weapons and upgrade system has been expanded so that each weapon in the game goes through five stages of leveling that culminates in a powerful final form, and the game has you picking up modifications along the way. This is extremely satisfying, and the gradual increase in power and features makes the player feel they are constantly getting something new to play with. Most of the weapons are very satisfying to use, but there are a few duds in the extensive line-up. Though, the variety is such that you can pick and choose those that fit your play style.Annihilation Nation once again expands the arena combat of the series with added platforming death-courses. There are a good number of varied challenges on offer that are unlocked throughout the game, and it allows you to earn a lot of extra Bolts should you require them. The game also features all new missions from the Galactic Rangers; many planets feature a series of objective based challenges that have you supporting a squad of robots, and some objectives of the main game revolve around this format. They are mostly ground combat missions, capturing blot-cracks, and the slightly tedious hover-ship challenges.
The classic gadgets take a bit of a back-seat this time around with the only major additions being the laser re-directing Refractor, and the new puzzle mini-game of The Hacker — which is a little braindead and tedious, but you won’t spend too much time with it. The Swingshot makes a return, as do the gravity boots, but the grind boots take a break in Up Your Arsenal. It all feels very unobtrusive, the Swingshot automatically deploys and you just click on hacker puzzles; this allows you to get on with the game with a minimum of farting around. There’s also teleporter gadget, but you’ll only use it a couple of times.
The major new element of the game is the addition of the Quark Vid Comics; a 2D platforming game within the main game that is very well executed, and helps drive forward as well as give background to the main plot of Up Your Arsenal. They offer up their own challenges too; like beating the various episodes within a set time limit or collecting all the Quark tokens within a level.
All of this makes replaying or back-tracking to hunt skill-points and trophies a less monotonous task, and creates a game which feels far more repayable than it really should be. Every element here is fun to engage with and offers you whatever level of value you are willing to get out of it. You can skip through the game at break-neck speed or you can stop and complete as much as possible in your play through. Although you will find yourself needing to do multiple play throughs to get to 100% completion. You’ll also find yourself wanting to do them, as your weapons get more ludicrously overpowered and your Bolt count reaches the stratosphere.
The story and characters are more fleshed out and better executed than in previous games too. Clank has more of his own role this time being cast as “Secret Agent Clank” — who would later get is own mobile spin off. The true stars of the show are supervillain comedy duo of Dr. Nefarious and his long-suffering butler/man-servant Lawrence who has a dry, mocking sense of humour. They are by far the strongest villains of the series and return in future games for good reason. The plot itself revolves around Dr. Nefarious’ plan to turn the entire galaxy into robots. A plan as insane as the robotic megalomaniac himself, and one that leads you to many side characters and locations.
Quark is ever-present in this entry in the series, but his bumbling is on the good guy’s side now, and the early arc of his story is both ludicrous and revealing. The vid-comics give you a glimpse into how his hero reputation was forged, in both senses of the word, as well as providing background on Dr. Nefarious and clues as to his motivations and whereabouts. The game has good pacing because of the interplay between these elements.
The supporting cast of the Q-Force get a moderate amount of screen-time, but I wish their various interactions and misadventures aboard the Starship Phoenix would have been more fleshed out as they are ripe for character building and comedy. As it stands, they do serve as NPC’s that help you in various sections of the game. Especially Scrunch the Monkey who serves as a “Banana guided monkey device” for Clank to use in his sections of the game. The Clank sections themselves are relatively the same, but with more of an emphasis on avoiding traps and hazards than the gathering of Gadgebots that dominated the earlier games. Gadgebots still make an appearance, but your main method of dealing with challenges will be to guide Scrunch with your supply of bananas.
The game also featured online and local competitive multiplayer modes which, quite honestly, most people didn’t play due to the lack of online support for the PS2 at the time. Many of us had launch models, or earlier models, which required a network expansion and a wired broadband connection to function. The PS2 didn’t come with integrated network capabilities until the PS2 slim-line that was also released the same year as Up Your Arsenal in 2004. By the time many of us had reliable access to the internet with a PS2 the online mode was already a ghost-town.
The situation with the HD remake is sadly the same; being released in 2012 I’ve not been able to find a game full enough to play in. I’ve played a few rounds against a single friend a few times, but that can’t really give you a feel for how the multiplayer would work. The game is well worth playing even without this component, so feel free to do what most of us have done for more than a decade and just ignore its existence. If you feel that you are missing much by skipping them, their structure is somewhat like the Galactic Ranger missions featured in the single player campaign, and even use some very similar maps.
Ratchet & Clank 3 has some of the best levels of the series. Courtney Gears’ home base Obani Draco is great looking and playing pink death course that is sadly too short. Outpost X12 features an expansive map for galactic trooper missions and allows that element of the game to really shine.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is a game I’ve found myself going back to many times over the years, and is a game I was quite sad to finally 100% complete. It may not be the most ambitious in the series, but it’s still just amazingly fun to play. It has the right mixture of elements from the previous games distilled into a form that leaves very little fat to be trimmed — out of the single player game at least. Ratchet & Clank has never really been a co-op and online experience, and as we are leading up to future titles the efforts to turn it into one have had mixed results. For the time being, let’s celebrate a game that helped define my time growing up as a gamer. Ratchet & Clank 3 is an unabashed and enthusiastic recommendation.
Favourite Gadget: The Refractor, just barely.
Thanks for sticking with us so far. Next time we get Deadlocked…. or was that become a Gladiator?
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