Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando

March 23, 2004

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/goingcommando/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Snowcone and I am a Ratchet & Clank-oholic. After being introduced to the first Ratchet & Clank a short time ago by a good friend, I became addicted. The game possessed a unique sense of style and humor that made it impossible for me to release my grasp of an otherwise wretchedly designed controller. It was only a short time later that I learned of an impending sequel, at which time I was only partially thru the first game. I gave my lovely wife the opportunity to express her thoughts on the first game and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

After being blown away by RC, I had to wonder what on earth Insomniac could throw into this game that would make it anything more than a re-release of the same old game with different levels and a slightly modified story. After receiving a demo of Going Commando, I wrote up a short preview of the game and my anticipation began to mount. The game mechanics were still the same, but Insomniac played the one card that seems to always do it for me. Insomniac added experience points and their form of “leveling up”. I have made it no surprise that I don’t care too much for the true to form turn based RPGs, but I do love the aspect of upgrading your character and growing along side them.

What exactly did Insomniac do that suddenly made my blood boil with anticipation? Add experience points which in turn increase your nanotech aka life meter? Check. Add experience points which allow your guns to be upgraded to a much more powerful version of the standard weapon? Check. Allow you to purchase black market add ons for these weapons as well as upgrades for your otherwise plain ship? Check. Allow you to purchase varying levels of armor in different stages of the game? Check. It is all there folks. Insomniac reused the perfect parts of the first game and added things that my feeble little mind had yet to even conceive.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/goingcommando/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Most reviewers have a preset amount of time they like to spend with a game before they feel comfortable trying to explain their thoughts on it. For some people it is only a few hours while others like to complete the game before they begin the writing process. Typically, I like to get my feet wet and truly understand what the game is all about, but with Going Commando I accidentally beat the game and got about 80% of the way thru it again before I pried myself off the couch and into the office to get things rolling. Typically I would call that “slacking”, but in this case I am very glad that things worked out that way and I will explain why.

In the first RC, you were given the option to replay the game from the beginning with your set of weapons in tact. This would obviously make the game much easier, but as an added bonus you were able to purchase gold versions of the same weapons for a much higher price. This same feature was available in Going Commando as well with the presence of “Ultra” versions of the same weapons. (Standard weapons upgraded via experience to Mega Weapons, 2nd time around you purchase Ultra weapons and upgrade them a 2nd time to Mega Ultra. Confusing isn’t it? ) Not only does this allow you to upgrade those new Ultra weapons via experience points, they make the task of obtaining them much easier by adding a “bolt multiplier”. The way this works is that the multiplier increments itself as you kill enemies as long as you don’t get hit. Get hit and it resets back to 1. The multiplier itself tops out at 20, but is still a welcome addition. Obviously if your multiplier is at 10, then you will receive 10 times the normal bolts you would for killing an enemy or destroying a breakable item. It quickly becomes an element of the game that would make purchasing a few of these Million bolt weapons very very difficult if it were not present.

Now that I have ranted for far too long about the parts of the game that really make it shine to me, I want to address the things that will make this game a welcome addition to any gamers library. For starters, the story is great. Insomniac delivered a well written plot complete with twists, predictable as they may be, and a perfect dose of humor. Ratchet & Clank interact like a comedy duo with many years under their belts and it never seems to get old.

Many times, the main complaint in some sort of 3d game is the camera control and it took me going back and restarting Kingdom Hearts to realize just how good the camera is in RC. You have perfect control over your viewpoint and it behaves exactly as you would expect it to. I cannot honestly think of one complaint that I have about the camera implementation and I applaud Insomniac for that.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/goingcommando/ss06_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The graphics engine that was used was basically the same as the first game. In case you were wondering, the engine was actually developed by Naughty Dog for use in the Jak & Daxter games, so if it seemed very familiar that is why. You will also notice the presence of a few Jak style scenes and cameos. Just like the original, the graphics were flawless aside from the occasional view from the wrong side of a wall. I was also pleased at the absence of the v-sync issues that seemed to run rampant in Jak 2. I really look forward to seeing what else Insomniac can accomplish with this aging PS2 hardware.

The music was subtle and not overbearing. It didn’t make you want to play with the game on mute while playing for long periods of time. The voice acting was spot on and is actually an area that Insomniac shines in. Their actors do a wonderful job of portraying the true spirit of the character they are reading for and they really give them a unique personality. This is an even greater feat when you discover that only a handful of people were used and they often did 3+ voices each.

Obviously I feel that the game is not only worth my time to play all the way thru, but I am almost thru it a second time. If the game was not fun or didn’t possess an extremely high replay value in my eyes then I would have stored it away for a rainy day after the first time, but I can’t stress enough that it is even better the second time around with the Ultra weapons that you will be receiving.

Overall I can easily say that Going Commando is my vote for Game of the Year on the PS2. Insomniac added a level of depth to an already refined engine, tossed in a dash of humor, and a side of well written plot. The end result was Going Commando. I typically like to recommend that gamers rent games before purchasing since I know we all have different tastes, but I honestly can’t advise you to waste money renting what should be a mandatory title for all PS2 libraries. This one definitely gets a huge Snowcone seal of approval and one of these days we may just have a fancy graphic to go along with that!

Score: 5/5

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