We previously covered Secret Agent Clank after a pair of encounters with the game at last year's Tokyo Game Show and, more recently, this year's Game Developers Conference. Now that we've got our hands on a preview build, we can add to that coverage with some updated impressions of the first three levels from Clank's solo debut. In this preview, we'll start with the introductory level, which adds some crafty espionage work to the series' trademark jump-and-blast formula.
The beginning of Secret Agent Clank lays out the story that will guide the events of the rest of the game. We see Clank sneaking about on the roof of Boltaire Museum, an artificial history museum dedicated to all things robot. He demonstrates some of his newfound spy skills by using a fancy gizmo to silently cut a hole in the glass ceiling. Before he can lower himself in, Clank sees what appears to be Ratchet being whisked away by guards as an alarm blares obnoxiously.
A short while later, we're shown a news broadcast running footage of Ratchet proclaiming his surprising lack of remorse, followed by an anchor wondering how a galactic hero could fall so low. Clank is unsure if it's an impostor or not, but a quick retinal scan proves it's the real Ratchet who's been arrested. If that is the real Ratchet, what could possibly compel him to turn toward a life of crime?
Thus begins Secret Agent Clank. The first level has Clank trying to break in to Boltaire Museum to investigate this suspicious crime. He begins outside, attempting to dodge spotlights as he makes his way closer to the building. Should he be seen, a pack of robotic dogs will come running after him. Clank doesn't have much of a problem with the dogs; though he doesn't have any weapons from the get-go, his punch is powerful enough to take out these attack hounds without much worry.
Clank soon makes his way into the museum, where he has to deal with towering guards. Though massive in size, they're slow movers and don't see anything beyond their limited flashlight range. Clank can take them on directly, but the game awards you extra nanotech points for every section you pass through without attracting attention. One of the ways you can lay low is by hopping on a pedestal and pretending to be a statue when a guard walks by. It's almost required to take the sneaky approach at first, but it becomes easier to cause mayhem when Clank discovers his first weapon in a conveniently placed agency drop box--the tie-a-rang. These razor-sharp projectiles are as easy to throw as letting the game auto-target an enemy for you and hitting the circle button to release.
Shortly after picking up his first weapon, Clank finds a blackout pen, which shoots a pile of goo onto alarm lasers. This helps Clank sneak around more effectively. Another means of keeping quiet is the ability to execute a stealth takedown on the museum guards. This is done by running up behind them, hitting square, and correctly mimicking a quick four-button sequence. These little quick-time events act as an appetizer for the final chapter of the Boltaire Museum level, which is the rhythm minigame where Clank has to break-dance his way through a dense web of lasers. While most rhythm minigames tend to feel out of place, this one works surprisingly well when you see the timing required for Clank to pass through these beams of light.
These QTEs and minigames help add variety to a game that uses fairly simple controls. The trickiest part of the button configuration is getting used to adjusting the camera with the L and R buttons. We ran into occasional snags while trying to fight in a corner, but most of the time the controls felt easy and well suited to the variety of gameplay.
Visually, you've still got the look of a Ratchet and Clank game thanks to some nice, sharp visuals that never slow down even when the screen is littered with enemies and the dozens of bolts they scatter upon dying. There's also plenty of the series' familiar humor, like the clever dialogue in the cutscenes and amusing descriptions viewable on every museum plaque. The whole formula adds up to a game worth looking forward to. Next we'll bring you our impressions of the second and third levels from Secret Agent Clank. Stay tuned for those.