Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando Preview

Sony and Insomniac's dynamic duo let it all hang out in their upcoming sequel.

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The original Ratchet & Clank immediately became one of the brighter lights in Sony's software lineup when it was released last year. Engaging gameplay and impressive graphics helped the game stand out as one of SCEA's strongest first-party offerings to date. One of the most laudable elements of Ratchet & Clank was its high level of polish--Insomniac's attention to detail and play balance resulted in a title that was easily among the best in its genre. In the wake of Ratchet & Clank's success, the Southern California-based developer is currently hard at work on a follow-up. We recently had a chance to check out an early build of the game and were pleased by what we saw. Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando finds the bickering duo back for a new adventure that boasts some impressive new content and gameplay elements.

Ratchet and Clank are back for more adventure.
Ratchet and Clank are back for more adventure.
Despite the sequel's provocative title, the game does not find the pair at work sans undergarments. (It should be noted that Clank has been "going commando" since the first game anyway, as robots are not known for wearing clothing.) The "Commando" in the title refers to Ratchet's new career path. The game opens up not too long after the end of the original game. The two heroes are still basking in the afterglow of their heroic efforts and doing what any self-respecting celebrities would do: making the rounds on the interview circuit. The pair is contacted by Abercrombie Fizzwidget, the CEO of Mega Corp--the leading corporation in the nearby Bogon galaxy--who asks them for some help. Apparently, one of Mega Corp's experimental projects, the Proto Pet, has been stolen by a mysterious thief named Angela Cross, and Fizzwidget is anxious to get it back. As luck would have it, the act of corporate thievery endangers more than just Mega Corp's profits, as the Proto Pet is extremely dangerous. While the specifics of how dangerous the critter is and why are a bit hazy, the bottom line is it could cause damage of galactic proportions if things go awry. The pair agree to help Fizzwidget out and head off to the Bogon galaxy in their trusty ship. They'll come to discover there's a lot more going on when it comes to the Proto Pet and Mega Corp as they journey through the game's 20 worlds in their quest.

You'll find plenty of new weapons in the game.
You'll find plenty of new weapons in the game.

Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando's original story is complemented by a gameplay system that reflects Insomniac's desire to rethink everything about the original game. The team wasn't quite satisfied with its work in the original Ratchet & Clank and opted to revisit nearly every aspect of the gameplay, keeping what it felt were the strongest elements and overhauling the weaker ones. The core gameplay remains the same--you'll still journey to different locations, explore areas, solve puzzles, fight hordes of enemies, buy weapons, get gadgets, and engage in some minigame action. What's different are the specifics of how all that will play out. The most dramatic change is the addition of an RPG-style experience system for Ratchet and his weapons. There are two separate systems in play during the game, one for Ratchet and one for his weapons. As you fight enemies, Ratchet will earn experience, and when you earn a set amount, your health will increase. The system is similar for weapons--you'll earn experience every time you use a specific weapon, and once you've earned enough, the weapon will be upgraded. Speaking of Ratchet's arsenal, you'll find 19 new weapons in the game, 18 of which can be upgraded by gaining experience. The upgrades are more than just simple increases in power, though. In most cases, the weapon will change into something completely new. For example, the lava gun spews out a stream of fiery lava, but once it's been upgraded, it becomes the meteor gun, which fires a hail of fiery rocks. Fans of the original game will be pleased to know that some of the weapons from the first game will return, thanks to the presence of a lone Gadgetron vendor that thorough players may come across in their travels. If you have a save from the original Ratchet & Clank on your memory card, the weapons will be free. If you don't, you'll have to buy them.

To complement the new set of weapons in the game, Ratchet will be sporting some sleek commando gear. You'll be able to find four different types of armor in your adventures, and each one will increase the amount of punishment he can take. You'll also get some swanky new gadgets that will be essential to solving puzzles.

The series' exploration elements haven't been changed, although you'll now be clued in to new locations and objectives by radio communications rather than the Infobots used in the original game. You'll also find a bit more variety in the missions and objectives. On top of the standard character interaction, you'll engage in space battles and man turrets in the shooting sequences that crop up on occasion. You'll also be able to participate in some old-fashioned arena-based brawling and racing to earn more bolts and new gadgets. Additionally, you'll explore "spherical worlds," which are funky 3D spheres that feature structures that extend into the atmosphere. You'll have to make your way up and around the structures to reach objects and solve some puzzles. You'll also get the chance to take control of Clank again in solo sequences. Overall, there's a lot more to do in the game than in the original.

The gameplay in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando features more variety.
The gameplay in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando features more variety.

The graphics in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando haven't seen quite as many dramatic tweaks as the gameplay has. Ratchet and Clank look as good as ever and animate nicely. You'll find a plethora of new faces in the game, and they all look good and fit in with the series' retro design sensibilities. There have been some very impressive enhancements to the core engine technology, such as the addition of the spherical worlds and bigger environments. You'll also notice a boost in detail and a host of new special effects that add some punch to the weapons. Like the previous game, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando will use cinemas to move the story along. This time out, though, you'll also be treated to some amusing Behind the Music-style interviews with Ratchet and Clank that showcase the game's loopy humor. While the early build of the game we saw had some frame rate problems, the graphics are looking pretty sharp so far.

The series' graphics have been enhanced since the original game.
The series' graphics have been enhanced since the original game.

Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando seems to be shaping up into a promising follow-up to the original. Insomniac's attention to detail is as solid as ever, and the new gameplay elements are looking good. So far, the game retains the solid feel of its predecessor, which bodes well for the final game. Look for more on Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando next week at E3. The game is currently slated to ship this November.

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