previews\ Jun 4, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Ratchet & Clank - PS2 - Preview

Imagine a world that never sleeps.  A world with flying cars, moving platforms and enormous, futuristic buildings.  Similar to Coruscant in Star Wars, this world is one gigantic city.  And let me tell you, this is one of the most amazing cities that I have ever explored.

Inside this world is a fictitious marsupial-like animal named Ratchet.  Ratchet has teamed up with Clank, a small (but useful) robot to defeat the evil creatures that threaten the galaxy.  The rest of the story, and the reason why you fight is unimportant though.  Once I began to explore the game's spectacular world, I ignored most of the text and delved deep into Ratchet & Clank's rich gameplay.

Controlling Ratchet is both fun and easy.  Running, jumping, attacking and gliding could not be any easier.  Ratchet can acquire a plethora of weapons, including a flamethrower!  But his standard weapon is something a little unusual: a wrench.  Press the square button while on the ground to make Ratchet swing it left and right; press it in the air to make him slam down with a fierce wrench-strike (Ratchet's equivalent to Mario's butt stomp).  Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of uses for the wrench (at least not in the demo), but it's a lot of fun to use, and comes in handy when you're out of ammo.

A lot of Ratchet's weapons are new to the genre, but they feel as if they've been there all along.  When attacking with the flamethrower (or any weapon), Ratchet aims in the area that you are walking.  Are robotic dogs standing in your way?  Equip the flamethrower and go nuts!  Run around them, chase them and burn them to smithereens.  There's also a grappling hook that can be used to swing from one grappling post to another, and a standard blaster that shoots out energy balls, among other weapons and gadgets.

You may be wondering where Clank fits into all of this.  For the most part, Clank does absolutely nothing.  But once you find the "Robot Guy," Clank will be upgraded, making him much more useful.  The first upgrade is the Helipack, which turns Clank into a hovering machine.  Whenever you're in the air, hold down the X button to hover.  Just don't let go or else you'll fall!  Luckily, Ratchet doesn't die or get injured when landing on solid ground.  This could change in the final version of the game though.

There are at least two other upgrades for Clank.  What are they?  I couldn't find anymore in the demo, so I guess we'll just have to wait until November to see what other secrets lie within Ratchet & Clank.

The camera isn't as flexible as the one featured in Jak & Daxter, but it is used in the same way.  Press the right stick up, down, left or right to pan the camera around your character.  Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a specific button that can be pressed to center your camera.  Tapping R1/R2 will usually move the camera behind Ratchet, but it tends to be a little jarring since those buttons activate the first-person view (which allows you to look around and blast your enemies more precisely).  When you tap R1, it automatically zooms in a little, even if you don't hold the button down.  This is a minor complaint, but I hope Insomniac hears it loud and clear because this game really needs a camera-centering button.  Other than that, the controls are excellent.

Graphically, Ratchet &Clank is like a 3D Klonoa game (with cooler backgrounds).  Everything is fully rendered, and Ratchet himself looks terrific.  His mouth movements and facial expressions are truly amazing, even more so than Medal of Honor: Frontline.  As Ratchet chats with the locals, his face reacts the most realistic ways.  The other characters have realistic expressions as well, but none of them are quite as detailed as Ratchet (which makes sense because he is the main character).

Exploring is one of the greatest aspects of an action/adventure game, and from the looks of things, there will be tons to explore in Ratchet & Clank.  The only downside is the release date (November 2002).  It's hard to think about that without feeling sad because it is so far away.  Sony, you guys let Crash go, but no matter what happens in the future, don't let this one slip between your fingers!  Ratchet & Clank could very well be the best platformer ever to grace the PlayStation 2.

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