Video Game Review: “Ratchet & Clank”

  The Ratchet & Clank series is likely the most prevalent video-game franchise from my childhood. Surpassing the hours spent driving around an army tank in Grand Theft Auto 3 and eating up more of my time than SmackDown: Here Comes the PainSly Cooper was cool and I even liked the characters more, but it simply couldn’t match the sheer bliss of Ratchet & Clank’s game-play, and while I loved Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank truly brought out the big guns, ala Sheepinator and Ryno.

   I enjoyed the first Ratchet & Clank, but loved Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, I also very much enjoyed Up Your Arsenal, and found Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction to be a decent installment, as well. Secret Agent Clank wasn’t bad either, although, it’s the weakest link of the titles I’ve mentioned. I’ve played the other titles like Deadlocked and Size Matters, but I haven’t had the chance to delve deeper into the Future series except the first installment. In summary, I really enjoyed the first few Ratchet & Clank video-games, but my interest started to wane as the series progressed. Although, a lot of that is because I had an Xbox 360 and by the time I had a PlayStation 3, my enthusiasm for the series had already long-since cooled off.

   My attention was had when it was announced that Ratchet & Clank would receive a movie-adaptation. The concept of a Ratchet & Clank series seemed like a no-brainer, although, it was arguable even then that an animated series would have been a better fit than a big-screen film. Unfortunately, as I sat in the theater watching the film, I soon realized the film was dead-in-the-water. At the box office, Ratchet & Clank was only able to make about 13.4 million off its 20 million production budget. If you consider how much had to have been spent on marketing the film and you consider how much of the profit went to the theaters carrying the film, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ratchet & Clank film lost more than 25 million dollars when it was all said and done.

   There are other variables to consider, like home video-sales, streaming services, and other avenues to garner revenue, but the fact remains that the Ratchet & Clank film was a real dud as far as profit is concerned. And, unfortunately, its critical reception wasn’t any better either. Why was the Ratchet & Clank film such a misfire?

   A lot of individuals always back to the age-old proclamation of movie-adaptations being unfaithful to their video-game counterparts. I wouldn’t fault you for thinking that, because it has happened with a lot of game series’ over the years. The problem is, as I watched the Ratchet & Clank film, never once did I think to myself they were unfaithful.

   The Ratchet & Clank film captured the humor, visual flare, and characters of the video-game series’, and this is demonstrated by the way a Ratchet & Clank video-game was able to be made from retooling footage from the film, because the Ratchet & Clank film plays out like one great, big cut-scene from the Insomniac franchise.

   This is where I start getting to my point, the Ratchet & Clank video-game is a re-imagining of the first game in the series, and it tells the story of the Lombax named Ratchet who discovers a defective robot, and ultimately come together with the Galactic Rangers to challenge Dr. Nefarious. As I said, the video-game follows the same trajectory as the film and utilizes various pieces of footage from the film for story-progression. Strangely enough though, the Ratchet & Clank video-game didn’t receive negative reviews from critics, whereas the film, of course, wasn’t so lucky. I think this is because, at the very heart of it, the Ratchet & Clank series has always been full of jokes that usually aren’t very smart, of cheesy dialogue, and of a story-line that is, ultimately, paper-thin and unnoteworthy. Those aspects aren’t dreadful, but they weren’t exactly of an award-winning caliber either, which is why the film itself failed.

   The film failed because it did too good a job of adapting the game series, and because of that, we received a 94 minute realization of how unable the Ratchet & Clank series is able to last without its game-play from prolonged exposure. Think about it, Ratchet & Clank game, same footage, good reviews, Ratchet & Clank movie, same footage, bad reviews. It’s the prolonged exposure and the fact that it was always the visuals and game-play that made it what it is, and because of the small doses, the other, faultier aspects oftentimes worked in a complimentary fashion.

   Let’s talk about the game then, huh, I’ve spent the last stretch talking about the movie it’s based upon, and, although, through that, I did explain how the story and cut-scenes in it lack in some respect.

   The animation in Ratchet & Clank looks fantastic, and after almost two-decades with the duo, it’s easy to see that Insomniac has perfected the series as far as aesthetics are concerned. Although, I will mention that because this re-imagines the first adventure and because the series has been around for as long as it has, for some who have experienced this series since the beginning, it can’t escape a “been there, don’t that,” vibe. Fortunately, this isn’t a remaster or, in-fact, the same video-game as the one that came decades before, and carries a whole lot of different mechanics and weaponry that Insomniac had introduced in later entries of the series.

   Think of it as a loose interpretation of the first video-game with the game-play elements that were established later.

   The game-play is fun and provides a carefree experience, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a whole lot more than a fun and carefree experience.

   Although, it has been over a decade since I last played the first Ratchet & Clank, I remembered it as having a sharper edge than what this iteration had. I played through the campaign and then, all of Challenge Mode, and found little challenge to speak of. As a matter of fact, if I am being honest with myself, I found most of the experience to be rather ordinary overall. The bosses themselves don’t have a lot to them, oftentimes feeling a little simplified. The plat-forming and other mechanics also don’t offer anything to write home about. I remember when I was talking about this, somebody said to me in jest that they had to modernize it for the kids, and really, I think that isn’t too far off. In-general, Ratchet & Clank always appealed to kids, but the series definitely had an appeal to the older demographic as well. This Ratchet & Clank feels defanged in some regard, not really providing the most biting of game-play, and feels like it doesn’t really offer biting, memorable material.

    Everything feels a little undercooked.

    Although some have said that the newest Ratchet & Clank has rejuvenated and reenergized a tired series, I find that it has simply reignited its marketability from a financial standpoint, whereas, if we’re looking at the quality, it feels as though it’s on-par with what I experienced with Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction. By all means, like I said, I didn’t dislike Tools of Destruction, but it played like an “okay” experience overall, and I think I would say that’s where this one falls, Ratchet & Clank is an okay and average video-game, but doesn’t have the goods to standout.

   For the younger crowd, this might be in your wheel-house, and for someone who hasn’t been initiated into the Ratchet & Clank series, this might be for you. For me though, I was a little letdown.

Rating: 3.4 out of 5.0