A scant 8 months ago I wrote my review for the original Ratchet and Clank. I was a latecomer to the game since I didn’t receive it for Christmas last year and I was absolutely awestruck by how great the game was. A year after the first one came out we have its sequel, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. This game could easily go the way of Devil May Cry 2, a game that came out a little over a year after the first, and be horrendous. It could also easily go the way of its platform cousin, Jak II and be a superb sequel. Let’s check it out.

Remember when I said that Jak II had superb graphics? Well, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando outdoes it. Much like Jak II, this game supports widescreen and progressive scan output. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is a far more colorful and “busy” game than Jak II, with sharper graphics and cooler looking enemies. Obviously the amount of weapons here dwarf those found in Jak II and the addition of an upgrade to each and every weapon gives it a whole other shot animation for each weapon.

The game runs at a pretty smooth 60fps with a few drops here and there. This game also doesn’t have that annoying screen refresh that Jak II had. The cutscenes are just as funny as in the first Ratchet and Clank game and the enemies are animated very well. There seems to be a lot more enemy types floating around in this game than there was in the original.

Both Ratchet and Clank’s animations have been somewhat refined and in turn the control of each has been refined as well. I’ve always loved the opening, almost panoramic, shot of the world you are on when Ratchet first pops out of the spaceship. It’s just so beautiful to look at, even if you are on a heavily industrialized world. Just like in last year’s game, the loading in the game is done on-the-fly, a trick Insomniac shares with Naughty Dog. The worlds seem much bigger in this game than last years and it is cool to have spherical small worlds in here where the graphics do a cool effect of you literally walking forward on a curve.

It’s amazing to me that they got all this done in 12 months. I would guess they were working on this in conjunction with the first game, but to build these expansive worlds, bring on more weapons (and with a secondary upgrade) and create more refined animations is just amazing.

I’ve always enjoyed the voice acting in Ratchet and Clank over either of the Jak games. This game continues the hilarious voice acting from the first game. Ratchet has obviously grown up and he and Clank are considered heroes, but it seems that no one really needs any heroes nowadays. Ratchet is no longer as cocky as he was in the first game, something that people I’m sure let Insomniac know about. Overall the voice acting is top notch.

The music does the best thing it can, which is stay in the background. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando has a heck of a lot going on at one time and the music just flows into it. The trouble being that you don’t really remember the music very well and nothing really stands out. It’s just there and does it’s job.

Remember the first game? You pretty much have the control down in this one then, although there is now a weapon capable of a sniping mode where you have to use the shoulder buttons to zoom in/out and you are also able to do manual aiming with your weapons via holding down the L1 button. This helps you conserve your ammo quite a bit. Both Ratchet and Clank have gotten a refinement in how they control. No longer does Ratchet feel as loose controlling as the last game, and Clank is a bit more nimble than he was in the original as well.

The camera does a good job of keepign in on the action, although it still has the same problem as the original game. You have to use your ears and have a surround sound setup to know where some enemies are coming from if they are behind you. You can get very good at circling the camera with the right analog stick, but it’s always been a problem with me. Much like in the first one a tap of the L1 button will put you directly behind Ratchet or Clank (depending on who you are controlling).

Overall the control is spot on and you will be seeing a lot more action against enemies in this game than you did in Jak II.

Unlike Jak II, Insomniac Games decided to bring us a highly upgraded version of the first game in Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. I say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it and they take that mantra to a new level. Sure, there’s a lot of new stuff like new weapons, a gladiator-type arena mini-game, racing sections, spaceship fighting, etc., but the core gameplay is still there. This is in stark contrast to the other Sony `st party platform game that came out a month ago, a game that attempted to do too much and almost get upheaved by it.

The basic story is that after Ratchet and Clank’s defeat of the Blarg they became celebrity heroes, but it seems the “gigs” have not come so readily recently as shown in the first movie of the game. Ratchet and Clank sit on their recliners and Ratchet tries to tell the interviewer that they have lots of jobs, but Clank is soon to point out exactly how long ago said jobs took place. Ratchet leaves the interview with the simple line, “The universe just doesn’t need herores anymore it seems.” Enter in Mr. Ambercrombie Fizzwidget, the CEO of Megacorp (and a guy who loves to use made-up words). Seems an experimental creature has been stolen from Megacorp and it is obvious to him that Ratchet and Clank are the only ones that can retrieve it. Our boys are on the job, but things get off on the wrong foot. They are promised great things on Megacorp’s home planet, heck Clank is even promised his own female robot to fix all of his “kinks”. Clank goes to enjoy his time on the planet, but someone (the overall bad guy, who is funny himself) kidnaps him and it’s up to Ratchet to get him back while starting the whole adventure himself.

So you begin the game without Clank and his powers from the first game (the helicopter and rocket add-ons), so your cache of possible moves has been dwindled. No problem though, Ratchet can make it through on his own until he finds Clank. When you first start to play you will notice some differences from the first game though. The first one is that there are new weapons and a few of the favorite old ones (like the RYNO). As you use the weapons they gain in experience (the bar growing below them) and if they hit the max they change into a more powerful weapon that gives you extra abilities. In addition to that you can collect Platinum Bolts along your way and refine the powers of the weapons. An example is that you can create a weapon with a larger range of fire so you can attack more targets.

Along with the weapons gaining experience, Ratchet and Clank also gain experience as they go through battles. Every time their line fills you get an extra hit tank. Yep, no longer are you stuck with only 4 hit points and I’ve heard you can get up to 80 hit points…wow! Of course with the extra hit points comes a harder game and the bigger likelyhood of you getting hit. Ratchet will also see upgrades to his basic wrench, which is still used in probably the majority of his attacks. Clank also has a few upgrades as well as you go along.

There are also some new mini-games in this game as well. The biggest one would be the Battle Arena where you can face off against enemies and even bosses in order to get more bolts so you can purchase more weapons. The arena is also nice enough to have a vendor readily available for you to purchase weapons and ammo. Speaking of ammo, you choose the ammo and they automatically show you the maximum amount needed to fill the gun, you can then go up and down from there. No longer do you have to manually put it to its max. There are also a lot more bolts to be had in this game than there was before. You will also do some racing and some spaceship battles. There are upgrades for each as well. The racing battles are cool, but I had trouble with my first spaceship battle. Once I got the hang of it I had no problem though.

Missions are spread out much like in the first game. You land on a planet and you push in the right analog stick for a map, from there you can press X to get the missions for the planet. The beauty of this game is that they have made the game flow better through the 20 levels. There is no need to backtrack to previous levels unless you want to go back to find a Platinum Bolt or just want to enjoy the scenery again. This game will give you a good 20 hour quest, which still goes far beyond your normal platform game that hovers around the 15 hour category.

Another beautiful thing is that the enemies seem to be a bit smarter and even they get bigger guns and get better as you go along. No longer are they necessarily going to run up right to you to attack. Some of these guys have powerful guns and will use cover and fire at you. There’s a little more strategy involved in finishing off enemies this time around than just going into a battle full bore. Boss battles are also fun and exciting to go through.

At its foundation, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is the same type of game as the first one, but multipled to the nth power. To build all new worlds and levels, bring in a new experience system, create lots of all new weaponry, etc. in a year is just amazing to me and Insomniac Games should be commended for it.

This game is harder than the first one, but it is somewhat offset by the fact that you now have the ability to have more hit points than you did before. It’s still a good 20 hour quest and you should enjoy it from beginning to end. Once you get the newer weapons and start getting them upgraded to their second level you will find a lot of gameplay in this game. Certain guns are better in certain situations than others, so be sure to get as many bolts as possible so you can purchase some of them. The Battle Arena will bring you a long way in getting bolts to purchase stuff with, it’s quite the cool and dangerous mini-game.

Owners of a Ratchet and Clank saved game even get a special extra in this game. At a point in the game it will ask you if you have a saved game from the original game. If you do, put the memory card in and you will be able to buy certain weapons for a reduced price against those people who have only played this game…pretty cool. Insomniac just seemed to go the extra mile on this one.