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A Ratchet & Clank Retrospective: Part 2 – Going Commando

If the original Ratchet & Clank sets the foundation for the franchise, Going Commando pushes the series into the elite category. A slew of small improvements and tweaks and some big new additions make this one of the biggest jumps in quality from a game to its sequel that I have personally encountered.

Two big improvements kind of standout in my mind when I think back on Going Commando and going right from the original to GC with the collection makes their impact that much more obvious. Strafing was a necessary addition. Especially with some of the new weapons, but it makes fun weapons and enemy encounters even more fun. The other big thing for me is the experience upgrades they have added. Your health will upgrade through experience now, but more importantly so will your weapons. As you use weapons, each will gain experience working towards an eventual level upgrade which usually adds a big improvement to the weapon. Not just some random power upgrade you can’t really see, but an actual functionality improvement. Like the Sheepinator turns into the Black Sheepinator which doesn’t just turn enemies into sheep, but exploding sheep. This really makes you use all of your weapons and adds an addictive element to the combat as you want to see what will happen as each weapon levels up.

And while I feel those are the two biggest steps forward, there are a ton of other little improvements. The actual plot may not be as good as the original’s to be honest, but I do like the characters and humor a lot better than the first game which makes this story a bit more enjoyable. Like I mentioned before, Ratchet is too much of a jerk in the first game, but he is much more the Ratchet we have come to know and love over the last ten years in Going Commando.

I think the weapon set takes a step forward as well. New stuff like the Mini Turret Glove and Synthenoids help you fight off baddies while simutaneously using new powerful armaments like the Bouncer and Plasma Coil. New takes on basic weapons like the Lancer (your basic machine gun/blaster) and Gravity Bomb (a way more powerful take on the Bomb Glove) feel like they have a lot more punch. And we also get Ratchet’s take on two classic gaming weapon types for the first time in the Blitz Gun (shotgun) and the Pulse Rifle (sniper rifle) which are good new additions to your arsenal. And plenty of other creative weapons fill out this game’s set. I also enjoyed the addition of armors because for one more stuff to unlock and buy is good. And two I think Ratchet just looks cooler in armor (though I’m not big on the final armor that covers him up completely… loses a bit of his character there I think).

A few new level types are successful additions as well. A couple of levels have a host of arena challenges to complete that will win you bolts, weapons and gadgets as you fight against a host of enemies and bosses across a number of waves. This is just great for earning money, upgrading weapons and just having fun. There are also some big open levels which scatter a number of collectibles across them to be collected and traded for money. These combine some fun exploration with yet another excuse to blow shit up in a myriad of ways including some large formidable foes that contain some of the coveted collectibles. And finally there are some spherical worlds for Ratchet to explore which are well done too and have a different feel to them than the typical worlds.

If I have one big issue with this game it is its attempts to add variety to the more traditional Ratchet gameplay. Vehicle sections kind of miss the mark again. Hoverbike races are a bit more fun than the original’s hoverboard races, but still not very good and I wasn’t really into the space flight missions much either. Clank’s section are okay still, but his new Giant Clank boss fights didn’t do much for me.

A few more things including favorites from this game (going to try and generally pick new stuff in each game for favorites as opposed to returning things):

  • Favorite Weapon: The Bouncer is definitely my favorite weapon here and one of my favorites in the whole series. It shoots out a big bouncing bomb which would then break into more bombs that bounce all over the place. Very powerful, cool-looking and fun to use. The bombs have always reminded me of those bobble ball kids’ toys which I think makes this weapon even better. The Sheepinator and the Plasma Coil are probably my runners-up for this section.
  • Favorite Gadget: I don’t really love this game’s group of gadgets though they are still solid. I guess of the new ones I will go with the Dynamo which activates various moving platforms and the like. I don’t like either of the key items as much as the first game’s.
  • Favorite Character: I am not huge on any of the new characters in this one (though they are still good), so I will just go with Ratchet. He is much more lovable in this game than the first one. He’s more the classic hero and quite funny as well.
  • Favorite Level: I think I will go with two here. The Megacorp Games on Joba is great. Love the look of the level with the trees and birds flying around plus we get the arena challenges here.Silver City on Boldan is another winner. Gorgeous design. Multiple routes. The level designs in general also top the first game’s and there are just a ton of great ones here.
  • I feel like the Lava Gun’s upgrade in Going Commando feels like a regression. I can’t think of weapon in the series I feel like this with other than this one. It just seems more fun to whip around the stream of lava than it does with the meteors.
  • The graphics take a jump forward as well from R&C1 to Going Commando, but that kind of goes without saying I suppose. It’s not monstrous, but still a nice upgrade. The HD update is again handled well here too.

Going Commando is exactly what you want from a sequel. It takes the formula for the first game and blows it out with big and small improvements in most areas of the game. This is the game that takes the series to the next level in my opinion. And while it isn’t my favorite, GC probably includes the most important improvements to the series compared to any other entry. In my next blog on the Ratchet & Clank series, I talk about my favorite entry, the near-perfect Up Your Arsenal. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts or favorites from Going Commando in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Check out Part 1 of this Retrospective about the original Ratchet & Clank game here if you haven’t.

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