If only three PlayStation 2 action/platform licenses were retained, the choice would be easy: Jak and Daxter† Sly Cooperand of course the unbeatable Ratchet & Clank† Three names that will definitely appeal to you if you’ve ever owned the Sony machine, or just if you’re over the age of twenty, as their media influence was simply not to be missed during the sixth generation of game consoles.
Or Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper have completely disappeared from the radar since the remastering of the two trilogies for the Vita and the PS3, despite some optimistic rumours, Ratchet & Clank meanwhile continues to unleash passions … despite the massive malaise on the PS4 generation, which only hosted a remake of the first part. And more generally of a sawtooth quality, not always at the highest level on PSP and PS3.
The episode that interests us today is the fourth in the series, a certain gladiatorknown in the US as stuckand in Japan as Ratchet & Clank 4† A difference in approach that changes many things because, such as: Jack X, it is seen in the West as a spin-off, and thus a non-canonical opus. Does this play a part in its reputation as an “excess” episode? There is indeed a very good chance. But should we therefore despise it? Nothing is less certain.
A genesis that speaks for itself
As we told you in the introduction, but chances are you are already aware, Ratchet & Clank is a real institution at Sony. Exclusive to the Japanese manufacturer, he has nothing to be ashamed of for the competition in which he generally rode well, both in terms of press ratings and commercial scores. Since the release on PS2 of the first installment, in 2002, the series has offered a plethora of publications, on all PlayStation stamped machines (except maybe the Xperia Play, don’t mess with it!) tear apart on new gen.
It must be said that the first opus, and the two following, are truly impeccable. While these are pretty classic action/platformers in form, it’s true, but remember we’re only on second-generation machines that use 3D. Herein is the proposal of Ratchet & Clank was quite original in its time. Especially since the well-calibrated gameplay fined some of the competition, if only with the successful management of the camera or the very enjoyable aspect of the firefights. But the little extra that will make all the difference is his universe and his humor, both of which work with the fire of God.
But Ratchet & Clank doesn’t come out of nowhere, of course, as Insomniac Games, the developer, is currently known for its series Spyro the Dragon on PlayStation being the first of the name. A license that, as Crash Bandicootis a real counter-offensive by Sony against Nintendo, which has made 3D platforming its hobbyhorse (mario 64† Banjo-Kazooie† Donkey Kong 64† Suffice it to say that the studio knows where it’s going, and after three great successes on the Japanese manufacturer’s first console, it can count on its unwavering support.
Canonical part, or spin-off?
Available in October 2005 in North America and a month later in Japan and Europe, Ratchet Gladiator received good marks from the specialist press, but nothing quite comparable to the rave reviews the first three volumes received. Nothing catastrophic that said. On notera par ailleurs qu’il s’est moins bien vendu que ses homologues, dépassant de peu la barre des deux millions d’unités écoulées, ce qui fut néanmoins suffisant pour le faire entrer dans la gamme Greatest Hit aux US, et Platinum we. In short, certainly a success, but less so compared to the three previous opus that really destroyed the house.
In Ratchet GladiatorLosing his “Clank” in his American and European name, we clearly embody Ratchet, bereft of his friend the little sociopathic robot. Both, as well as Al, are kidnapped by a certain Gleeman Vox, the creator of a popular (but banned) show called DreadZone. The concept is simple: heroes from across the galaxy are forced to fight each other to the death in the hope that the public’s love will eventually grant them the right to freedom. † But of course the corrupt Gleeman Vox isn’t too keen on releasing his stars, preferring to see them die in Prime Time…
In this context, Ratchet first sees the opportunity to become rich and famous, more than he has been in the past anyway, before realizing, in spite of himself, the hell that DreadZone represents. He will therefore decide to team up with Clank and Al, who are staying away from the fights, to overcome Gleeman Vox and bring the show to an end. But it won’t go smoothly…
Or Ratchet Gladiator takes the gameplay, visual aspect and humor of its predecessors, but nevertheless deviates from it in other aspects, starting with the construction. TV show mandatory, the Lombax and his acolytes are entitled to a dressing room, which is actually a kind of very classic Hub with two shops and two entrance doors to the missions… which are presented in the form of television programs . Our hero will also be joined for the first time by two robotic friends who will lend him a hand in battle, but also bring a bit of depth to the gameplay.
The Show That Kills (Literally)
The biggest feature of this episode, then, is the fact that his adventure is presented to us like a TV show, with everything that comes with it. This leads to a construction that differs slightly from the previous parts, where it is a matter of choosing from a basic list which missions to participate in. Each of them will give us a number of points which we will then use to unlock new ones. So no specific gadget here to get ahead on the planets we will visit. But the sense of adventure is still quite there, although it’s not what we’ll most remember.
No, what we will mostly keep is the brutal aspect of this Ratchet Gladiator† An opus that gives prominence to more linear maps, except in rare cases, and above all to a frenetic progression that emphasizes the shoot rather than the adventure. Risky bet, which certainly didn’t help the game in 2005 earn its letters of nobility. However, anyone who has played this spin-off will remember one thing: it constantly spirals out of control. Not providing us with various gadgets, the title has a varied and highly effective arsenal, with scalable power, providing excellent shooting sensations. In short: ENJOY!
In the background the humor is even more present than in the past. The cutscenes are numerous and come to make us smile almost at each end of the mission, and do not deserve it compared to the previous one. But above all, with its TV aspect, the title pleases us with presenters who regularly comment on our actions, with a good dose of bad faith. We quickly understand that Ratchet isn’t the all-time favorite in DreadZone, which includes several completely free and often laughable tackles. Too bad that these replicas eventually start to run in circles.
Why return and in what form?
But why in particular would you want a return of this opus? Well precisely because it clashes in the long list of episodes of Ratchet & Clank, with its constant humor, its more linear construction and its ubiquitous extremely enjoyable shoot. This opus went a bit unnoticed, and it’s unfair, because in the end it’s the only fault to want to offer something different. And with current resources, there would clearly be an opportunity to remake it that would magnify it. Why not as DLC with tear apart † To take less risk.
What we would like to see there, of course, is a reworked graphical aspect, as in any remake, but an artistic direction that moves little or not at all. The game has indeed gotten very old and the character design is a real success. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to resume the period music either, but it would be a big plus to add some to keep them from looping too fast. The same goes for the DreadZone presenters: we want them to be as present in the game as they are in the Ratchet Gladiator Original. But let them vary their lines a little, and perhaps aim for a little more irreverent humor.
Then we don’t have to change much about the construction of the game. This system of hubs and missions is very classic, maybe a little too common, but remains effective, especially when combined with scoring that allows us to return to the previous one to surpass itself. However, we want the adventure to be greater. Not necessarily the plot, let’s be clear, but rather the side aspect. Because in the state, the 2005 title ends in just eight short hours, after all missions are completed and all challenges are accomplished, which is still a little light. At this level it is essential to keep New Game+ especially with the levels of mastery of our weapons.
As for the gameplay, it should take the basics of what the original offers, and adapt it to what we do today. This is why, if this remake existed, it could be offered in its entirety as DLC tear apart : the lastborn of the series offers very good feelings in battle. And let it be said, it is indeed the greatest strength of Ratchet Gladiator† We’ve rarely seen nicer, except maybe in a Diablo III† So it would be a shame to miss this aspect, especially by keeping the very linear construction. Finally, keeping local cooperation is obvious, but also allowing online play in case you don’t have anyone around!