Nov 1, 2020
  • Release Date (NA): November 11, 2003
  • Release Date (EU): November 11, 2003
  • Release Date (JP): December 11, 2003
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Insomniac Games, Idol Minds
  • Genres: Action, platformer, shooter, sports
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Three years and older
  • Also For: Retro
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative

Review Approach:

Reviewed on the PlayStation 3 Slim. More information on this PlayStation 3 port later.
Ratchet & Clank return in the sequel Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (also known as Ratchet & Clank 2 and Ratchet & Clank: Locked and Loaded in regions outside of North America), and if I have the internet to go off of, this seems to be a big improvement from the original game. The Metascore reflects this, with a whopping 90! So, do I agree with this sentiment, or is "Going Commando" inferior to its predecessor? Let's take a look.
HylianBran
Going Commando opens with a cutscene depicting the titular duo Ratchet and Clank in an interview, which reveals that in the year since the previous game, their lives have calmed down significantly, leaving Ratchet desiring adventure once more. He and Clank are then suddenly contacted by founder and CEO of corporate conglomerate MegaCorp Abercrombie Fizzwidget, where Ratchet is tasked with traveling into the Bogon galaxy and rescuing a biological experiment, who'd later be referred to as the Experiment and ProtoPet, from a masked thief aboard a flying laboratory. After failing to rescue it, Ratchet discovers that Clank, who had been employed by MegaCorp for... something, was kidnapped by the unidentified thief. Ratchet would then proceed to rescue Clank, where they then go on a number of wild manhunt for the thief, until they are "accidentally" hit by Fizzwidget during a meeting in which they were supposed to give him the experiment.

The duo are sent crash-landing into a series of caves. While attempting to escape, they are cut off by the mysterious thief, who unintentionally reveals her identity as former MegaCorp scientist Angela Cross, who is on a mission to prevent the experiment from getting in the hands of MegaCorp out of fear of them doing something dangerous. Right after this, MegaCorp duplicate and release the experiment to the public, causing mass panic. Woopsy-doodle. They then hatch a plan to stop production of the ProtoPet by capturing or killing the original, effectively putting an end to MegaCorp's sudden evil practices. This plan fails, however, when they are stopped by Fizzwidget, now revealed to be disgraced hero from the previous game Captain Qwark. He then reveals that he plotted this all to get fame and recognition in this galaxy, by "stopping" the experiment and saving the galaxy. He then attempts to use a device to make the ProtoPet non-deadly on camera, but accidentally enlarges the monster. Ratchet & Clank then fight it off, the real Fizzwidget is found, and... the credits roll. I'm serious, that's it. I audibly said "REALLY?" when the credits started.

The story just doesn't feel finished, lacking the final tough-as-nails stretch where Ratchet & Clank fight back against a giant force of evil and save the galaxy. But it just kinda ends with no fanfare. Maybe this was to satirize underwhelming endings, but I'm not laughing. I wanna say that I didn't expect a Klonoa-level ending, but I kinda was, considering that the first game's ending was as amazing as it was.

This is made up for completely by the actual events and writing. The consumerist satire of the first title is brought to new heights in Going Commando, with even better ad parodies than before. I also feel that those parodies tie into the characters and plot better than last time, as the cRaZy pLoT tWiSt is heavily foreshadowed, and the MegaCorp empire permeates throughout everything in both plot and gameplay. The game itself places less of an emphasis on the different inhabitants of the planets the player travels to, but instead it fleshes out the main duo much more, while still having enough of them to keep the game world feeling alive. Much like its predecessor, Going Commando's has fantastic narrative design. The player begins with wanting to catch the thief just to experience another adventure as Ratchet, which works in this case because Ratchet himself is ready for adventure, the game is a sequel, and this is only used at the beginning of the game. The player then wants to rescue Clank. The player then wants to stop the thief. The player then wants to learn the truth of the situation he/she are stuck in. And so on, and so on.

The fantastic presentation of the first game's cutscenes return, and they may be even better here. Characters emote a ton, squeezing every little bit of personality out of every single one. The lip sync is fantastic as well, making every line as punchy as possible. Still though, I think it is let down a bit by the very underwhelming ending. When someone thinks about replaying a game, the deciding factor will be their lasting impression of the title, as that is, well, their lasting impression! And if the final thing they'll remember is naturally going to be the ending, and when it is so underwhelming, some players may just decide to skip out on another playthrough.

Before I continue to gameplay, I think I should address this PS3 port. Much like the previous title, the HD collection provides a full 720p 16:9 image, a massive improvement over the 480i 4:3 picture that most PS2 owners would get. Despite this, there is some graphical glitches, but I feel like there was less than before, but maybe that is just because I got used to the first game in widescreen. Unlike last time, however, I did experience a couple pop-up issues, and while they aren't very common, it is still kind-of embarrassing. The biggest problem with this version, though, is definitely how the game enlarges Ratchet's helmet. I don't understand why this was done, but the port devs didn't at all bother to adjust the cutscenes with this in mind, resulting in Ratchet's hand going inside the helmet. Not just that, but it generally just looks stupid.

OK, onto the gameplay! The strangely delayed turning and slippery ground movement from the previous title has been improved exponentially. Ratchet now moves very smoothly and naturally, striking a perfect balance between tightness and naturality. The fantastic jumping from the first time returns, and the lackluster double-jump doesn't feel quite as poor here. I don't know if it has actually been improved, or the stages are just designed around it better, but I can say that it works better here. Wrench use is much better here as well, as swinging them are faster, it strangely feels easier to cancel out of the three-hit combo, and throwing it doesn't remove the ability to freely move.

The biggest improvement, however, comes in the form of the new strafe feature. While I praised how the previous game encouraged the player to experiment with their large arsenal with the less involved and accurate controls and mechanics, I'd be lying if I said it always worked perfectly. Particularly late into the adventure, the player is often overwhelmed by enemies, leaving the him/her to just unload all of their ammo at once in a desperate attempt to not get sent back ten minutes. To be honest, all it really needed was a strafe feature, and whaddya' know, the combat is much smoother now. While this could still make some weapons a bit overpowered, the game is very much designed with this in mind. On that note, I feel like there are less enemies that fly or move very fast, and when there are them, the feel so much more restrained and intentional.

Going Commando's combat is a nice improvement from the OG title. As I've already said, the character movement the previous title, which was already pretty good, has been enhanced greatly, while feeling similar enough to allow players to comfortably transfer over from one game to the next. The weapons are also nicely expanded upon and improved from the previous game. On the topic of shooting, the aim-assist feels a bit more accurate than last time, meaning in the case where the player has to hit a moving or airborne target, which are already rarer that before, the player can depend on the weapon hitting the enemy by simply positioning themselves correctly and reading the enemy's position, instead of having to stop all movement to aim in the first person mode.

The strafe feature also allows the player to dodge enemy attacks more smoothly, thus allowing the designers to design more difficult enemy attacks, and they most certainly do so. Enemies are very aggressive in Going Commando, which is probably the main reason that this game is far more challenging than the previous one. Yes, Going Commando is real challenge, and apparently this was a big point of contention back when the game originally released. It's even the only criticism of the game on Wikipedia. How about that. Anyways, the challenge is very exhilarating. I can't really analyze enemy design, so I hope you'll just take my word for it when I say that their attacks provide plenty of challenge and variety to the combat, and they always keep you on your toes. I also want to especially complement the animations and telegraphs. They always provide just the perfect level of... punchy-ness to every single attack from both the enemy and the player. They always signal any and all information of every single attack and movement.

What I can say is that combat is not only much more engaging because of player control and enemy design by itself, but also because the actual stages are taken much better advantage of in combat. While enemies could technically move around the environment, the game rarely took advantage of it. The deepest it got was the game just putting a wall in front of the enemy, so now you have to go behind it to hit them. ViDeO gAmEs aRe fUn. Going Commando, on the other hand, has very dynamic enemies that force the player to really consider the environments to emerge victorious.

Another new mechanic is the new weapon level-up system. By defeating enemies, Ratchet will level-up his weapons to make them stronger. While the system is very simple, it does a good job at encouraging players to actually use their large arsenal of weapons, thus resulting in them learning the ins and outs of each and allowing the player to apply them to the challenging situations the game throws at you. It also heavily encourages replayability, as not only are you replaying to purchase and try out new weapons, but also to discover new techniques and uses for your already obtained ones. This is supported by the new weapon mod system. Returning from the previous title are Gold Bolts, now recolored and renamed Titanium Bolts, which are optional collectibles that encourage the player to explore stages, tackle more difficult paths, and to creatively use their gadgets. Where in the previous title they were only used to purchase post-game gold weapons, which are mostly just "this weapon but stronger now", they are now used to purchase special weapon mods from the new Slim Cognito character. These mods range from providing a lock-on attachment to an acid effect when shooting. Overall, Going Commando improves and expands upon the weapons from the previous title exponentially.

Possibly the best part of Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, however, is the level design. This is really hard to put into words, but Going Commando takes advantage of the concept of traveling to different planets unlike any other game I've ever played. Every planet feels so authentic, not just because they are all fully featured, just packed to the brim with as much content as they possibly can be without being overwhelming, but also because they all feel so... distinct, so... so... immersive. I think the best example for this is the desert planet Tabora. Before landing, you see an Infobot that shows a video setting backstory of the area. Apparently this used to be a wonderful forest, brimming with life, until MegaCorp used turned it into a desert for their own fiendish purposes. Then you crash-land in a series of caves in which the titular duo have to progress through. This area is a fantastic platforming challenge, which is inter-cut perfectly with well paced combat sections. Then you emerge into the main stage, only to find your ship taken by a strange old man. He provides both great comedic levity in the area AND shows how the little amount of inhabitants on the planet may act. He tells Ratchet to obtain some crystals to restore his ship. The player then explores to find a few crystals. While you only need a few, you are greatly rewarded with a ton of bolts if you actually choose to seek out more. Exploring the desert really makes you feel like a scavenger (meme not intended). Exploring really makes you feel the impact of MegaCorp's actions that are described in the Infobot video, thus encouraging the player to find out more about MegaCorp and put a stop to their evil practices. You can also venture down another series of tunnels for an item required later in the game. This stage is paced out perfectly, with a ton of content in just the right amount of space. It is immersive, challenging, and informative.

And just about every stage in Going Commando is like this! Nearly every stage is super expansive and open, while also providing plenty of challenging enemy encounters and fun platforming to keep you going. That perfect mix of systems is really what makes Going Commando such an amazing game. You first land in a world. You explore to your hearts content, you fend off some enemies, you do some simple but fun platforming, and then more and more and more and more are added to the fray. Until you die, you die, you die, and you die. But you get better every time. After learning everything about the path, you blitz right through in a blaze of glory, dodging enemy fire, strategically using your weapons, skillfully traversing platforming segments, then finally finishing up. You watch another cutscene, do an extracurricular activity on occasion, buy weapons, reload ammo, and then repeat the process, but with just enough different every time to make it a blast on each and every planet. And that experience, that rush, you simply can't get it anywhere else. That flurry of every system the game has in play just being thrown at you all in the perfect order, that, THAT, makes Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando a masterpiece.

Well, let's take a step back and look at some of those extracurricular activities, shall we? The hover-board racing from the previous title has evolved into hover-biking. Where the previous game's races relied more on the player interacting with the other racers, this one instead cranks the pace up to eleven, relying more on blazing through these dope-ass courses. Items are still here, and are just as fun to use on racers as last time. There are also new arena battles, which provide a great way to gain bolts and to level-up weapons. Between normal stages, Ratchet may have to participate in a spaceship dogfight. The mechanics here are quite traditional. You can boost, shoot, and shoot a missile from a limited count. He can also perform a barrel roll and he can straighten his ship. The stages are fairly short and fun, serving as fantastic break from the normal gameplay.

Clank sections return from the previous title, but with even less play time. Despite this, it receives some more Gadgebot types. Ultimately though, they don't really make a difference. Just push down-right instead of down on the quick-select wheel. They're still fun, and because of the lowered play time with Clank, it only helps the game. The Giant Clank sections, on the other hand, are the absolute low point of the game. I would describe all of the play style's mechanics, but there's no need. All you do is spam the punch button while fitting in a few missile shots. Hope you hit the boss, because if he lands three hits on you, its time to restart the five minute boss! Christ. Thankfully, there are only two sections, and the first one is so easy and short that it is rendered inconsequential.

Well, with gameplay done and over with, its time to move on to presentation. While the first game was certainly a pretty showcase for the hardware, Going Commando is a significant visual improvement. Texturework is improved significantly, and environments have much more variety in terms of geometry. As stated before, animations during cutscenes are just as fantastic as before. Also returning from the previous title is the sublime voice acting. The biggest change from the previous game is the change of Ratchet's VA from Mikey Kelley to James Arnold Taylor. While it took a while for me to adjust, he is a suitable improvement over Mikey. While the previous game's soundtrack featured very unique instrumentation, Going Commando has a much more traditional OST, while still feeling close enough to the previous title to make it feel natural to switch between the two. While that soundtrack is amazing, Going Commando is also fantastic, and I appreciate that the composer decided to evolve the Ratchet & Clank soundfont.

So, yes, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is a fantastic evolution of the original, resulting in one of the best games for the PlayStation 2.
Verdict
What I Liked . . . Fantastic plot Sublime visuals Bangin' soundtrack! Great character control Tons of replay value Huge and super fun list of weapons and gadgets to experiment with Amazing level design What I Didn't Like . . . Underwhelming ending Poor Giant Clank sections
9 Presentation
The fantastic visuals, voice acting, and soundtrack return from the last game, now supplemented by an even better plot that unfortunately is let down just a bit by an underwhelming ending.
10 Gameplay
While the simple act of moving and using your weapons is an absolute blast, the level design will keep you from ever being hung up on that.
10 Lasting Appeal
The new upgrade system and even more expansive stages somehow bring even more replayability to this game than with the previous game. Simply put, if any PS2 game should stay in your console, it should be... Kingdom Hearts 2, it has even more content, but Going Commando falls right behind.
9.7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is a perfect sequel and is so, SO, damn close to being a perfect game that it hurts. This needs to be in your PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3 collection. Going Commando is a masterpiece.

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