Re(?)Considered: Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Insomniac's stunningly good series shoots for the moon
Up Your Arsenal. Because it sounds like “up your arse”, doesn’t it? That’s extremely amusing. And, of course, this is just one of the Ratchet & Clank series’ many extremely humorous innuendos. Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters. Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time. Ratchet & Clank: Willies & Bums.
It’s all very sophomoric, but not to the detriment of the gameplay, which features very few asses. There is a chin that resembles an ass, but that’s rather in the eye of the beholder.
If you’ve played a Ratchet game, you’ll be at home with Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal to some extent. This third game in the series is an extrapolation on the platform-shooter action that has come before, but everything is better. In my experience people seem to prefer its predecessor Going Commando, but I’ve never really understood that. Commando has more platforming than Arsenal, but the third game’s refinements to the blasting make for a much more polished, focused game.
The trademark, erm, arsenal of weapons has had two games to build up something special, and Insomniac absolutely nailed it with the loadout here. On top of the superb returning weapons (has there ever been a more satisfying instrument of death than The Bouncer?) there are excellent newcomers like the hot, squirty Lava Gun and lethal Plasma Coil, as well as the lethal double-barrelled N60 Storm. Every weapon can, of course, be upgraded through frequent use, meaning that if you don’t like a weapon it’s probably going to top out as something much better. This RPG-lite stuff pervades what is a relentless action game very appealingly, resulting in an experience wherein your time is never being wasted. Every motion, every enemy destroyed, every shot fired is progress towards your next upgrade. It’s compelling stuff.
The story is no great shakes (compared to the contemporary Jak series, fight me), but the character interaction is the funniest in the series - a late-game scene of Ratchet delivering a stilted eulogy is particularly hilarious and memorable. Series regular Captain Qwark is at his arrogant, blundering idiotic best here, with almost every one of his lines putting a big smile on my face. In fact, he's the player character for the bonus "vid-comic" stages, a side-scrolling minigame that's shockingly well-made and full-featured.
In fact, "shockingly well-made and full-featured" is a good way to describe Up Your Arsenal as a whole. It's packed with meaningful, rewarding content - I haven't even mentioned the extensive combat arena modes, or the multiplayer. The post-game is outrageously generous, with another entire line of upgrades available for every weapon and the tremendous "Challenge Mode" New Game Plus with harder enemies but a higher score multiplier so you can get more and more money for new weapons and gadgets. There are also a couple of huge "field" stages with special items to mine from them and sell for mad cash. There's a terrific amount to do and it's hard to imagine getting bored. In fact, it's one of the only games I've ever finished then immediately started over and played through once again.
As I mentioned, Going Commando and the later A Crack in Time tend to get the plaudits (and they're great games), but Up Your Arsenal wins out for me every time. But the whole Ratchet series is basically excellent. Even Deadlocked.