Ratchet and Clank Review – Up Your (Half)Arsenal

As the bedroom-dwelling fare of my cupboard and shelf may insinuate, I’m a sucker for a platformer. Having had my heart hacked into early-on by Crash Bandicoot 3 and Super Mario Land, I’ve propelled myself (sometimes with very little sleep and surprisingly vocal excitement) into those late-90’s-early-00’s series heralded by many and enjoyed by even more. And Insomniac’s runny, gunny and crudely funny Ratchet and Clank remains amongst the best series to grace the early noughties. The 2002 original was something of a breakthrough for Insomniac; whilst evidently encumbered with slow character controls and dysfunctional aim system, the series introduced a wry wackiness to the third person shooter. What a shame its silver-screen counterpart contributes no similar notabilities, for it wears its faults on its sleeves whilst keeping its redeeming features firmly out of reach.

Ratchet and Clank grin

Like its interactive better-half, the film reimagines the story of 2002’s shooty-platformer. Ratchet and Clank’s opening moments extend the spanning Solana Galaxy, complete with fizzling subtitles alluding to their various names (Novalis, and so on), before cutting to the first recognisable mug of the series. Chairman Drek – here named Alonzo Drek – plans to explode the populated planets of the galaxy by way of his own personal ‘De-Planetiser’, in order to use the fragments to fashion his very own, perfect planet to house his race, Frankenstein-style.

The rest of the film overlooks the evolution of the plucky, co-titular Lombax, Ratchet – from humble mechanic to hands-down space hero. Ratchet’s attempts to join the Galactic Rangers to help fend off the repugnant Drek are repeatedly shot down by the hopelessly self-enamoured Captain Qwark. Only after a defective repairbot – the scientifically-minded Clank – flees Drek’s intergalactic clutches to promptly crash on Ratchet’s home planet does life turn around for the Lombax mechanic, and between the bot’s logical mind and Ratchet’s tail-to-the-wall bravado.

Visually, the film endeavours to match the clear-fibred looks of the various animal-folk native to other recent animated ventures such as Zootropolis, the intergalactic realms of Ratchet and Clank‘s toonish multiverse is stunningly reformed and remastered, but without the luxury of exploring such a dimension oneself, these worlds can’t help but feel a little alien – and not in an literal, Blargian way.

Ratchet and Clank Space

It sounds much like the premise of a Ratchet and Clank game (something no doubt intended), but over the course of my hour-and-a-half sitting I found myself surprised at just how little Ratchet and Clank the film actually contained. Many moments in the film feel like wasted opportunities to be funny, shoehorning in hyper-relevant social media jokes when a brief cameo from Skid McMarx or the ubiquitous Lizard vendor would’ve charmed so much more. The game’s most prominent aspect – the voluminous arsenal of wacky firearms – was strikingly missed here, instead merely glossed over in a forced gamestyle montage, with the series’ enemies receiving a similar treatment. Whilst the swarming horde of yoo-hoo­ing Zurkon was a fun little nod, conflicts were lacking, and ultimately left me a little deflated considering jaunty lock-n-loads and varied enemy encounters was Ratchet and Clank’s thing.

Of course, that and its winning proclivity for including as many double-entendres into both gameplay and title as humanly (Blargally?) possible. But alas, these were nowhere to be found either. Considering the heightened awareness many films are showing of their audiences (examples might include the recent LEGO Movie and quite nearly all of Pixar’s films), a little naughtiness can be accommodated in many animated films without being clocked by younger audiences. Given that the film is likely aimed at fans of the original game (who’ve since grown into adults quite possibly proficient in the language of the innuendo), I was expecting at least a smattering of nods to some of the series’ bluer titles (Up Your Arsenal remains a favourite of mine). But the closest we get to a euphemism here is a distinctively bum-rushed narrative. Whilst Drek is entertaining and personable, his actions never garner sufficient purpose or intent to drive his maniacal planetary possession. His prompt replacement by the crazed Dr. Nefarious does little to remedy the situation, furthermore, as the filmmakers merely replace a superficial, yet mildly entertaining antagonist with one of lesser substance and none of the supposed charm. Instead, his actions are allowed to revel in a manic futility, with his actions hurriedly trussed up at the end with an explanation more predictable than a secondary school anti-smoking play.

Ratchet and Clank vomit

One positive that can be said of the film is that its cast proffers the pipes of the original Ratchet and Clank alumni. The film is carried by James Arnold Taylor’s Ratchet, and David Kay’re endearingly nonplussed tone as the quizzical repairbot, Clank. Jim Ward also returns, lending a recognisable buffoonishness as the hopelessly doltish Captain Qwark.
Decidedly not returning in this film-of-the-game however is Kevin Michael Richardson as its iron-fisted tyrant, Chairman Drek. The dastardly boots are instead filed by Paul Giamatti, whose childlike exclamations and Plankton-esque sincerity actually make for one of the film’s most enjoyable moments, if not always attaining the gravelly threat that made Richardson’s Chairman Drek a truly formidable dictator.

Following Prince of Persia, DOOM and the condemnable Agent 47, my past experiences with video game adaptations has been somewhat traumatic, so I almost want to commend the film for its competence as a fun and respectful throwback to the original game- but overall it appeared a rickety patchwork of game cutscenes that had been hurriedly stitched together for release, with the evident gaps left for gameplay sections all but filled in with the cinematic equivalent of a sharpie pen. It’s a shame in many ways; even with low expectations, fans of the series will likely find the tie-in for the Ratchet and Clank reboot superficial and disappointing, but the silver lining here is that there’s always the opportunity to play the film in a better-rounded, cohesive PS4 reboot. Not many films have that luxury.

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The WakuWafu and Starlight Blogger Awards

Well, paint me orange and call me Crash, there’s a snippet of loveliness to start the day.

Indeed, upon prying open the onyx jaws of my pop-up endowed laptop, I found that I’d been nominated for The Wakuwafu and Starlight Blogger Awards.

And given by none other than SilencekilledtheDinosaurs – a tremendous storyteller that never fails to slap a big ol’ grin on my face; not least because of her use of chucklesome sketches to project the crooks and meanders of daily life, whether grounded and contemplative or darkly amusing.

So, without further ado, here are the rules of The Wakuwafu Award:

wakuwafuaward1. Thank the person who has nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  1. 2. Choose any 3 things you would like to say about yourself to your fellow bloggers.
  2. 3. Think up 3 questions you would like to ask the people you nominate.
  3. Give one piece of advice to your fellow bloggers.
  4. 4. Make sure to tell us over here (http://wakuwafu.com/2015/09/08/the-wakuwafu-award/) that you have been nominated (and/or completed the award) so that we can put your blog up on the wakuwafu page! Make sure to put down your blog in the comments section!

The Starlight Blogger rules are:starlight-blogger-award

  1. Thank the giver and link to their blog in your post.
  2.  Answer the 3 questions given to you.
  3. Please pass the award on to 6 or more other bloggers of your choice and let them know that they have been nominated.
  4.  Include the logo of the award in a post or on your blog. Please never alter the logo and never change the rules.

 

I won’t lie, I do feel like I’m being interviewed a bit, and it’s got me excitable as an adolescent Springer Spaniel.

Questions asked by SilencekilledtheDinosaurs:

If you could wake up tomorrow anywhere in the world, where would that be?

New Zealand. Never have I been so astounded by a country’s natural beauty. Apart from the Antarctica, but I don’t suppose I’d be waking up as such if I was ethereally teleported there during the night.

Although, coming from The Home of the Repressed, Land of Evasive Eye Contact (alias, England), the friendliness I’ve heard to permeate the place might come as a bit of a shock. Delighful, but a shock.

As for what I’d do there, I’d be plodding around like a vivacious hobbit, gawking at all the cinematically familiar pastures of Piopio and Matamata, inexplicably drawing attention to my innate touristyness.

You are granted one wish, but it is a cursed wish and there is a 50% chance that it will go awfully wrong in some way. Do you make the wish, and if so, what do you wish for?

I’m off to University at the end of the year, so I suppose I’d wish for it to be a grand period of self-development and alliance to supplement my perpetual oglings of the game screen.

That way, if it did go awfully wrong in some forebodingly ambiguous way, I’d be comforted with the notion that, to some extent, that’s what University is all about, and others are probably going through it too.

What’s your favourite joke? If you don’t have a favourite joke just tell a good one. Or a terrible one. Sometimes terrible jokes are better than good jokes.

I recently discovered the sort of terribly corny joke that demands immediate expression to a friend to avoid my eyes promptly imploding due to their unrestricted rolling. Here goes nothing:

“Knock Knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Your delay”

“Your delay who?”

“Oh, I didn’t know you could yodel”

I both apologise and thank you.

And The Nominees Are…

Below are some of the blogs I enjoy reading. This choice does not reflect a ‘favourite’ system, but writings that impressed and inspired me this year, that I feel deserve attention.

Space Fuelled Gaming – Reviews and editorials concerning games and the industry; an enthusiastic discussor.

ParticleBit – Informative features on the world of gaming, as well as confident reviews.

A World of Weird – Wittily penned thoughts on films, games and novels that aren’t always well-known. Much horror often ensues, and it’s thoroughly entertaining.

Serialhobbyiste – A new, analytical blog that raises interesting interpretations surrounding game and film elements.

EIGHT BIT – A collection of reviews, news and college thoughts, with an inviting, casual tone. Have a look at these three reasons you should watch Cowboy Bebop .

Updownright – A games blog that continues to demonstrate a dedication shared between three contributors, revolving around informative features, analysis and achievement-hunting tirades.

I Will Now Interrogate You Thrice Over

  1. Which fictional reality would you be happiest living out the rest of your days in?
  2. Which person do you respect most? Can be fictional or real, known personally or not. You also don’t have to necessarily like them.
  3. What made you want to start blogging, and what’ve your experiences been like so far?

And Now…

According to WakuWafu, I am now to give you all some advice. Given my harbouring a Playstation infatuation that, twenty years ago might’ve been deemed ‘unhealthy’ but can now be understood as ‘passionate’, I thought it only right to approach this as I might approach Bloodborne.

Run in and hack, slash and roll with all you have, because the enemy’s rarely scarier than what your mind’s anticipating. And each always has a weakness, however damn unforgiving.

bloodborne spider

I mean, there must be a few exceptions, but right now I can’t think of any…

A new review will be up within the coming week. Typing away like a clockwork stenographer as we speak.

My Most Anticipated Game of 2016

System: PS4
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: 26/27th April 2016 (NA/EU)

uncharted 4n
No Man’s Sky has certainly had me jittery with childlike in more than a few instances, but there’s always going to be a special kind of enthusiasm reserved in me for Uncharted. Naughty Dog is a developer that has proven consistently strong since formation, and with what we’ve seen of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End so far, their efforts aren’t about to run dry.

E3’s demo this year oversaw the beloved Nathan Drake literally being pulled through the dirt, engaged in bombastic car chases and intrepid endeavours that reminded me in an instant just how much I miss Drake’s sparky misadventures.

Though alongside the obligatory adrenaline came the inevitable effects time has had on the dauntless protagonist; something made more striking by the 1080p display. Face a little more lined than we remember, Drake’s now retired from his life on the edge and has settled down with his wife, Elena.gif nate

Exactly how long that retirement lasts, however, is another question. One that I’m very much looking forward to seeing answered.

Co-director, Neil Druckmann explains in an interview with Gamerant that their intent for Uncharted 4 was to “give the player more options, more ways to approach, whether it’s exploration, traversal or combat”. Druckmann’s previous work on post-apocalyptic triumph The Last of Us seems to have represented a crucial point of development for Druckmann, and as such The Last of Us’ complex AI has since been translated into Uncharted 4. Drawing a closer comparison, we might also speculate that a heavier emphasis on stealth may feature (as was the case with The Last of Us), and maybe even a slight raise in challenge level accompanying the greater variety of traversal options.

It’s a reassuring thought, especially considering Drake’s Deception’s disappointing reliance on quicktime events.

dialogues.png

Although, I found the dialogue options a little forced. They looked out of place in a linear game such as Uncharted.

This being said, A Thief’s End also marks the loss of writer, Amy Hennig. As the cocky one-liners and well crafted character relationships have always been a strong point of the series, it will be fascinating to observe how writers Druckmann, Bissell and Scherr will approach Hennig’s construct. Druckmann’s credit for The Last of Us is a confident starting point, and, overall, I’m looking forward to seeing his styles adapt to the more jovial rollicks of Uncharted’s buoyant cast.

 

With the multiplayed beta available now to owners of The Nathan Drake Collection on PS4, it really feels like Naughty Dog are as excite to unveil Drake’s latest adventure as we are to receive it. Implementing taunts, killable sidekicks, customisable items and a range of different explosives and weapons to endow your online experience, there’s already much the company wants us to see, which is only turning my attention more towards how the characters I’ve come to adore will develop in the series’ final entry.

uncharted 4 n
Naughty Dog described A Thief’s End as Nate’s “greatest adventure yet” that will “test his physical limits, his resolve, and ultimately, what he’s willing to sacrifice to save the ones he loves”. That’s a bold statement considering the delightful chaos of Fortune, Thieves and Deception, but it’s one Naughty Dog hasn’t disappointed on before.

What are your most anticipated games of 2016? Do you think they’ll live up to your expectations? Jot down a comment below. Thanks – and here’s to 2016.

Links for your curious heart:

http://gamerant.com/uncharted-4-naughty-dog-interview/ Uncharted 4

http://www.dualshockers.com/2015/10/31/uncharted-4-a-thiefs-end-gets-lots-more-info-on-multiplayer-story-technology-and-more/

http://www.naughtydog.com/site/post/uncharted_4_a_thiefs_end_2014_e3_trailer/

Most Exciting Concept: No Man’s Sky

System: PS4, Windows
Developer: Hello Games
Release Date: June 2016

no mans sky g.jpg
Quite aside from the most anticipated independent game of 2016, No Man’s Sky might just be the most anticipated game of 2016 full stop. Since the game’s announcement in 2014, No Man’s Sky has experienced an insatiable rabidity from already die-hard fans; a vivacity that – the more the workings of the title are revealed – becomes more and more relateable.

The game isn’t exactly Hello Games’ first venture, but it’s certainly it’s riskiest. The player assumes the role of an astronaut, who sets out to gather information from dimensions in uncharted galaxy. Equipped with a jet pack, spacesuit and multi-tool, the player can traverse luxurious, oversaturated worlds to salvage upgradeable items, fight off mechanical sentinels and uncover artefacts that allude to the secrets of the universe.

In interviews, No Man’s Sky has been described as a game about mathematical problems, in addition to exploration. Co-founder of Hello, Sean Murray explains that No Man’s Sky‘s environments are “procedurally generated”, as opposed to “random”. As such, a player can visit a planet and leave again, only to find that the planet’s environment will be generated around them in exactly the same way upon their return.
nms tower
And there’s 18 quintillion of them. According to Hello Games, each one is unique.

“But it’s not stored on the disk” Murray proceeds. It’s all generated right as you explore, which remains one of the most interesting aspects of No Man’s Sky. It isn’t chaotic, it’s reliable, which could make No Man’s Sky one of the best, even most realistic space simulators of the present day, as well as a cracking adventure game.

The player’s alleged only limit is the capacity of their spacecraft; something that can be upgraded to reach the innermost sactums of deep space. The game also represents the potential for an entirely new utilisation of the online community. You can submit your experiences in the game to the ‘Atlas’ – a database accessible to other players. Whilst not a new concept in itself, 18 quintillion planets means that there’s a very good chance that the things you see across No Man’s Sky will have never been seen by anyone else before; the Atlas could become more useful as a survival hub in No Man’s Sky than in any other title.
No Mans Sky Green

But of course, the game has been subject to – sometimes – unreasonable hype. The expanse of No Man’s Sky is undeniable; unignorable, but lacking a directing narrative and objectives, is the game’s size a novelty that could soon give way to mundanity? After a time of salvaging, scanning and upgrading, a new environment isn’t likely to puncture the growing mundanity, and it’ll be interesting to see if – and how – the game develops with the player.

Links for your curious heart:

Most Enigmatic Title: Hellblade

Release Date: 2016
Developer: Ninja Theory
System: PS4

hellblade scenery.jpg
In pursuit of their first “independently created game”, developer, Ninja Theory appear to have bounced back from the controversies of DmC: Devil May Cry with a similar gusto for brutality. This being said, the veins of upcoming hack n’ slash, Hellblade, appear to run deeper than mere disquieting aesthetic, incorporating explorative elements and touching on such themes as mental illness and reality.
The game’s art style is undeniably interesting, drawing notably pagan inspiration in a “fictional-historical setting”. Set in the aftermath of a Viking Invasion, Senua is a warrior of the Pictish Celts, and according to Lead Development Manager, Dominic Matthews, “the story of Hellblade tells her coming to terms with the trauma and the violence of her past.”
Of course, there’s always a slight concern with representation in a game that claims to portray issues like mental health, but as Ninja Theory’s reported to be working closely with Cambridge Neuroscience professors, I’m taking the company’s willingness to research their field of portrayal optimistically.
hellblad
Whilst the characteristic viciousness of melee combat has been confirmed as a dead cert for Hellblade, the game’s entrancing art style and murky environments already beckon to be explored. Senua’s psychotic torment will surface in hallucinations; something that, if done well, could serve to reference preconceptions about mental health, whilst maintaining a useful platform to aid both exploratory and combat elements of the game.
All this is speculation upon what has been said in interviews, however, and Hellblade might just end up completely surprising us. Right now, there’s just enough information to entice.

Links for your curious heart:

INTERVIEW: Ninja Theory on Hellblade and Representations of Mental Illness in Video Games

Game I Will Most Likely Have Forgotten About But Still Get Anyway: Rise of the Tomb Raider

System: PS4; XONE; X360; WINDOWS
Developer: Developer: Crystal Dynamics; Nixxes Software; Eidos
Release Date: Early 2016 (Windows); Late 2016 (PS4)

I’ve never been big on Tomb Raider. Now, this might come as a surprise as it’s one of the most influential platformers to exist and all, but the truth is that it always held a relatively quiet presence amongst other titles I’ve adored. I never saw much of it when growing up, and it’s only now that I’ve really begun to appreciate what so many fans praise about the games.

And what a time to become interested, too. 2013 saw the rejuvination of Lara Croft in a well crafted and thrilling origins story, and with Rise of the Tomb Raider set for PS4 launch in the later part of 2016, it seems there’s no time like the present to really delve into those bygone graves that Croft has a knack for seeking.

lARA

Being a sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider proffers similar gameplay to its predecessor, with a heavier focus on stealth. Michael Brinker of developer, Crystal Dynamics has claimed the player now has a greater ability to “stick with stealth for the entire encounter”, enabling Lara to hide from foes more effectively, without being as easily spotted.

And although Croft’s hotchpotch bow makes its reprise, alongside a nifty hunting knife for melee combat and sneak attacks, one of the most interesting mechanics in Rise of the Tomb Raider lies in its enemy AI. Where in the 2013 reboot, shooting arrows amongst enemies gave away the player’s whereabouts, calculated range attacks can be used to distract your attackers, “if they can’t find Lara,” Brink’s explained in interviews, “they’ll go right back to what they were doing before”.

rise of the tomb raider jump.jpg
A hardened survivalist with ninja-esque qualities? Yes please.
The delayed release for PS4 was a shame, especially considering the original Tomb Raider is widely considered one of the best Playstation titles. And given that, as of 12th December on VGChartz.com, PS4 sales are at almost double those of the Xbox One, the ploy to sell more consoles via exclusivity doesn’t seem to have payed off. As of now, the road unto Lara’s next adventure feels long, and despite my  inexperience with Tomb Raider, the praise Rise of the Tomb Raider has received already suggests it’s a series that might be worth a closer look.

 —

Links for your curious heart:

http://mmgn.com/xboxone/articles–rise-of-the-tomb-raider-interview

Most Interesting World: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Release Date: 2016
Developer: Guerrilla Games
System: PS4

Horizon Zero Dawn bird
Guerrilla Games’ departure from the Killzone series seemed to have popped up out of the blue, but according to interviews with IGN, Horizon: Zero Dawn has been in the works for quite some time. Having begun before work started for Killzone: Shadow Fall, Senior Producer – Mark Norris – describes Horizon as a game that is “ultimately about exploration”, as well as being a tale of self-discovery and purpose within a cataclysmic world.

Zero Dawn marks an interesting entry in the post-apocalyptic style, as it’s one of the few that is classically attractive. The E3 Demo opened upon a vibrant echo of prehistory; home to towering, sentient robots and the parochial human tribes that live perpetually in their shadow. The main story follows Aloy, a trained robot hunter.

horizon aloy

The story itself is deemed by Norris as “one of the closely guarded secrets” of Horizon: Zero Dawn, “because we think it will be really special”. All we know for now is that Aloy “does have a little bit of a special relationship with the machines”, and the sheer amount of meanings behind that statement has me thoroughly interested in how Guerrilla presents the narrative within the gorgeously mechanical open world around 150 people are striving to bring to life.

Horizon’s combat and exploration strike a resemblance to Shadow of Mordor, incorporating tactical stealth elements to take down some of the smaller bots. Most of the direct combat, however, appears to be ranged-oriented, which was something that threw me off a little, as a perpetual sword-wielder. Aloy is equipped with a techy bow and arrow, and judging by the game’s E3 Demo, ranged combat strikes as clean and uncluttered.
In addition to Aloy’s trusty bow, the demo showcased the protagonist’s ability to salvage enemy parts to use against it during a battle; something that already suggests that your titanic foes will require a lot more than a few well-aimed pin pricks to topple.
Horizon Zero Dawn Combat

Although combat took much of the limelight at E3, it’s Zero Dawn’s world that interests me. It’s not a bog standard collection of rolling hills to play about on; it actually feels archaic, flecked with fallen memories of the so-called ‘triumphs of mankind’ that have since melded with the earths. It’s less sinister than it is curious, and atop Norris’ claim that Zero Dawn will, “open your mind to a different way that we can tell stories”, the game is definitely on my watch list.

Links for your curious heart:

PS4 Exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn Interview – Guerrilla Talks Story, Aloy, Size of the Machines and More