Insomniac lives up to its name by completing a sequel to last year's top intergalactic character actioner in what seems like a nanosecond. Locked & Loaded is the follow-up to Ratchet & Clank, one of the must-play titles of 2002 and, although the time between projects feels somewhat brief, the end result is a pleasingly polished and well-rounded adventure that improves upon just about every aspect of the original.
Picking up the story soon after where the original left off, Ratchet & Clank 2 sees the heroic duo settling back into normal life, making the odd appearance on celebrity talk-shows, basking in the glow of having saved the world from the evil Chairman Drek, that sort of thing. But when the pair is summonsed by MegaCorp CEO Abercrombie Fizzwidget to embark on a mission of 'dire urgitude!' (sic) in the Bogon Galaxy, the diminutive side-kick Clank is less keen than his long-eared pal Ratchet to get involved. After all the excitement of the pair's first adventure, Clank has decided to cash in his chips and become an accountant. It's up to Ratchet to convince the number-crunching robot to jack-in the job and join him on another galaxy-saving quest.
Ratchet & Clank 2 may be a sequel, but the gameplay feels fresh as a daisy, thanks to a complete overhaul by the Insomniac team. The standard platform-friendly scoring has been swapped out for an RPG-style 'hit points' system, and the onus is now on gaining experience by fighting enemies. The more bad guys you take out, the more your health increases, and the same principle goes for your weaponry too. Every time you use your guns, you'll earn experience which, once you've earned enough, can be used to upgrade to bigger and better weaponry. And speaking of guns, you'll no doubt be pleased to note that there are 20 new weapons making their debut in R&C2, and they're as inventive and enjoyable as the last lot. Amongst the enhanced armoury on offer you'll find: the 'Chopper' - a cunningly-monikered device that launches razor sharp discs at any objects or enemies in your path, the 'Sheepinator' for transforming irksome enemies into bleating livestock in a trice and the 'Lava Gun' - a neat bit of kit which propels hot molten matter in the direction of any bad guys.
As with the original, Ratchet & Clank 2's gameplay is a blend of various styles, and you'll find yourself jumping from traditional platform-style exploration to gladiatorial arenas, from space combat to unique 'spherical worlds', all in the blink of an eye. Ratchet's various modes of transport have expanded too, to include a Glider and Gravity Boots that allow him to run up walls. There are all-new Maxi Games for earning extra experience and rewards; take part in hoverbike races and interstellar dogfights to earn more of those precious bolts - the intergalactic currency of choice. As well as all the nifty new touches that have been added, the main thing you'll notice about Ratchet & Clank 2 is the sheer size of the game; it's over 50% bigger than the original title, with 20 huge levels to play through. It's an absorbing experience which manages to blend a range of diverse gaming styles into one seamless whole, with a wry, comedic script that carries the action along brilliantly.
- All-new gameplay blends a variety of styles, from action-adventure to racing, roleplay and strategy
- 20 brand new weapons, most of which can be upgraded, for the ultimate in enemy annihilation
- Maxi Games make another appearance with a whole raft of new challenges: take part in an intergalactic dogfights or exhilarating hoverbike races
- New RPG-style element allows character and weaponry to evolve with experience