Sony has been cleaning up lately with repeated dives into its back-catalog for PlayStation 3 remakes and collections. The latest from the publisher is both, amounting to a collection of HD remakes from the PlayStation 2 era of Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank series. The Ratchet & Clank Collection gathers together Ratchet & Clank (2002), Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (2003), and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004) onto a single disc, complete with a shiny new 1080p makeover as well as support for 720p stereoscopic 3D.
There’s no question that this is a sharp-looking collection. In truth, it’s really one of the prettiest of the recent run on HD remakes that we’ve seen yet, on any platform. The Ratchet games lend themselves very well to this sort of visual makeover, and the new coat of paint makes everything really pop on a typical, modern-day HDTV. The overall improvement across the three games is in fact so dramatic that the pre-rendered cutscenes suffer by comparison. Not only are they presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio — compared to each game’s new 16:9 widescreen view — but they look positively ancient next to the newly HD gameplay.
Beyond the visual upgrades, there’s really nothing new to speak of. Each of the three games are content-complete, with even the multiplayer mode from Up Your Arsenal revived, allowing up to eight players to duke it out on the PlayStation Network. There are Trophies for each of the three titles, of course, but the HD remakes are otherwise identical to their decade-old predecessors.
What’s amazing is how well these games have aged. As fun as it was to play 2011’s Team Ico collection — Ico and Shadow of the Colossus — both of those games ultimately felt rather clunky by today’s standards. That’s not so with the three Ratchet games. There’s a very detectable technical improvement as you move from Ratchet & Clank to Going Commando to Up Your Arsenal, but all three are nearly as smooth to play overall as the current-gen Ratchet games are. Even the visuals aren’t all that different; the current-gen titles feature improved facial expressions and more dazzling special effects, but the general feel carries across the generations very well.
There are a few funny quirks to the Ratchet & Clank Collection, some unique to this PS3 disc and some merely holdovers from an earlier era in gaming. All three of the games default to inverted camera controls on the right analog stick. You can change that easily enough in the menus, though in an amusing twist, the first two games actually have the nerve to refer to inverted as “normal.” Insomniac got things straight for Up Your Arsenal; you still default to inverted controls, but at least the menus refer to them as such.
The only real flaw I could find with the collection relates to the accessibility of each game. Once you’ve fired up one of the three titles, there’s no way to back out to the game selection screen to hop into another. You have to actually bring up the media bar, quit the game, and load it up all over again. It’s annoying when you’re reviewing the collection and jumping from one game to the next matters, but most players probably won’t even notice.
The only real complaint that I walked away with — and I don’t hold this against the collection as a whole, though I hope Sony takes note — is that the Ratchet & Clank Collection isn’t available for the PlayStation Vita. There is literally no reason why any of these three games wouldn’t be playable on the handheld… so why aren’t they? The Vita is fairly starved for content at the moment, and I’d frankly much rather play an HD remake of games that I’ve played before on that small screen, while on the go, rather than on my big TV.
That pretty much covers it. The collection also includes a digital version of each game’s manual as well as a download code that offers early access to the playable demo for Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. This is, in my opinion, Sony’s best collection of HD remakes yet. If you’re a fan of the Ratchet series then there is no reason not to snatch this one up, even if you’ve played through all of these games before. The visual and technical improvements are dramatic, and the early adventures of Ratchet and his robot pal Clank are still as fun as they ever were.
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)