Ratchet and Clank
Ratchet and Clank (2002) is easily my favourite game in this fantastic series. The Story in this game is basic being aimed at kids but has a lot of undertones that only adults would have a deeper understanding of. For example how the main villain Chairmen Drek pollutes his own planet and starts literally destroying others in the pursuit of financial benefits and how Captain Qwark parades around like a hero but in reality is actually working with Drek and is only in it for fame and fortune (the game explores consumerism as a whole quire heavily). The game does a really good job of showing Ratchet and Clank being the only two people actually trying to fight the bad guys in a universe where everyone is out to make a quick bit of cash showing us that to some extent a lot of the people in this universe are actually more like Qwark or Drek than Ratchet and Clank. The game even has some emotional moments and even though it isn't tear-jerking by any means it does give you a warm feeling whilst immersed in their world. This game didn't have the right to be anywhere near as good as it was especially when you consider most 3-D platformers of the time weren't really based around emotion or story.
For the time the gameplay of ratchet and clank is exceptional even if it is relatively basic. However, this doesn't mean the game will hold your hand like particular games later in the series. In fact, this game even now when I'm playing it for the hundredth time still has certain sections of combat that, when you let your guard down, will punish you at a moment's notice. The game uses simple but smart mechanics for teaching the player almost every move or gadget within the game. A perfect example of this is on Planet Kerwan where the game teaches you the basic platforming you will need to use throughout the entire game, you do this via the Captain Qwark Fitness Course which consists of three different sections. The first of these teach you platforming at its simplest, the second part of the course carries on this trend in more advanced ways, finally, the third part of the course allows you to practice with a new gadget. This method of teaching the player is effective as it doesn't throw you in at the deep end but equally doesn't walk you through everything step by step, it allows the player to learn the basics and then teach themselves how to use these techniques in more complicated ways. The combat within ratchet and clank, as a rule, is quick and smooth and mixes well with most weapons and gadgets given to you throughout the game. In most situations, you're not tied down to one specific playstyle some may be more effective or quicker than others but you can still experiment with everything. You get 16 weapons to use in many destructive ways 10 of which are upgradable in the games new game plus mode which adds a lot of replayability to the title as well as collectibles and skill points.
The soundtrack to this game is simply phenomenal and something the later games in the series really fail to live up to. Every level has a great theme with some being particularly brilliant and nostalgic for long time fans. My personnel favourites being Novalis, Rilgar, Gemlik Base and the second visit to Veldin all of the levels soundtracks mix perfectly with the atmosphere we find Ratchet and Clank placed in. Furthermore, a very cool thing this game does at the start of most levels is giving us a look of where we will be headed for example upon reaching planet Rilgar the first thing we see once we leave the ship is a massive city staring down at us as the iconic soundtrack to the level begins to play, these two things combined really makes the player get pumped to play the level and gives a real sense of atmosphere before the level has even begun.
Ratchet and Clank was a game that had no right to be as great as it was and it really didn't need to be. They could've cut half the pathways out the game and even dumbed down the story or held the player's hand because at the time of release most of the competition was doing just that, there was no complicated story, no emotion was needed it would just be a short tutorial and then 'off you go kids, go shoot the bad guys'. This game decided to be more than that. Insomniac decided to push their genre forward into unknown waters by making their story more complicated, more emotional, and heightening the stakes on a universal scale and personnel scale to the character we control and therefore us as players too. It has character arcs that you really see develop throughout the game, vibrant worlds which the game constantly pushes you to explore and an amazing soundtrack to boot. It's sad to think that games later in the series do really become a far cry from where it all started but this game will forever be an endlessly replayable game, a golden beginning to a mascot series.
A timeless classic.