Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

F234- Wetter Is Unbetter

Hey, when you visit strange lands, you have to obey their customs. I'm not sure the lady made out of oily goo is quite sympathetic to their anti-wetness bigotry, but that's what cultural exchange is all about.


Quick Critique: Ratchet and Clank 2016

Ratchet and Clank 2016 isn't a bad game, it just never justifies its existence. The gameplay is still fairly solid (outside of some bugs) but the story and writing really hurt it. It looks really pretty, amazingly pretty. Even the animation is top notch with some fantastic squash and stretch. The characters look great, although the Galactic Rangers are super generic (this series has rather boring female alien designs, they all look too humanoid) and Big Al looks like a creepy anthropomorphic cat version of Alton Brown (seriously! It's gross and weird and I liked Good Eats). The problem is that if your game is only relying on how pretty it looks, you have to absolutely knock that out of the park and never mess it up because there's not much else to prop up the product. When it comes to actual gameplay, all of the lighting effects and explosions and particle effects are a nuisance and will cover up enemy fire, so you get pegged with shots you can't see. There are really abrupt, jarring edits in the cutscenes. Several scenes happen behind fades to black. In the beginning, Ratchet's ship crashes but the game quickly fades to black so they didn't have to animate that happening and you just hear it crash. There's a really bad sound mix too, where you have to turn the sound effects really low or else they drown out all the dialogue and you can barely notice that the game has any music.
While the remake has solid gameplay, the storytelling is an absolute mess and bogs down the whole package. They ruin what was a twist before in the intro cutscene for the sake of an awful narrative device that doesn't serve the game. Now that you know Quark is bad from the start of the game, the player knows not to trust him and Ratchet just seems like an idiot for not noticing it right away. Quark's heel turn wasn't a major shock in the original game, but the story played up to it and it led to a satisfying confrontation. In the remake, they play it down and try to have Quark be more misguided and dumb, which led to him doing bad things, rather than Quark being a self-centered ass that actively and knowingly went bad. They also try to redeem him before the end of the game so it all feels weak and pointless. If this is a reboot, they've already made Quark into the one note bore he became in every game after 3. To further the changes to Quark's story, they also changed Nefarious's origin story, which absolutely ruins the emotional journey of RC3. Quark and Ratchet's relationship was the underlying thread that brought the first three games together and the relationship between Quark and Nefarious was necessary to bring Quark and Ratchet back together and give Quark his redemption. With the changes made to Nefarious, you can't do that plot-line anymore and the whole thing feels safe and dumbed down.
Outside of the story, the characters and dialogue are still so poorly done. There are jokes about hashtags and social media or how those crazy nerds are always complaining about things. It has the level of writing you'd expect from a broad, generic sitcom that has no aspirations. You can't just keep calling out how convenient or dumb an element of the game is and be off the hook for how convenient or dumb it is. If you're going to get meta and call out lazy writing to advance the story, actually do something with that. Heck, learn to just maintain consistency in your story. To get one mission, Ratchet's mentor character gives it to you and tells Ratchet how proud the mentor is of him. Then on that very mission, you meet another character that says the mentor must be really proud of Ratchet, and Ratchet replies that he's probably not and that the mentor is likely mad at him for leaving work. They didn't even have consistency for dialogue that's ten minutes apart. They even lost the joke about Drek's title changing and upgrading through the cutscenes, which was a joke that stuck with me and made me smile years after I'd forgotten most of the game's beats. Drek was a pompous ass in the first game and that joke helped define how full of himself he was and his voice reflected that (Kevin Michael Richardson!). In the remake, he's more incompetent/silly and now he's voiced by Paul Giamatti, who I like, but he doesn't suit the role. There's no malice to the character now. And given how absent he is from the game this time around, he barely feels like a villain. He's just kind of there in a few cutscenes or over an intercom and little more.
Even Ratchet's journey feels generic. He's interchangeable with hundreds of other characters and you have the played out "underdog wants to be something more, gets shut down, achieves some success, thing happens that undermine his success and jeopardize his friendships, then everything comes together and he gets more success" story arc. In the movie trailer, there's a scene where Clank calls Ratchet out for lying, but in the game, that scene is cut. This leads to a weird bit where Clank realizes Ratchet is a liar and the game acts like this will lead to something, but nothing ever comes of it. Clank never takes Ratchet to task, so all of the moments where Ratchet takes advantage of or ignores Clank, just make Ratchet out to be a real dick. They even abandoned the reasoning behind Clank being "defective". In the original game, Clank was different for a reason, but in this game, they ignore all of that and the plot goes into motion... because.
Compounding how bad the writing is, there's so much of it and nobody ever shuts up. There are sections that are a constant stream of quips and one-liners as you just try to play the game. For some reason, the Gadgetron weapon kiosks can now talk. Even when you're not near them. In the middle of combat. I heard the prompt to buy the Groovitron over and over for hours because I didn't want to waste bolts on it. Clank feels like a nag rather than your partner. He'll tell you to do something, you'll head towards the objective, and then three seconds later he'll harangue you for not completing the objective yet. It's a mixture of constantly trying to hold your hand and treating the player like an idiot. Richard Horvitz is awesome, but all anybody ever casts him to do is the Zim voice. He voices a few characters in this game and one is just straight up Zim and the other is a muffled Zim. It's pretty played out across all media, but they also had him doing that voice for the bad guy in the PS3 game. Give the guy a chance to do something different already. Plus you already have Nefarious, who ha a fairly Zim-ish voice too. The Foley has that same lack of caring. Characters walking through water make the same noise as walking on steel or there's a station that gets flooded and you can still hear the water dripping sound effects from when it was dry while you're underwater.
The changes to the gameplay help the remake feel more fresh than a straight HD port, but it continues the Insomniac trend of tossing in unnecessary systems and losing the well-tuned simplicity of the early games. I'm thrilled to have the leveling up and weapon upgrades in the first game but I certainly don't need an upgrade tree requiring its own currency or card collecting. R&C has no need for a randomized loot system. The controls feel different and occasionally unresponsive. There are too long delays between when you press the button and Ratchet switches weapons and you can't move the camera at the start of levels or after some cutscenes, plus all the usual Ratchet issues like the Swingshot not firing when you press the button and lag on the grind rails. Then there are hacking mini-games and the racing mini-game is back and tedious vehicles sections. But then they removed twists to the gameplay that were interesting. There are no giant Clank segments in the game now. They also changed the final boss and you basically just need to aim at him and hold the fire button to almost instantly win. There are really only 4 boss fights in the whole game and one "boss" you defeat in a boring Crash Bandicoot style chase segment (and he dies from you turning the sprinkler system on, so it's extra unimpressive). The hardest boss in the game is just some giant Zurkon they threw in and after that, the last two bosses are a cakewalk. Even the Insomniac Museum is terrible. It's just a bunch of broken models thrown into a hangar covered in boxes, garbage, and posters with old ads or concept art. That's not a dig on it or being snarky, the Museum is actually a bunch of piles of garbage made up of 3D models of game objects. Nothing about it is rewarding or interesting. If the trash heap look of it is a self-aware acknowledgment to how little Insomniac cares these days, I give them MAJOR props. But I think that's giving them too much credit. You also can no longer cause the race girl's breasts to inflate. That was a secret so dumb that it absolutely should have been included. And if you ARE going to take it out, you should at least make a reference to it where she calls you out for being a weirdo blackflipping around her.
The only thing this remake stirs in me is anger over the awful writing and wondering why was this game made (other than the obvious answer of "money"). The game and the movie have the same story, so it's not really an ad for the movie or a way to get new people into the franchise since once you beat the game, there's no great reason to see the movie. The HD remake of the original Ratchet just came out 4 years ago, so if you want to play R&C1 in HD, you already can. From 2013 back to the start, there was at least one new Ratchet game that came out almost every year, so it's not exactly hard to find stuff in the franchise and if you're interested in it, you know about it already. If they were going to put all this effort into remaking an existing game all over again, why not just make a new game? I'm fine with them getting back to basics and ignoring the like last six Ratchet games and just releasing Ratchet and Clank 4. All I want from this franchise is to treat it like the Mega Man games. I love the formula and I just want more of it without needlessly complicating what's important. I want Ratchet 3 without the vehicle sections. A good story, good levels, good weapons, and a good upgrading system are all I need. Cut out all the fluff and pointless mechanics and systems that are bolted on every year and go back to being a simple, but well-made and lots of fun series.




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