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Ratchet and Clank 2016 Review: Why?

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The original R&C is the only one in the entire series that I've played (the lack of numbered sequels overwhelmed my tiny child brain), but its a game that really stuck out to me over the years. It was witty, engaging, challenging, and the pacing was just beautiful. It simply was just a hell of a lot of fun to blast thru varied levels as a cocky space-cat mechanic with his robot friend acting as a perfect foil. With the 2016 remake currently being free on PSN, I gave it a run through as I heard good things about the gameplay and disappointing things about the story. A free game is a free game though, and its not like I have better things to do right now.

R&C 2016 strikes me as a game that was pulled in a lot of different directions during development. Being a movie tie-in game means developers have to play by a different set of rules. Being a "faithful" remake of a classic game means fan expectations are going to set in a certain way, often opposed to the interests of the corporate execs at the movie studio who have no stake in such a thing. So you end up with a game that is serviceable, but completely toothless and lacking so much in character that it becomes comedic at the games' expense. This game is so bland that I'm almost convinced that it isn't an accident.

R&C is a game of very simple pleasures. You use big weapons to kill a huge horde of enemies to make thousands of little cash droplets appear. The sound of collecting a bajillion bolts after wasting a room of dudes (or while in the midst of wasting) is a pure videogame dopamine rush. The game is kind enough to realize that the best part of combat is sending a dozen weak enemies at you at once and giving you a flamethrower to mow them down as they kindly bum rush you like they have a death wish, spraying money into the air and into your pocket. These are tried and true ways of getting the pleasure sensors in your brain firing at full capacity. This game gets to cheat by pretty faithfully recreating the levels from the original game, which were excellent. I haven't played the original in around 6-8 years, yet every room was an immediately familiar sight, which really speaks to their strength. The Novalis waterworks had me giddy to explore again. As I did though, something was off, and I think you know what it is. Its the god damn music.

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I can't stress it enough: the complete removal of the original OST robs the entire game of any character or personality. The planets of the original were distinct and unique, which made them instantly memorable because they all had drastically different moods. It was a versatile OST that brought distinct character to every world. Instead, the remake goes with generic bombastic orchestral muzak. This strikes me entirely as a corporate big wig decision. The kids won't like funky breakbeat techno, we gotta give them heroic orchestra music, because the game is all about being a hero!!! I think? I think there were other forces at play here that caused this, but it feels so wrong to have these classic levels recreated while axing the soundtrack that completed their atmosphere.

Here's the problem: this game is way less funny than it thinks it is. No jokes land. At all. The most laughter I got out of this was watching Ratchet's thousand yard stare during the in-engine cutscenes, or that stupid shit eating grin that he gives the camera every time you land on a planet (that you cant skip). The canned animations and horribly flat dialogue and their soul-piercing gazes make cutscenes play out like a scene from The Room. This remake is also paced at fucking lightning speed. It floors the gas pedal pretty much the second you leave Veldin, making for a campaign that is entirely haphazard. I get that this is likely a byproduct of being a movie tie in, but this game has no breathing room. It's loud noises and bright colors from top to bottom. But damn, you do get to shoot a lot of dudes.

Even without comparing it to the original, R&C 2016 is just kinda fuckin lame. The decision to shoehorn scenes from the movie into the game brings a mental image to mind of a boardroom meeting where the words "brand synergy" are written on a whiteboard. Turning a game that originally satirized corporate consumerism into a synergistic movie tie-in/remake is true late-stage capitalism. With more creative freedom, this game could have turned out a lot better. I get the sense that they really wanted to make a game that was a love letter to fans of the original with how lovingly the original levels are restored, but the trappings of having to appease the film studio made them scale back a lot of ideas. As it stands, its a game bereft of heart or soul that lets you jump n' shoot alot.

#gadgetron

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