Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017-08-30 Blogging Anniversary

I started blogging three years ago this week.
Technically, it isn’t 3 years to the day. I started on August 27 (https://jakehennett.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/words-on-wednesday-august-27-2014/), but considering this is Words on *Wednesday*, I figured it best to mark the date as the last Wednesday in August. Inevitably, there will be a few years where the last Wednesday in August will fall on the 27th again, but that won’t be every year.
At this point, I don’t really know if it feels like I’ve been blogging for longer or shorter than 3 years. When I think about starting, I remember myself in college, but I had been finished with school for a year before I started. Logically, that would also put my start before getting married, but I got married a few months before then. It’s like I don’t remember a time when I didn’t keep a blog, but it truly wasn’t that long ago when I started.
Obviously, I plan on continuing the blog for as long as I can. I’ve still got quite a few finished posts banked up, just in case I don’t have time to write one any given week. Not only that, but I’ve got a number of topics for inspiration on new posts. Specifically, I feel like the video game reviews that I’ve started doing lately are particularly well received. Considering how many video games I’ve beaten in my life, I could probably spend a year doing just those (although I won’t).
All in all, I think my blog has mostly found its stride. There are few changes week to week, and I finally got everything synced up to spit out posts to all my social media feeds automatically. When I write a post that would fit in a specific subreddit, I’ll post it manually there, but I don’t think there’s a good way to automate reddit posts.

I’ll probably continue to make a post on the last Wednesday of August each year, just to do a state of the web sort of update. Talk about any big changes recently, or anything planned for the future. That is, if I’m even still doing it. Probably will be, but you never know, stuff may come up and I have to stop. It’s been a fun 3 years, and here’s to hopefully many more.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Consoles?

“Why would you even get a console?” This is a question I hear time and time again from various PC gamers. You want to know why someone would get a video game console instead of building a gaming “rig?” I’ll tell you why.

Console > PC

There are quite a few areas in which consoles are simply better than computers for video games.

Price

One of the biggest reasons that gamers recommend PC gaming over console gaming is the price, but I personally think that console gaming can be much cheaper than PC.
For one, the cost of a gaming console can be drastically lower than building a gaming computer from the ground up. The PC Master Race subreddit claims that their “Media Elite” build matches console performance for cheaper, and their “Crusher” build offers better specs for the same price, but they quote the price of a current gen console at $450. The PS4 Pro is only $400, and you can easily find a standard PS4 for $300, sometimes even less. Plus, the prices listed on PC Master Race exclude the cost of an operating system or any peripherals such a keyboard and mouse. The price for a console includes the operating system and a controller. If you want to compare apples to apples, perhaps you should account for the $100 or more that a copy of Windows and peripherals can cost on top of the price of actual parts.
But wait, there’s more! PC gamers also like to rave about how Steam offers huge discounts on games, and I won’t deny that. However, this doesn’t mean that consoles are without ways to save on games as well. If you’re like me and have a backlog of games, it may be months or even years after a game comes out before you get to play it. By waiting for a while before purchasing, I can frequently find games for 50% or more off their original price new, and upwards of 75% off for used games.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Some of you may be fortunate enough to live near a public library that has console video games in circulation. This is the list of 105 PS4 games (at the time of writing this) that my local library has in circulation. At any point, I can put in a request for one of these games, have them drop it off at my closest branch, and stop by to pick it up. I get to keep the game for a week, possibly up to 3 weeks with renewals, provided that there are no other holds on the game. This service is offered for no additional charge besides the income taxes I’m already paying.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!!!!!! If you have friends who also have the same console, you can share games with each other. For the first few months that I had my PS4, I literally didn’t own a single game for it. Instead, friends and coworkers let me borrow games that they weren’t playing at the time. I had so much to play that I still haven’t finished all of them. When I started acquiring some games of my own, I obviously returned the favor by letting them borrow my games. Can you do that with PC games? I don’t believe so.
The one point that I will give to PC gaming with price is the cost of digital downloads. For whatever reason, console games in digital form seem to never go down in price. I realize that publishers and purveyors don’t have to reduce price to sell off old games and free up inventory space, as digital games don’t take up physical space, but you would think that they would bring down prices as games get older. In any case, digital download prices seem to stay high for console games, even years after they come out.

Compatibility

Another huge benefit to console gaming over PC gaming is compatibility of games and platforms.
When I buy a console, it is guaranteed that I can play any game made for that console. I don’t have to check specs, run benchmarks, or anything else. I look at the label, and if it says PS4, I can play it. This compatibility is guaranteed across the lifespan of the console, as well. Someone who purchased a PS4 on launch day has been able to play every single PS4 game released since that day over 3 years ago. They can reasonably expect to continue to be able to play every PlayStation game released until the PS5 comes out. That sort of plateau in technology, while it does mean that consoles aren’t taking advantage of the latest and greatest of tech hardware towards the end of their life cycles, is attractive for those who plan on making a single purchase that will last several years.
For some people, this is a bad thing. They regularly replace tech devices like phones, televisions, and laptops when newer iterations are released. Personally, I don’t like to upgrade until my current version is either broken, or a completely phased out edition. As such, I don’t really like the idea of mid-generation upgrades like the PS4 Pro. In the case of people who are more willing to upgrade hardware, however, this is perfect. And as long as there aren’t any compatibility issues, I’m fine with playing games on slightly inferior hardware with lower framerates or quality reduction. It’s still a PS4, and both versions will play all PS4 games released, but there is an option for people who do want superior performance without the hassle of upgrading individual PC components.

Simplicity

An often overlooked benefit of console gaming is the simplicity that it offers.
With console games, I put in a disc or download the game, wait for it to install, and play the game. There are no drivers to install, no extra software to procure or calibration steps to make things work like they’re supposed to. I just select the game and play it. There is undeniable value in this simplicity.
I’ll note, as a software developer, I still occasionally have issues with PC problem troubleshooting. Someone without a programming background is surely less equipped to deal with these complications that may arise. If you’re just a guy or girl wanting to play a game, do you really want to deal with the headache of setting up a PC to play it? Or would you rather just get the console, get the game you want, and have a good time? That’s what I thought.

Console < PC

While consoles can hold their own against computers for video games, there are some areas where a PC is objectively superior.

Adaptability

Game consoles are obviously made specifically to play video games, while computers shine in their ability to handle a number of different tasks.
With a PC, I can start the day by checking my email and social media accounts. After that, I can do a little productive work by writing some code. Around lunch, I can take a break to scroll through reddit and watch some funny YouTube videos. When I’m done with work for the day, I can load up video editing software to work on that GoPro footage from my trip last weekend. Once the video is finished, I can use photo editing software to tweak some of the pictures to perfection. Then, I can get some gaming in with actual PC games, or load up an emulator to play some older console games.
On a console, I can… play video games. Sure, some modern consoles do have web browsers and video streaming clients available, but frankly they’re just awful. Productive stuff like programming? Yeah, not gonna happen. Consoles are great at playing video games, but they don’t do much else, and they don’t do anything else particularly well.
One small benefit to consoles only being good at playing video games is that you have a designated environment for gaming. With distinct places for work and play, it’s harder to get distracted when you’re trying to get work done. Not only that, but taking a break from work to play some games can clear your head, without being in the same place as the work. It isn’t necessarily a point for console gaming, but it is something to consider.

Customization

If you do want to build a PC that is more powerful than game consoles and have the budget for it, the sky's the limit.
Even if $450 is more expensive than current gen consoles, the “Crusher is objectively a more powerful and superior piece of hardware. It can run games at higher framerates, higher quality settings, and with less stuttering and lag. No ifs, ands, or buts, about it, this is the point that PC hardware is more powerful than video game consoles.
The options don’t stop there, either. If you’re willing to splurge on the “End-All,” you will have hardware that will be vastly superior to any console of this generation, and probably next generation as well. Admittedly, you’re paying more than 2 consoles put together as well, but the experience will be much more fluid and response than any console gaming. Again, if you’re willing to throw the money at it, you can build a PC that will outclass consoles on every front.

Console = PC

There are some areas where console and PC gaming is roughly equal, or at least different enough that you simply can’t compare the two.

Exclusives

Different console platforms brag about exclusives, but the same can be said of PC games. Every platform has at least a handful of games that do not exist elsewhere.
The Super Mario Bros. franchise has been Nintendo exclusive for decades, and excluding mobile games, it will probably stay that way. Ratchet and Clank, probably my personal favorite series, has always been on Sony hardware and likely always will be. Halo has been Microsoft’s bread and butter since the days of the original Xbox. Each ecosystem has its own set of Crown Jewels that won’t be going away anytime soon. You really can’t compare consoles to PC games, when both sides are guilty of this.

Conclusion

So why might someone get a video game console instead of a PC to play games? I hope I’ve addressed this concern and given some compelling reasons to indicate why it isn’t as simple as computers being superior to consoles in every way.
Do consoles have downsides? Absolutely, they aren’t perfect. Consoles fit a very specific price and performance point, and you’re out of luck if you want to deviate from that even slightly. At the end of a console generation, you can’t really do anything to improve your current piece of equipment, all you can do is pony up the cash to buy the successor.
However, consoles fit a very real niche, one that encompases a large portion of the video game market. If you don’t have the money or expertise to build and maintain a gaming rig, consoles are for you. If you don’t care about having the absolute best quality and highest framerate, consoles are for you. If you’re like me and gaming has taken a backseat to other priorities, consoles might be best for you. If you’re more of a casual gamer and less of a hardcore gamer, guess what. Consoles are probably better for you.
Mostly, I just wish PC gamers would get off their high horse and lose the arrogance. There exists a PC gaming subculture, where those who use computers are the “master race,” and people who use game consoles are mere “peasants.” It’s an elitist trend, it is very annoying, and it is completely baseless. I’m not saying that all PC gamers are so pretentious, but the vocal minority speak much louder than the moderate majority. Can a PC have crazy high framerates and quality? Sure, if you’re willing to throw a ton of money at it. There are situations in which PC gaming is best, but it isn’t the superior option for everyone. Recognize that just because you have disposable income and spend multiple hours per day playing video games, what works best for you doesn’t work best for everybody else.

Meta:

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017-08-16 Solar Eclipse

In case you haven’t heard, there’s going to be a solar eclipse next week.
Considering how rarely they happen, it is a bit of a big deal. Solar eclipses are far from frequent, and being within a few miles of the path of totality is obviously even more rare. It’s something I want to take advantage of, since it won’t happen again for a long time, and next time would require actual travel plans.

Glasses

Eclipse glasses have been selling like hotcakes everywhere, and most places seem to be completely sold out. Optometrist offices are giving them out to patients only. Any stores with free displays have been out for at least a week at this point. People are going mad on social media trying to figure out other options.
My mother asked me 2 weeks ago to grab her a pair from a local apparel store that was advertising free glasses. We were tied up for a few days, so I put it off until some time last week. We went by the store, but the sign on the front door indicated that they were out of stock. Well, that’s unfortunate, but I’m sure other places in Spartanburg have some.
On Friday, I decided to spend my lunch break finding some of these glasses. I started driving toward the closest Walmart, and began calling places that might have some. Local libraries were saving them for their viewing parties during the eclipse. Chain stores for glasses and lenses were sold out, but directed me to local optometrists. These local optometrists had some, but were only giving them out to current patients. When I got to Walmart, they were out of stock, as were all of the other Walmart stores that I called.
Finally, some kind soul at one of the various places I called informed me that Croft State Park had some for sale. I called, expecting to be told that they were fresh out. Fortunately, they still had plenty and were selling them for $2 each. Despite the fact that Croft was about a 15 minute drive from my current location, and there was no way I’d get back to work within my hour lunch break, I stormed off to my car and flew out of the Walmart parking lot.
As I drove out toward Croft, clouds rolled in and it started to rain. The deeper I got into the state park, the harder the rain poured. I’ve never been to Croft before, so I didn’t really know where I was going, or even if the map point that I was navigating to was the same place that would have the glasses for sale. Eventually, the trees opened up and I came upon an intersection with a small log cabin on one corner. This was also the place that my phone was taking me to, so surely I could at least get more information inside.
On the way through the forest, it occurred to me that our plan to get glasses at the viewing party with The Children’s Museum was not guaranteed. The event was open to anyone with a TCM membership (as far as I knew), so feasibly thousands of people could show up. Who’s to say that TCM had purchased enough glasses to go around? Who’s to say we couldn’t show up too late, and be left with no way to safely view the eclipse. Instead of just buying 2 pair of glasses for my mother and one of her coworkers, I’d buy at least 4 more for my immediate family.
When I got inside, there were 2 ladies chatting. One asked what I needed, and I mentioned that I spoke with someone a few minutes ago about eclipse glasses. Coincidentally, one of the ladies was the same one that I talked to on the phone before. And lo and behold, they still had eclipse glasses. I asked the lady if she had at least 10 I could buy, and they did. With that many, I had enough for my mother, my own crew, and 4 more just in case someone else needed a few.

Viewing Party

As for where to watch, we’ve decided to go to The Children’s Museum. We already have memberships, so entry is free. Not only that, but they’re supposedly giving out glasses to everyone who comes. Again, I’ve bought enough for my family, but those are a backup option. Nobody is going to know that we have those until I try to get the ones that TCM should be giving out for free.
My employer has announced that they’ll be doing a viewing party outside for the few minutes of the eclipse, but there are a few problems with that. One, I work in Spartanburg, which is outside the path of totality. With an event this rare, do you really think I’m going to accept a sub-par experience when I could go a little ways southwest and get the full show? Of course not.
Several other places have announced that they’ll be hosting viewing parties, but I figured TCM is our best bet with kids. It is both educational, and in a prime location to see the spectacle. I’m not looking forward to traffic in the area, since it has been estimated to be about the same as 3 Clemson football games letting out at the same time. I hate traffic, and trying to find a place to park, but I’ll put up with it for something like this.

Hopefully, this time next week, we will have seen the solar eclipse and not have any damaged retinas. I might try to snap a few pictures and videos, but I’ll mostly leave that to the professionals. There will undoubtedly be people with better cameras, more skill, and better views, creating better photos and videos of this event than mine. YouTube it in a few weeks and I guarantee you’ll find some impressive footage.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV is an action RPG released on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016. The most recent game in the Final Fantasy series, it has also been one of the most commercially successful Final Fantasy games. Due to a number of different circumstances, FFXV was in development for a decade, an eternity for game development time frames. Does the latest Final Fantasy game stand up that well against the rest of the series, or do the massive sales just reflect fan hype for the long-awaited release?

Story - 7/10

The story of FFXV was surprisingly good, given how cookie cutter the stories of the JRPG genre tend to be. Most could be summed up as, “an unlikely group of individuals band together to save the world.” In contrast, FFXV is filled with nuance, and more poignant interactions between characters. As much as the game starts off with a sort of “hanging out with my bros” feeling, it genuinely builds to something more significant and touching.
Every character in the main cast of FFXV has a depth and individuality that I haven’t seen in a game in a long time. Even without the tie-in content of the anime and other media, the characters seem so real and relatable. They have personality, they have quirks, they have skeletons in their closets. Some of the setbacks that the party experiences seem so much more devastating when they feel like people you actually know. Through the course of the story, every character experiences an absurd amount of growth and evolution. Watching this change, while following the party along their journey, is just such a joy.
As much as the playable area of FFXV feels small, I do like that it seems convincing. Instead of having a suspiciously linear sequence of towns and areas, Lucis is mostly open. There is a region of Lucis that is blocked off until a certain point in the story, but otherwise, it is primarily an open world that players can explore at their leisure. There are larger cities, smaller towns, and all the sorts of areas that one would expect in a real place. It just makes sense. The world of Eos isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy locale, but I did enjoy exploring it.
Length of FFXV is extremely variable, depending on how much players gravitate toward the main quest line. If you do only the core story, you could probably beat the game in 20 hours or so. I did a balanced mix of story and side quests, and finished the game in about 50 hours. Upon finishing the main quest, players can go back to complete other side quests, work on collectibles. Overall, you could probably sink somewhere in the ballpark of 80 to 100 hours for everything. I wouldn’t say this gives FFXV much replayability, but you can spend a lot of time doing non-story content.
The reason that I dock pretty much every point that I did from a perfect 10 on story is the existence of “Final Fantasy XV Universe.” This is a collection of extra tie-in material to explain more about the story of FFXV. In my opinion, any game should be able to stand alone and fully tell its story. Sure, you can add DLC to extended stories, or extra content, but the core game should be able to stand alone. While FFXV *can* stand alone, there is a huge amount of story content that is just entirely bypassed. If you want the full story, you have to play the demo, watch the movie, watch the anime, play the arcade game, and play the mobile game. For me, that is absolutely inexcusable. I understand that it allows Square Enix to recycle content from the decade-long development process that would otherwise be wasted, but I don’t want to play and watch so much other stuff just to get the full story for a single video game. I watched the anime, but I’m not wasting my time on all of the other media. I got from the story what the game gave me, and that’s all I’m bothering with.

General Gameplay - 7/10

Navigation in FFXV is pretty interesting. For most of the game, you use the Regalia as your primary mode of transportation. Players can either drive it themselves with Noctis in the driver’s seat, or pick a location on the map and have Ignis automatically navigate to it. Considering how long the load times are for the game, this usually ends up being faster than quick traveling. Something that isn’t offered by many games, especially those with such beautiful scenery, it’s nice to just sit back and look around as Iggy takes you to your destination.
Menus are mostly straightforward. The map is nice, in that you can scroll around manually, or step through a list of destinations. Items are sortable, and the “tactical” menu in combat can be stacked in whatever order you want. The Ascension grid is where you can spend AP to unlock sequential nodes of power ups. One menu that I didn’t really enjoy was the equipment screen. It isn’t very clear what you have equipped versus what you have selected for individual equipment types. Even when you understand that, I couldn’t find an easy way to determine stat changes for weapons and accessories without unequipping and then re-equipping them. Nothing terrible, but it does get annoying with as much as you might need to change equipment.
Inventory management isn’t much of an issue, since I didn’t encounter any limit on number of unique items, or how many items can be in a stack. While I never bought as many items as I could to try to max anything out, I consistently had enough items for use in combat without hitting a cap on them.
There aren’t many collectibles in the game, but there are several “Royal Arms” that can be obtained for extra benefits. Some are rather easy to obtain, others are pretty difficult. All in all, I think those have a good balance of difficulty and reward. The only unfortunate thing is that there are only 13 of them, so players who want more collectibles might be disappointed.
While variety may seem to be unnecessary, Square Enix decided to throw a stealth level in near the very end of the game. Early adopters hated the chapter, as it added entirely new game mechanics that made absolutely no sense. As such, Square Enix later changed the chapter to make it less cumbersome and offer an alternative route, but the decision to include it at all makes absolutely no sense.

Combat - 7/10

I make it no secret that I hate action RPG combat. For me, turn-based is the best way to experience an RPG. I’ll play action RPGs here and there, but most of them are just alright in my mind. Fortunately, the combat of FFXV was done really well in my mind. It isn’t quite button mash-y, but you also don’t have to be super precise and skillful with your inputs. Different weapon types have different mobility options, and there is an interesting dynamic between what you prefer to use as a player, and what individual enemies are weak to.
In addition to weapon resistance and immunity, most enemies also have weakness and resistance to elemental attacks. Elemancy in FFXV consists of combining elemental essence with items, and storing them in flasks. A flask can only have up to 3 casts of a particular spell, and each flask takes up one of your 4 maximum weapon slots. This means you can only have a single non-elemancy weapon equipped, if you have each of the 3 elements equipped. Changing equipment can be done on the fly, but it can also be really annoying to have to do it frequently to match.
Once you get the Ultima Weapon, you can mostly ignore the rest of the weapons and elements. For better or for worse, the damage of Ultima pretty much outweighs any sort of weaknesses and resistances otherwise. I probably spent the last quarter of the game with only Ultima equipped and had no issues that made me want to equip anything else. It’s broken, but that also means I don’t have to bother with swapping and type matching for every single enemy encounter.

Difficulty - 5/10

Unlike most previous Final Fantasy games, FFXV actually has difficulty levels. Easy mode makes Noctis effectively invincible, while normal mode does allow the party to die. The main benefit to playing on a difficulty higher than easy is a late-game trophy that requires the player to beat a certain boss without easy mode.
Otherwise, I think FFXV has a good difficulty level. Some criticize it for being too easy, but it isn’t so easy that hardcore players should be disappointed. I think it simply makes the game more approachable for new players. The game is, after all, “a Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers.” Most of the core content can be finished without much hassle, but the non-story content can be deceptively hard. It all depends on how much of the game you want to complete.

Graphics - 10/10

Despite my criticisms of the game, I will note that it is gorgeous. The environments are luscious and colorful. Enemies are varied and well-animated. As I mentioned before, it’s nice to just let Ignis drive and watch the water and the rolling hills of the Lucis region. I’m not one to typically care much about graphics, but FFXV is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played.

Music - 9/10

The music of FFXV is honestly fantastic. The original music for the game is great, but they also added in-game items that unlock music from previous Final Fantasy games to be played in the Regalia. FFVII is a favorite of most players, and you can live up that nostalgia by having the music played while driving around. If you like some of the more forgotten games of the series like FFIX, you can pick those tracks up as well. In addition the the score of FFXV and previous games that were included, there is also a cover of “Stand by Me,” performed by Florence + The Machine. I don’t even like that band, but their cover is simply amazing.

My Take

The Good

I wanted to hate the game for being an action RPG, but it ended up being nowhere near as bad as I anticipated. Fortunately, the story and characters make up for it by a huge margin.

The Bad

No single video game should take 10 years to develop.

The Ugly

I maintain my position that tie-in content is absolutely awful, and should never be used in lieu of fully telling a story within a game.

Overall - 7/10


While I originally had low hopes for FFXV, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally played it. The story is great, besides the terrible decision to spread it out across multiple titles. The combat, despite it being an action RPG, really isn’t bad. The difficulty makes it approachable for long-time veterans of the series, as well as those who have never touched a Final Fantasy game. Graphics are music are absolutely incredible, and easily add to the appeal of the game. It definitely isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy game, but it was certainly an enjoyable play.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Ratchet & Clank (2016)

Ratchet & Clank released in 2016 is a PS4 “reimagining” of the original “Ratchet & Clank released on PS2 in 2002. Serving as “the game, based on the movie, based on the game,” is Ratchet & Clank (2016) a solid addition to the series, or a shameless ploy to milk more money from the series in the wake of the movie?

Story - 9/10

The story of Ratchet & Clank works surprisingly well, with how it is framed as a recollection from the present. I wasn’t a huge fan of one significant deviation from the story of the original (something I won’t spoil for those who haven’t played it), but the story does stand on its own very well. Recurring characters of the series stay true to their personalities, while still managing to seem fresh and interesting. Long time fans will appreciate cameos and nods, but new players aren’t bombarded with jokes that they don’t understand. The balance of old and new is near perfect.
As the series has progressed, Insomniac Games has done a remarkable job of giving depth and detail to characters. Ratchet and Clank have become individually more interesting, and their relationship more nuanced. The other characters that they encounter have a palpable reality. Even if the game doesn’t give an explicit background for every character that the player encounters, it genuinely feels like they belong. Every important character experiences a sort of growth as the game progresses. Both intrinsically within the character, and externally via what the player learns about them, there is a great amount of change in characters across the course of the game.
One of the most vivid features of every game in the Ratchet & Clank series is the setting, and the reimagined 2016 release is no different. Every world has a story, and each planet exists in a sort of cohesive net of interconnectivity. These aren’t individual places, cut off from everywhere else. The entire galaxy is a living ecosystem, and each planet is firmly a part of the galaxy, despite having their own distinctive environments. Even outside the playable area, these cities and places seem full and complete.
The length of the game is one of the best in the series. While some Ratchet games have tended to be too short, and others have felt too lengthy, the 2016 title just feel right. Each planet has enough material to let you fully explore, but not so much that you get bored of a place before moving to the next location.
Replay value is spectacular is always great in Ratchet & Clank games, the 2016 version included. With challenge mode, there is a risk reward factor where enemies are more powerful, but sequential kills without getting hit give a multiplier to the bolts you earn. Couple that with the beefed up versions of weapons that you can unlock and purchase, there is genuinely a compelling reason to play the game through another time or two in order to obtain and upgrade everything.

General Gameplay - 9/10

With a number of different vehicles and transportation methods, gameplay in Ratchet & Clank is extremely varied. As Ratchet, there are platforming segments to jump around on, grind rails to slide through levels, jetpacks to fly freely, and a number of Clank mobility tools. In addition to what Ratchet and Clank can accomplish on their own, there are hoverboard races and ship segments that have their own mechanics. Having so many different styles of gameplay makes the game continuously interesting.
Like other games in the series, there are numerous collectibles and bonus content in Ratchet & Clank. There are gold bolts scattered across the game, that reward the player with unlockable skins for Ratchet. Skill points have been excluded from this game, replaced with PSN trophies. Such an exclusion is unfortunate, but expected, given that trophies and skill points were basically redundant forms of the same mechanic.
Controls in this Ratchet & Clank are extremely tight. Where previous games in the series have relied heavily on aiming assist for the shooting mechanics, the lock strafe mode of Ratchet & Clank (2016) works particularly well. It’s nice to still have a pretty liberal amount of aiming assist, since the game is far from most first person or over-the-shoulder shooters of today.
As for the currency, the balance of bolts to the cost of items is one of the best I’ve seen in the series. Weapons aren’t prohibitively expensive, but they also aren’t handed out like candy. You can prioritize which ones to buy first, but you’ll easily make enough bolts to buy all weapons without an excessive amount of grinding.

Combat - 9/10

The combat of Ratchet & Clank is all about big guns and big explosions. Fortunately, the weapon selection is really good, and every gun is reasonably useful. Unlike previous games that had a few great weapons and a bunch of mostly useless weapons, none of the weapons in the 2016 game are notably bad. Some are obviously better than others, but none of them are specifically annoying or worthless.
One thing that has been improved drastically in Ratchet & Clank (2016) is the ability to combo weapons and items. In previous games, there wasn’t much overlap between the effects of weapons. At most, you could throw some turrets and then switch to another weapon. With items like the Groovitron and Proton Drum, you can combine the effects of weapons for a more useful combination. The whole, in this case, is greater than the sum of the parts.
Amidst all of the things that Ratchet & Clank (2016) did well, ammo drops are painfully rare in boss fights. Through most of the game, there are enough ammo crates to keep a reasonable amount of firepower. Even if you burn through ammo at a faster pace than what the game gives you, you can buy more at vendors. In a boss fight, however, you’re stuck with what you have and what you pick up in the arena. As you improve weapons, this becomes less of a problem, and challenge mode basically removes it completely if you’ve been upgrade your weapons sufficiently. The first few fights in the game, however, can be pretty tight on ammo.

Difficulty - 4/10

Unlike previous games in the series, Ratchet & Clank offers multiple difficulty levels besides the step up for challenge mode. Every game in the series has been traditionally pretty easy, but it’s nice to see them offer more of a challenge for veterans of the series.
The game is still pretty lenient. Dying puts you back to the previous checkpoint, and there are numerous checkpoints in every level. There are no lives, so you can die as much as you want without a more severe penalty. Some segments can be tough in the later game, but the presence of so many checkpoints means they aren’t terribly inconvenient. Don’t go into the game looking for something genuinely difficult. It began as a game made more for younger teens, so forgive it for being easier than, say, Dark Souls.

Graphics - 10/10

The visuals of Ratchet & Clank are absolutely beautiful. Planets are lush, and rich, and just spectacular. Instead of limiting what players can see the only the playable area, Insomniac Games went the other direction and pretty much created an entire world that players can only reach part of. The backgrounds are full of activity, with buildings and landscapes, and often actual moving points. Everything looks crisp and clean, and somehow manages to avoid lag. The entire series is probably one of the environmentally complete that I’ve ever played, and the 2016 title stays true to that vision.

Music - 7/10

Ratchet & Clank (2016) is one of the few games in the series without music by David Bergeaud. Regretfully, this change in composers is noticeable. The music still isn’t bad, but it is nowhere near as atmospheric and fitting as Bergeaud’s music for previous games. As it is, the music in this game is good, but not great. Certainly nothing that will stand out to a player outside of playing the game.

My Take

The Good

All around solid game, from gameplay to story and everything in between.

The Bad

There were some big story changes from the original, which makes it less of a true retelling.

The Ugly

Ratchet & Clank as a series has a definite formula, and the 2016 title thoroughly sticks to this formula without adding anything new.

Overall - 9/10


I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for some Ratchet & Clank games. Exploring vibrant, beautiful worlds and blowing things up has always been a blast, and they have a formula that works time and time again. Remasters and re-releases can be cop-out ways to milk money from a series, but this is different. It’s a neat way for original fans to look back on the beginnings and see how far the series has come. Simultaneously, it’s a good entry point for new fans to get a taste of the series and learn some background, without actually playing through some of the more cumbersome early games. Insomniac Games didn’t take any risky steps to push the series into new territory, but they did make a great game with the same style as previous titles in the series. I can’t say with certainty that Ratchet & Clank (2016) is my favorite in the series, but it is absolutely a great game and I think anybody would have a good time with it.