Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (Also known as Ratchet & Clank: Locked & Loaded or Ratchet & Clank 2 in places that found the title a little too risque) was released on November 11, 2003, exclusively for the Playstation 2.  And in my opinion, this is where the series really hit its stride. Taking what the original did right and improving in virtually every way. 

Gameplay

The vast majority of Ratchet’s moves return, as he plays very similarly to how he does in the original. Except he is now faster in every way, making the game faster-paced. And he now can strafe with the push of a button, essentially allowing the player to switch between playing as a 3D platformer or a third-person shooter. These two fairly small changes make a world of difference, making the game feel more action-packed.

The other major change is that when accessing the weapon quick select, the world pauses, allowing you time to pick the absolute best choice for the situation. The max health starts at 4 like the original, but rather than capping at 8, it caps at 80, allowing more diversity and challenge by allowing enemies to deal different amounts of damage, rather than how it was in the original, where everything, from small animals to giant robots, dealt 1 damage.

Even further, you can now purchase armor that increases Ratchet’s damage resistance, (along with looking cool, the final armor is even a pre-order bonus in Rift Apart). The final armor stopping a whopping 90% of damage.

A note about the gameplay, compared to the original, is there are a large number of alternate gameplay segments, from 3D starfighter combat to high-speed hoverbike races to haking puzzle minigames. This may be a drawback for some or an incentive for others, it all depends o your personal stance on alternate gameplay segments in general.

Weapons

A new feature introduced in this game is XP, defeating enemies with a weapon will fill a bar on the UI , when fully filled the weapon gets a permanent upgrade. (This same XP will also  over time increase your max health.) This not only gives each weapon further potential and versatility but also gives a reason to use more weapons, rather than just sticking to a couple that are powerful. 

The Omniwrench

The wrench returns, basically unchanged, all the same attacks and uses remain, but the higher damage nature of the sequel means it’s not as universally useful as before. But this time it will get upgraded during the story to be more powerful. And to look cooler.

Lancer——-Heavy Lancer

One of the two weapons you start the game with. An automatic energy pistol that deals reliable damage, with good accuracy. Upgrades to the Heavy Lancer, a two-handed weapon with a much higher fire rate.

Gravity Bomb———Mini-Nuke

The other starting weapon. Fires a large explosive grenade that detonates on impact with high damage and a wide radius. Upgrades to the mini-Nuke, with higher damage, blast radius, and a large orange mushroom cloud. 

Chopper——-Multi-Star

One of The first weapons available at general weapon vendors. An arm-mounted throwing star thrower. Fires red throwing stars that ricochet and home in on enemies. Upgrades to the Multi-star, which makes the stars split into two on impact.

Blitz Gun——-Blitz Cannon

Another of the first weapons available at general weapon vendors. A large barreled shotgun that fires multiple energy pellets. Upgrades to the Blitz Cannon, which has two barrels and fires more energy pellets

Seeker Gun———HK-22 launcher

Fires slow-moving purple missiles, when they get close to an enemy they activate and quickly strike and explode. Upgrades to the HK-22 launcher, which fires 3 at a time.

Mini Turret Launcher——-Megaturret Launcher

Throws out small turrets that track and fire upon enemies with rapid-fire lasers. Upgrades to the Mega Turret launcher, which fires homing missiles instead of lasers.

Pulse Rifle———Vaporizer

A high-power sniper rifle that can scope in and fire from any range. Upgrades to the vaporizer, which deals much higher damage

Synthenoids——-Killanoids

Spawns 4 floating robots that fire upon enemies for a short while. Upgrades to the Killanoids, which are tougher and now have grenades

Lava Gun——-Meteor Gun

Fires a continued thin stream of superheated lava, deals high damage and can be sprayed around while spinning like some kind of murderous figure skater. Upgrades to the meteor gun, which fires large red hot meteors. It’s the only upgrade that fundamentally changes the weapon to a different one, which is stupid and annoying and almost ruins one of the best weapons in the game and thankfully they learned and never ever did it again.

Bouncer——-Heavy Bouncer

Fires a single large grenade that explodes into a bunch of smaller ones, bouncing everywhere and wreaking havoc. Upgrades to the Heavy Bouncer, which fires more grenades.

Mini rocket Tube——-MegaRocket Tube

A rocket launcher that fires fast and powerful rockets. Upgrades to the MegaRocket Tube, which can be charged up to fire up to four at a time

Spider-Bot Glove——Tankbot Glove

Throws a remote-controlled robot spider that the camera follows and can be detonated at will. Upgrades to the Tankbot glove which adds a turret atop the robot spider. (This weapon is actually required for a couple of collectibles.

Plasma Coil——Plasma Storm

Fires an orb of electricity at high speed with high damage, upgrades to the Plasma Storm, which arcs electricity as the orb flies by enemies 

Hover Bomb Launcher——-Tetrabomb Launcher

Fires a slow-moving remote-controlled spiked bomb that can be detonated at will. Upgrades to the Tetrabomb Launcher, which fires 5 at a time.

Sheepinator——-Black Sheepinator

A unique weapon found abandoned in the megacorp armory. Fires a multicolored beam that fills up a bar that when full turns the enemy into harmless fluffy sheep, taking longer on stronger enemies. Upgrades to the black sheepinator, which make the sheep have black wool and glowing red eyes that explode.

Shield Charger——Tesla Charger

Spawns a glowing shield around Ratchet & Clank, that protects them from damage. Upgrades to the Tesla Charger, which fires arcs of electricity from the shield towards nearby enemies

Zodiac

The most expensive weapon in the game creates an electric storm that intently vaporizes every enemy on screen. Does not upgrade, does not work on bosses, ammo can not be found, only be purchased, for 10,000 bolts a shot.

RYNO II 

Rip You a New One. The single most powerful weapon in the game. Rapidly fires blue missiles that deal incredible damage and auto-lock onto enemies. Only available at a specific vendor on Barlow.

Clank Zapper——Clank Shocker

Only available in NG+,  upgrades clank to be able to shoot electricity from his antenna, upgrades to the Clank Shocker, which also lets clank shoot lasers from his eyes at enemies behind Ratchet.

Also, 5 weapons from the original game are available at a vendor on Barlow, if you have save data from the original, they will all be free.

The Bomb Glove

Walloper

Decoy Glove

Visibomb Launcher

Tesla Claw

It’s a neat callback that they’re there, but the fact they can’t upgrade, and they are still scaled for the much lower damage thresholds of the original game makes it so they are not much use. The exception is the Decoy Glove, given that it doesn’t deal damage, still draws enemy fire, and can still be used to glitch through some walls, makes it still have use. 

All in all, the weapons in this game are, in my opinion, a massive improvement from the previous one. The weapon upgrade system, while still in its growing stages, adds an entirely new layer to the weaponry and combat, and some of the most popular weapons in the series history were introduced. The Bouncer was popular enough to be used as a pre-order bonus for the 2016 reimagining. 

This game has the largest weapon roster in series history so far, but also has the most weapons that are notably flawed. 4 of the 5 returning weapons are fairly useless for most of the game. The zodiac is too expensive to be reasonably viable. The clank zapper, while an interesting concept, is only available in NG+ and is among the most expensive items in the game, equivalent to the much better RYNO II. 6 bad weapons may not sound like a lot, but for the rest of the series, that number is around 1 or 2 at most. 

However, a new benefit that comes with the upgrade system is in NG+. If you have upgraded a weapon, a new omega versions will be available in vendors, which not only deals more damage, but also allows them to upgrade again. Granting further use of most of the weapons.

These omega weapons can be expensive, which is why NG+ adds the new bolt multiplier, the more enemies you defeat without getting hit, the higher the multiplier goes, up to X20. Allowing you to buy the much more expensive omega weapons and any other purchases you kissed the first time around. Alongside this, arena, race and crystal rewards at multiplied by 10, making it so these methods still can net notable profit.

Collectables

Platinum Bolts-Essentially the same as gold bolts. In this game, rather than used for NG+ weapons, they are used to add upgrades to weaponry, either improved lock-on, or a couple of elemental types, acid for damage over time, and shock to chain damage between nearby enemies. 

Skill points-Returning from the original, and working very similarly. Challenges with vague hints. There are still 30, and for every 5 completed, will unlock various bonuses, such as big head mode, mirrored levels, or skins for Ratchet.

Nanotech Upgrades-Alongside the XP method, you can upgrade your max health by finding hidden floating blue tubes with a DNA design, with one notable exception, they are hidden in areas that are either hard to find or hard to reach.  

Desert Crystals/ Moonstones. A couple of levels have enormous open areas, either a vast desert or frozen wasteland, filled with enemies and an exclusive type of rare item (either desert crystals or Moonstones, which can be traded for high amounts to a local, a fun way to farm for bolts and XP, and is a gameplay concept that has returned numerous times in the series.

Levels

Going Commando takes place in an entirely separate galaxy, so every level is brand new. And just like before, each one is interesting, well designed, and visually distinct. From the flying lab above the rocky mountains of Aranos, to the overgrown swamp of Oozla, to rocky cliffs over the purple seas of Joba and the dense streets of Silver City.  

This does lead into one of the few flaws with this game. The difficulty spikes. This game is not insanely hard (It’s not the Dark souls of Platformers). But there are some notable blocks you will run into trying to beat the game. The final few levels are very punishing, with powerful enemies appearing in large numbers. Most famously the planet Grelbin, which has a massive open snowy wasteland swearing with fast and durable yetis. But all 4 of the final planets are notably more difficult than the rest of the game, which would not be as big of a problem if the game had difficulty settings, but the series had yet to dabble with it. I distinctly remember growing up having multiple people complain to me about being unable to progress, specifically Grelbin and the Giganto Mech boss. 

Also, most of the collectible nanotech boosts are notoriously difficult to obtain. There is a segment where you have to use a glider with inverted controls and get through a tunnel, but to get a specific nano boost, you have to reach the end, turn around and do it backwards.   

Story

Realizing that Ratchet wasn’t particularly likable for most of the original, they have deliberately fixed that, also, Ratchet has been recast, now played by James Arnold Taylor, (All other returning characters retain their original voice actors) but alongside that, the story takes a different tone, with Ratchet initially being hired for a small job recovering a captured biological experiment, with Clank opting to stay home for this adventure before inevitably getting sucked in once it’s revealed that there is more to this job than first believed. The story is more complex, and honestly more intriguing, with multiple villains keeping the plot moving. 

Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando took an already great game and improved it in nearly every aspect. Refining the game into the true blend of 3D platforming and third-person shooter the original strove for, with the weapon upgrade system combined and the great diversity of weaponry encourages creative usage and experimentation. The levels are creative and well designed. The soundtrack is among my personal favorites in any game. The collectibles are well hidden and fun to obtain, and The game is challenging, (sometimes a little too challenging). But ultimately, the love and care put into every aspect of the game, and the consistency of the final product, make it tied for my personal favorite Ratchet & Clank game, (Along with A Crack in Time) though it looks like Rift Apart will be a new and powerful competitor for that title.

Like the original, Going Commando is available on PS2, PS3, PS Vita, and PS NOW, and is absolutely worth trying if you are a fan of either 3D Platformers or third-person shooter.