RATCHET AND CLANK: UP YOUR ARSENAL, Sony Computer Entertainment America/Insomniac Games
A lot of gamers like to blow stuff up, and this game aims to please them. Up Your Arsenal offers plenty of things to destroy and more than enough action in between, thanks to clever gameplay and the needed addition of online multiplayer combat.
This time around, our cartoonish heroes Ratchet and Clank have returned to their home planet of Veldin to stop the evil Dr. Nefarious before he destroys all life. The battle runs across 18 areas and 29 single-player missions, with an unrelenting pace that may induce combat fatigue in gamers used to the more relaxed pace of earlier Ratchet and Clank titles. Nefarious's forces -- robots and space monsters -- will keep anybody busy.
You get an arsenal of 20 weapons and assorted gadgets, and these weapons can grow from experience. Literally -- in most games, only characters do that, but here the weapons have their own level-up system that, as you use them more often, grants up to five upgrades, yielding augmented models that do extensive amounts of damage.
Firefights are intense -- you can be penned in by 10 or more enemies at a time, while your laws-of-physics-be-damned ability to hold up to 16 weapons means you'll spend plenty of time cycling through all the hardware in that arsenal. The action is depicted with plenty of over-the-top special effects -- bullet trails, smoke from rockets and impacts, and the explosions themselves. Player models are also smoothly rendered and animated.
Aside from Up Your Arsenal's difficulty, we do have to complain about its short duration in single-player mode -- 12 hours for somebody experienced with earlier Ratchet and Clank titles, longer if you get killed a lot. If you don't have a broadband connection for your PS2, you might do with just renting this.
If, however, your PS2 has fast Internet access, this game's online gameplay becomes a major selling point. You can jump into arenas with eight others for such traditional multiplayer contests as Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Siege, teaming up with other gamers to take advantage of such fun in-game options as jointly piloting bomber aircraft or driving vehicles. -- Tom Ham
PlayStation 2, $40
KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS, LucasArts
Knights of the Old Republic II is the best Star Wars sequel in almost 25 years. Not that there's been much competition for that compliment, but this title manages to live up to -- if not exceed -- the high standards of the original Knights of the Old Republic, which racked up a galaxy's worth of "game of the year" awards in 2003. Like the original, Sith Lords casts you in the role of a would-be Jedi unraveling the mystery of his past while battling legions of Sith.