Gadling's resident pilot explains what life in the cockpit is like

PSP Fanboy hands-on: Ratchet & Clank

Did you successfully get into the Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters beta test? The packages have been going out to the lucky GAP members that were fast enough to get into this very exclusive group (only 2000 people were allowed to sign up!). I've been playing a few rounds online, and it's been an overwhelmingly positive experience so far. The graphics are smooth, and the controls are pretty solid. It's been very easy to jump into a game, and the network connection has been fantastic, with lag not noticeable at all.

I wish a singe-player component was available on the beta UMD we received so that we could practice the controls a bit before simply diving into a game. It's always daunting to see a huge list of character controls without having a game teach you how to use them naturally. With that in mind, I was surprised at how intuitive the controls are, even though I had completely ignored the instruction manual (I'm sure many of you do that as well!). The basics are easy to pull off: the X button lets you jump, and the Square button lets you swing your wrench. Circle is to shoot... but only after you find and equip a weapon with Triangle. This is all you need to know in order to have fun in the game, although it's nice to know how to do the other moves as well. (Curious individuals can download the entire manual here.)

One of my biggest gripes with the game so far has to be the camera. The L and R buttons control the camera, but by default, they feel a bit too slow. Having a camera that whipped around the character quickly would give every player a much better view of their surroundings. This will be immensely helpful during the more hectic battles.

Now that we're done talking about the controls, let's have a look at the experience of getting started in Ratchet & Clank:

This beta requires firmware 2.81 and above. Sorry homebrew users.

Load screens? Insanely fast. ::applause::

The graphics are good, but they're not as detailed as Daxter. However, even as an early build, the framerate was solid.

Hmm... should I play the Multiplayer mode? Or... the Multiplayer mode? Hmm.

All PSP games should have both of these multiplayer choices available.

Creating a profile is easy as pie. Just create a name and password. Too bad there was such a small selection of skins. Obviously, the final game will have a lot more.

Once again, getting into a game is very easy. The menu, although not too attractive, is easy to navigate. Too bad "Quick Play" was disabled-- I'm assuming it'll let you jump into any available game. The "Community" feature is a general chat area that uses a painful virtual keyboard for typing. I'm not spending any time in that area.

Joining a game is also very easy. The helpful X or check marks will show you what you can play. Unfortunately, it seems like none of these rooms are available. Maximum number of players is 4, which is a bit too small for my tastes. These maps can easily hold at least 6 players, so I'm hoping Sony allows for bigger, more hectic battles.

Here's the Create Game menu. Once again, very easy and simple to set up. If you're part of the beta community, and want to kick my ass, be on the lookout for my handle: anyo.

The game comes out in March... can't wait!

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