The latest issue of US games magazine Game Informer has, well, informed us of some interesting new additions planned for the next instalment in Insomniac's critically acclaimed Ratchet & Clank series of platform games, which the developer recently confirmed has been dubbed "Up Your Arsenal" - at least in the States. Ooh they love their puns, that lot.
According to a preview in Game Informer, Ratchet & Clank 3 will mark the series' first foray into the world of PS2 Online, with an eight-player online mode reportedly reminiscent of Capture The Flag, complete with Halo-style vehicles where one player drives and another fires a top-mounted rifle. And if you think Insomniac will settle for a mere rifle here you're almost certainly mistaken - if we're not firing camel steaks at banjo-wielding monkeys this time next year we'll be severely disappointed. Or dead.
Many of the guns and gadgets from the single-player game can also be expected to make the transition to the online mode, and what's more we'll be aided by little robot drones that look set to fight alongside the player's character. Clank's friends the Microbots, perhaps? In even more exciting news, Insomniac is also considering the possibility of co-operative online missions, as well as racing and arena levels, although we'd advise them to take it easy with the exciting new additions lest our heads explode and damage the Sony stand at this year's E3, where the game will undoubtedly make a playable appearance.
Away from the online options, those of us confined to offline multiplayer can at least expect a four-player split-screen mode. And for those of you worried about a repeat of Resident Evil: Outbreak phenomena (or Resident Evil: Heartbreak as it's known around here), we'd imagine Europe stands a much better chance of seeing R&C3's online arsenal, as Insomniac is a PS2 first party developer and not a risk-averse third party.
In any event, single players shouldn't be left wanting either, with all manner of new and unusual weapons to keep Johnny No Mates happy. Amongst those mentioned by Game Informer there are a Black Hole Launcher that sucks in enemies and a Refractor weapon, which promises to send projectiles back to sender without asking (a Royal Mail Gun?). The latter will also play a part in solving puzzles according to the mag. Upgrades can be expected to come back into play too, but this time with multiple levels of improvement rather than the single gold status upgrade.
Up Your Arsenal will... it is quite funny actually isn't it? Up Your Arsenal will also feature vastly improved AI. No, really. According to the text, enemies will be able to find their way over vast distances without a hint of scripting - in the example given, an enemy was placed at the opposite end of the map to Ratchet and still managed to find him despite all manner of obstacles along the way. Good news indeed, although we hope for our sake that robots can't hear very well or we'll doubtless soon alert the entire galaxy to our antics...
Finally, it goes without saying that Ratchet & Clank 3 will include a certain amount of graphical improvement, although judging by the screenshots we've seen so far, technological changes are playing second fiddle. Game Informer mentions better reflections and particle effects at least, which is nice, but it'll be the variety of planetary environments that keeps us coming back. By the looks of it Insomniac slept through Return of the Jedi though, having managed to reinvent the Ewok village for the umpteenth time.
Still, there's no dampening our enthusiasm on this one. Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked & Loaded (or Going Commando to give it its American moniker) is one of the finest platform games released in recent years, and we'd be very surprised if Insomniac cocks this one up. Along with Jak III and Sly 2: Band of Thieves, R&C3 is causing platform-loving members of staff here to start getting very excited about winter 2004. And if you think we're overdoing it quite frankly you can shove it up your arsenal...