It’s funny how a small studio can grow into something so exponentially huge in just a few years’ time, but that’s exactly what happened with Insomniac Games. Founded in 1994 under a team headed by CEO Ted Price, the studio started out small on projects for the PS One but soon moved up in the ranks to become one of Sony’s most heralded studios for game development. While it has a long run of success working with Sony, Insomniac moved into dual-console development for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with Electronic Arts. The project was announced as Overstrike but eventually became Fuse.
In 1996, the team produced the first-persons shooter Disruptor for Universal Interactive Studios. Considering that the PSOne didn’t have many FPS games under its belt at the time, it was welcomed with open arms and received critical acclaim galore even without the inclusion of multiplayer.
For its next feat, Insomniac would move into developing a strong franchise with Sony Computer Entertainment of America. Spyro the Dragon arrived in 1998, ushering in a new platforming hero for players to embrace. Assigned to rescue imprisoned dragons across the countryside while using flaming breath and a charging headbutt to his advantage, Spyro won over audiences with ease and sold reasonably well on the PSOne console. Insomniac produced two sequels over the next couple of years in Ripto’s Rage! and Year of the Dragon, both of which received equal praise alongside the first.
Insomniac left the franchise (which it did not own) to work on something new for Sony’s PlayStation 2 console. It’s here that we would see the introduction of a duo that would be considered one of the most popular in that system’s era: the powerhouse team of the gun-running Lombax Ratchet and his little robot buddy Clank.
In 2002 Ratchet & Clank arrived, receiving huge marks across the board for its beautiful world design and fast-paced action gameplay. Many considered it one of the best games of the PS2 generation, though the series would evolve with the release of three sequels – 2003’s Going Commando, 2004’s Up Your Arsenal (which threw competitive multiplayer into the mix for the first time) and 2005’s Deadlocked, which actually came out last week for the PlayStation Network with a fresh coat of high-definition paint; you can get it for free when you purchase Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, or buy it separately for $9.99.
When the PlayStation 3 came around, Insomniac found itself in a position to once again work on something new but didn’t forget about Ratchet & Clank. Before it took the duo into the next generation, it introduced a fascinating “alternate history” first-person shooter. In Resistance: Fall of Man, you play Nathan Hale at forefront of a war against an invading alien force called the Chimera, who have pretty much conquered the world for themselves.
This shooter was highly praised as one of the best games in the PS3 launch line-up and Sony had already begun asking for a sequel. However, before we would get it in 2008, the team returned to familiar territory with Ratchet & Clank, creating a fantastic new realm to explore with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. The game continued the duo’s adventures with great new weapons, enhanced graphics and plenty of exciting moments.
2008 was a big year for Insomniac. Not only did it release a new Ratchet & Clank side chapter for PlayStation Network called Quest For Booty, but it also unleashed Resistance 2 with Nathan Hale returning to the front lines in a whole new battle against the Chimera. Though not as well-received as the original, the sequel did well enough to warrant the development of a new game… even though the Nathan Hale isn’t around by its conclusion.
Ratchet & Clank continued on in A Crack In Time, a 2009 release for PlayStation 3 that was considered one of the franchise’s best releases to date. The team went in a different direction in 2011 with All 4 One, a game that featured a sharper focus on multiplayer support where up to four players could take part in the run-and-gun action. Fans still enjoyed it despite the changes.
Also released in 2011 was Resistance 3, the concluding chapter to the Chimera saga (at least on PlayStation 3), featuring a new protagonist and multiplayer options galore. It fared slightly better than Resistance 2, proving a nice bounce-back for the Burbank-based development team.
By the time 2012 rolled around, Insomniac had two interesting projects in the pipe alongside Overstrike. Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault was released for PlayStation 3, featuring a heavier emphasis on real-time strategy-type play and action with a $19.99 price tag. Also released was a Facebook game called Outernauts, a first for the company and one that would receive a multitude of players looking for something new.
That brings us to today, where the company has just released Fuse for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 courtesy of EA. This game introduces a hybrid of crazy weaponry as well as the ability to play with up to four of your friends in cooperative play. It’s a great new corner for the company and something tells us we’ve still got a lot to see yet.
So in just under two decades, Insomniac Games has produced some stellar efforts. Most of them are franchise-based, but marvels like Tools of Destruction, Spyro the Dragon and Fuse are games that stick with you for one reason or another. Keep an eye on these guys, they’re going places.
Fuse is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.