Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Ratchet and Clank never looked so good.
Posted November 5, 2007
Has your PlayStation 3 been collecting dust or getting more use as a movie player instead of what it was intended for? Are you looking for something other then lackluster games or repetitive arcade quality offerings to draw you out of your boredom? What would you say to a chance to adventure again with some familiar friends? Well, fret no more as Insomniac Games delivers a reason to put down your fancy Bluetooth remote and shake your Six Axis controller.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction begins with our duo repairing their vehicle on Planet Kerwan. While doing so, they receive a distress message from Captain Qwark stating that he is at the Planetary Defense Center and under attack by a heavily armed robotic attack force. The pair set out on the newly repaired vehicle and after some quick dodging maneuvers through the busy city, they crash into a large airship and plummet to the ground below. During this sequence, you will immediately see one of the changes to the controls in this game. Instead of using the thumbsticks to control your descent, you use the tilting of the Six Axis controller to maneuver around as you avoid traffic on your way to the ground below.
As you gain control of Ratchet and make your way through the city, you begin to learn the reason behind the attack. You discover that the city is under attack by Emperor Percival Tachyon, the last Cragmite, who is trying to eliminate Ratchet, the last of the Lombax race. Emperor Tachyon harbors much anger because of the Lombax race exterminating their kind. When Tachyon discovers that there is a single Lombax in the galaxy, he makes it his personal mission to eliminate Ratchet. Thus the story plays out from there as you travel from planet to planet discovering more about the plot.
If you have played any of the previous games released in the series, you will be able to jump right in as the game feels and plays pretty much like its predecessors. Even if you haven't, the game plays very much like a typical shooter/platformer game. Movement is controlled by left stick with the right allowing you to pan the camera around. The camera does a pretty good job at self-centering if you moved it and start walking. One nice thing, at least in my play through, is that I did not feel I was fighting with the camera to see where I was going or who I was firing at. The X button allows you to attack with your wrench, while the O and R1 buttons fire the various weapons you collect as you play. The L1 button lets you enter into a view so that you see where the weapon selected will be firing at, while L2 lets you lock on when you are close to an enemy.
You start out with basic weapons and gadgets to navigate the locations easily enough. Your initial weapons are a Combuster, which shoots plasma balls at your enemies, and a Fusion Grenade which makes a devastating explosion. Some of the devices you start with include grindboots that allow you to ride metal rails to navigate through various environments and gravity boots to allow you to walk on metal surfaces to reach locations. The swingshot, a familiar item, allows you to attach to glowing orbs and reach distant locations. As you progress through the game and use your weapons to dispatch of enemies, the weapons upgrade in level and become more powerful. Ratchet will also increase in level as you play allowing him to have more health and take more damage.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game is the ability to upgrade specific components of the weapons you use in the game. By discovering crystals made of Raritanium, you can stop by a weapons vendor and upgrade your weapon to deliver more damage, hold more ammo, or even make it so that using the weapon releases more bolts. The latter comes in very handy as bolts are the currency in the game allowing you to buy more weapons, ammo, devices and armor. In addition to the weapons, there are devices that Ratchet can purchase from device dealers. One device, called the Groovitron, makes any enemies dance under a disco ball so that Ratchet can dispatch of them easily. Other devices are a Leechbomb to absorb health from enemies or a device called Mr. Zurkon that deploys a small robot that fires at your enemies.
Some familiar aspects of the game, such as being dropped above a planet and having to maneuver through missiles and the hacking tool used to bypass security have been modified to take advantage of the Six Axis controller. During the free-fall sequences, you tilt the controller to move left or right or up and down to speed and slow your decent. During the hacking tool mini-game, you tilt the controller to move a ball to make connections as a pulse of electricity travels completing a circuit. Overall, the controls are really responsive and just the slightest tilt moves the action on the screen. Other familiar parts are various mini-bosses that, upon defeat, release what is called a Leviathan soul. These souls that you collect allow you to trade them to a trader for bolts. At certain spots, the souls are also necessary to obtain a weapon or secure transportation. Tools of Destruction also brings back the arena battle mini game during its story. After completing that portion, you can continue battling more difficult challenges to receive a hefty payout of bolts.
Something new to the series comes in when you gain control of Clank. Past games have allowed you to take control of Clank and a small horde of robot minions to help Clank reach different locations or complete a task that will help Ratchet progress. In Tools of Destruction, Clank encounters strange robotic creatures called the Zoni. These creatures will assist Clank in moving obstacles, powering up a device or reconstructing a broken bridge. The new feature implemented this time is the ability Clank has to slow time. By employing this technique, Clank can run under a rapidly closing door that he normally would not be able to.
During the game play, as with previous entries in the series, you will encounter Golden Bolts. These items, usually in hard to reach places, will allow you to unlock skins for Ratchet that you can turn on or off to play with. While they really do not add to the story or game much, it is a fun challenge to find each of the bolts on the different levels. Some are fairly easy to find, but more require some quick thinking and puzzle solving skills.
Overall, the game retains much from its previous installments. Ratchet travels from planet to planet, smashing crates and boxes for ammo and bolts. Ratchet battles enemies and the occasional mini-boss or arena challenge until the final showdown in the game with the main boss. And while it can sometimes get a bit tedious, there is enough variety in weapons and abilities to make the game fun and interesting. The addition of the Six Axis controls to various parts of the game brings new life to familiar chores from past titles.
Taking advantage of the processing power of the PS3 system, Ratchet and Clank Future is a beautiful game that gives life to lush environments and bustling cityscapes. The game feels, at times, like you are watching an animated film. Cityscapes have a sense of depth to them with many buildings in the background, vehicles and other machinery moving around as well as NPCs bustling about. Other planet destinations feature environments that fully immerse you into them, be they a lake of flowing lava or a swampy, marsh-like planet. From the very beginning, you can see just how beautiful the game is. During a sequence where a city is under attack and you are escaping on the grind rails, buildings around you are being destroyed and crumble to the ground. The animation during these sequences is really impressive and does not glitch or display any jagged spots to them.
For all of the beauty in the game, there are a couple of faults that bear mentioning. Various times while destroying crates and boxes to obtain more bolts or ammo, there would be flashing, semi-transparent ghost ammo or health orbs. Another issue that I encountered was when bringing up the quick select display for the various weapons. The quick select screen would seem to freeze and I would have to exit out and bring it up again. The issues were nothing that detracted from the gameplay enough to pull you out of the experience, but they did creep up occasionally.
As with past releases in the Ratchet and Clank series, the audio does its job to draw you into the game. The sound effects from smashing boxes to shooting at enemies are all realistic and believable. The music score gives you a sense of scope in the game and does well to match the action on the screen to what you hear. Where the game really shines are the voice actors that give life to Ratchet, Clank and the various other characters you meet while playing. Not only do the voices match pretty convincingly to the character on the screen, the animations during spoken parts are very well done. NPCs taunt you as you encounter them and sometimes quip back with witty dialogue. There is also a good deal of humor injected into the game during cut scenes that drive the story forward.
Where the game really comes through in repeat value is the addition of the Challenge Mode upon completing the game. Once you finish the initial play through, you can start over from the beginning with your current skills and weapons. To counter this fact, the enemies are also a bit stronger. If you choose not to go that route, you can continue playing exploring each planet looking for golden bolts or other items that you may have missed previously.
If ever there was a reason to be excited for a game release on the PS3, this is the title. Fans of the series are no doubt giddy as school girls at the chance to play the loveable duo in all of their hi-def gaming goodness. And while the game does follow from events in previous games, those players new to the series should be able to jump right in and have an enjoyable time. In fact, those newcomers to the series could pick up the previous three releases from the PS2 pretty cheap to play through the full experience. All in all, for the slight faults the game has and the sometimes repetitive nature the game employs, you cannot deny that this is a stellar title and will do much to propel the series to future titles.