Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of DestructionESRB:
Developer – Insomniac Games
Publisher - SCEA
Dolby Digital 5.1
512 KB required disk space
As with many platformers out on the market, a lot are sequels of a series that started on a previous platform. Ratchet & Clank is one such franchise as it got its start around five games ago on a Sony platform. The latest release, entitled Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, is the duos first appearance on Sony’s next-generation console. With the added power of the cell processor, and the added storage of Blu-Ray, it was a chance for Sony to truly strut their stuff. And after some extended time with this game I would have to say that Ratchet & Clank’s first appearance on the PS3 was somewhat satisfying for this reviewer.
Visually speaking Tools of Destruction is a very good looking game. I was a bit worried going in as this franchise title needed to show that the PS3 was a contender as it has been out for a year or so. As I started my adventure my worries were put to rest right away as the beautiful graphics really do show what the PS3 is capable of. The game is very colorful and it is evident from the palette used that an effort was made to really make this a bright and vibrant game. This is actually the first PS3 title that I can say truly jumped off the screen with color. Technically speaking I found that the use of lighting in Tools of Destruction was some of the best that I have seen to date on the PS3 as everything from shadows to small details on each character is very well done. There is also a great use of special effects such as explosions, laser blasts and water effects that further show what can be done with Sony’s next-generation machine. You would think that with the implementation of all these great effects that the game would slowdown, well it does not, and I was somewhat amazed with how much action would occur on screen and how the framerate rarely hiccupped. There was a very odd occasion of the in-game engine stuttering, but this was far and few between and it did not take away for the overall gameplay experience.
The characters in Tools of Destruction are very detailed and very well designed. Their animations are very smooth and fluid giving them a lifelike appearance, well as lifelike as you would expect from a fictional character from the Lombax race. The way the characters looked I would venture to say that there was no laziness when actually creating the on-screen versions of our virtual heroes. If you take a close look at Ratchet you can see how furry he really is, and Clank manages to have a very nice metallic shine to him, especially when walking into a well lit area. The developers also put a lot of work into the various enemies that you come across in game. Again, they could have made the enemies somewhat generic throughout but alas they did not, and you will find that all of them are just as detailed as our main heroes which adds to your gaming experience.
Level design is also worth mentioning. Given that this is a platform game at heart I was hoping that each level was not going to be generic or similar to the last. Well I have to say that each level really does feel separate from one another. As I made my way from level to level I really did get a sense that I was taking Ratchet to somewhere different and new each time. This is a testament to the design of each level in the game. From the floating city, which is bustling with traffic, to the lush jungle level, all of them look so good that you can’t help but want to see where your adventure is going to take you next.
The audio in Tools of Destruction is solid but noting outstanding. The highlight here is the voice acting as each character’s voice seems to match their on-screen persona quite well. There are some pretty funny moments that are voiced by each character too and I appreciated that fact each character was brought to life using voices. As for the music, it is your typical platform affair and really doesn’t stand out that much. I was somewhat surprised by this fact given the scope of the game’s visuals. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that bad, but it just doesn’t have the impact to match the visuals. Finally, the rest of the sound effects manage to wrap up this solid audio package. From bombs blasting to lasers zapping all the sound effects manage to bring the game’s levels, weapons and gadgets to life. And it doesn’t hurt if you are playing this game through a Dolby Digital 5.1 receiver either as all your speakers become quite active with sound and your subwoofer will definitely get a work out now and then.
The story for this latest iteration of the Ratchet & Clank series has Ratchet being targeted for extermination by the evil Emperor Percival Tachyon. For one reason or another he doesn’t like lombax, which Ratchet is the last of its kind living. Also added to the story is a journey of self identification as Ratchet wants to learn more about his race. Finally, Ratchet’s long term sidekick, Clank, also has some issues that he is dealing with as well, including interacting with an alien race only he can see. I would go deeper into detail here but I don’t like ruining any plot lines for our readers, so I will leave my summation here. Bottom-line, there is a lot going on plot wise in Tools of Destruction and the storylines are well written with the main players adding some great moments to the game. The only problem I have with all the stories within this game are that they are not as deep as they could have been. Add to this that the game has what has become a norm in the industry, a cliffhanger ending that you know is leading to yet another sequel. All in the entire story is there, it just feels somewhat underwhelming. But hey, maybe they will strengthen it in the sequel.
If there is anything that saves this game from the lackluster story it is the actual gameplay itself. This is an action platformer true and true. There is your traditional exploration amongst the available levels and as you make you way through the game you have kill your enemies with a whole lot of shooting. Something that really surprised me was the control in this game. Let me tell you right off the bat that I am not a dual-shock supporter and I don’t always like playing a game with it. I lean towards the 360 controller as it just feels right for me. That being said the control in Tools of Destruction is quite good. Not only is it simple, but it is very responsive as well. I figure the simplicity of the control is to allow casual or young gamers into the realm of Ratchet and Clank on the PS3. This is an audience that I am sure Sony would love to further attract to their console. The learning curve is very low and you will find yourself running around, jumping and blasting your enemies within minutes.
Ratchet has quite an extensive arsenal of weapons available to him, however you will have buy the better ones as you make your way through the game. You will use in-game currency to purchase the good weapons and new armor, and this currency is bolts. You can collect your bolts from fallen enemies or by smashing items such as creates (editor’s note: smashing creates...not that original is it?). Your newer weapons are quite varied and quite fun to use. They range from grenades, rockets, spikes, saw blades and a whole lot more. There is a bit of RPG-ness to the weapons as the more you use one the more its level will increase allowing it to become more powerful. So if you find yourself really enjoying a specific weapon then you will most likely use it more then others. I should note that you can also improve various attributes of your weapons such as range, ammo capacity or ratio of fire to name a few. This is done by collecting special crystals that some of the enemies drop, so keep your eyes wide open when you dispose of any baddie in the game.
Along with a lot of weapons come a lot of cool gadgets at your disposal. These, like many of the later weapons, can be purchased from a vendor but you can also be found in crates as well. For example, one of these gadgets allows you to toss a disco ball into the air and the area lights up with psychedelic colors from a 70’s disco bar while music plays, and enemies begin to dance which is a great time to dispose of them as they are distracted as they dance to the beat. It is creativity like this that really makes this game stand out and if you are anything like me you will search out these special weapons to see what funky things you can do.
With all the weapons and gadgets available one may think that changing between them all is a daunting task. I have already mentioned how well this game controls; well this carries over to switching weapons as well. To do so only takes a simple press of the triangle button and selection of a different item from one of three screens. Although you are encouraged to fill each screen with different items throughout your play, you won’t do too much of this as there are certain weapons and certain items that you will prefer over others as they are more effective. As you become reliant on specific weapons you may find yourself doing the same things more then you wish to during your adventure.
Insomniac has made sure to add more then just your traditional platform jumping and exploration combined with shooting. There wide variety of things to do in Tools of Destruction. It was almost like there was a giant checklist of things the developers wanted to put into the game and as they looked at each item they said “sure, what the hell”. You can do such things has having Ratchet roll around in a clear ball, a la Super Monkey Ball, while other times you will play a mini dancing game in order to open up certain doors. You will even play a shooter level where you fly a spaceship on rails (pre-determined path) and shoot down enemies. Overall the added gameplay modes work pretty well and add to the whole experience. If there is any negative to this it is that you will find that there is almost too much to do, but hey, too much of a good thing is a lot better then too little.
I am sure some of you are wondering if the game supports any of the motion sensing capabilities of the Sixaxis controller. Well as this is a Sony published game, wouldn’t you expect it to do so? Well it does and there are a few different sequences where this occurs. You can control Ratchet as he flies through the air by tilting the controller. You also use the Sixaxis when Ratchet cuts through surfaces with a laser by twisting the controller or when he attempts to hack security systems by rolling a ball around conducting electricity. All in all these work pretty well and show how developers are staring to get a handle on what many people thought was just a gimmick of the Sixaxis controller functionality.
You can complete Tools of Destruction in about 10 to 15 hours depending on your skill level. I found that my adventure was somewhat satisfying and I had a lot of fun going through the various levels blasting all the baddies I came across. Each of the game’s levels had a specific theme to them, which given that this is a platform game was not unexpected. There is a volcano level, a jungle level, a floating city level, a space level amongst asteroids and even mountainous level. If these sound somewhat predictable you are right, but hey what did you expect this is, dare I say it again, a platform game. That being said you will find that there is room for exploration and you will have some time to take in the gorgeous visuals.
If I have any major complaint in the gameplay area it is the way the game handles your death. You will have to re-do large sections of the level you are on when you die. This is time consuming and I really don’t appreciate having to do large chunks of levels that I already did. However the game is somewhat easy and you will find that you can get through it much easier then other games of this nature. Maybe this is due to the fact that the game is a mascot based platformer and they are taking aim at a younger audience. Unfortunately there is no way to change the skill level of the game either but once you finish the game you do unlock a harder mode. Overall I enjoyed the ride and I really can’t wait to see what they do for the eventual sequel.
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