If anything, Ratchet and Clank's newest adventure proves that Sony still has those popular franchises and solid games in its pocket. But is Tools of Destruction enough to convince gamers that Sony will have what it takes to deliver this generation, or are they just treading all too familiar ground in 720p?
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3)
Developed by Insomniac Games
Released on October 30, 2007
If you've been wondering what kind of animal that darn Ratchet is, you're not alone. If we told you he was a Lombax, it would likely confuse you even more. Hell, not even Ratchet knows exactly what he is or where he's from, and that is what's at the meat of Tools of Destruction's story. With his sidekick, the multi-functional mini-bot Clank, in tow, Ratchet sets off on an epic adventure to discover his past and save the galaxy in the process. No pressure.
Like previous Ratchet and Clank titles, the adventure is epic (spanning multiple planets), the weapons are big, the characters are endearing, and the writing skillfully walks the thin line between "for teh kiddiez" and a series of adult "inside jokes." The end result is a game that's easy to love, and a joyfully varied experience from beginning to end.
Certainly, Tools of Destruction is a gorgeous game. Ratchet and Clank's first foray onto next-gen hardware has been kind to them; in this adventure, Ratchet is the furriest he's ever been, with individual pieces of hair on his ears and tail visible from certain angles. The environments are large and colorful, brought to life by swaying foliage, and active enemies and wildlife, each with their own unique animations. Some of the environments will make your jaw drop; Planet Cobalia, for instance, is a painting brought to life, a fully-realized piece of concept art, as impressive any any seen on most hardware to date.
Keeping in mind that the Insomniac has always been a master at realizing gorgeous visuals on Sony hardware, it's sometimes hard to see a huge leap between the PS2 Ratchet games and what we have here. Do not misunderstand me -- I am in no way saying this game looks like a PS2 title; I've already said that this is a gorgeous game. What I am saying, however, is that the number of "Wow" moments aren't quite as plentiful one would have hoped.
For sure, the game screams next-gen in 720p, with beautiful lighting and particle effects highlighting the experience. But not all areas fare as well, with some textures looking slightly muddy, and an odd shine that makes it look like some areas are smeared with mucus. The overall quality of the game isn't compromised by these downfalls (which are few and far between), but they're especially obvious when taken next to some of the game's more impressive graphical touches.
Tools of Destruction can easily be classified as a platformer/shooter, but to be fair, the weapons and gadgets that make things go "boom" are the main attraction here. While you'll do a fair amount of hopping, hanging, and hovering from ledges, you'll be using Ratchet's "tools of destruction" to reach your goals, more than anything else.
The series has always really been about Ratchet's hilariously big and ridiculous arsenal, and Insomniac doesn't skimp in this department. While some weapons may look and feel similar to those found in previous Ratchet and Clank games, there are enough weapons to keep new and old fans amused for hours. The sense of destruction satisfying in a way that is unmatched in almost any other game; enemies don't just fall down dead, they explode into chunks (organic or metallic), dropping bolts or a rare crystal called Raritanium in the process.
Collecting these bolts allows you to purchase new armor, gadgets, and of course, more weapons to blow the crap out of more things. Over time, weapons will upgrade automatically with use, allowing you to blow the crap out of even more things, in different, even more satisfying ways. Raritanium can also be traded for weapon upgrades at vendors, which allows you to have more customization in how the weapon works -- you can increase the rate of fire, the amount of ammo a weapon holds, and more.
In addition to Ratchet's firearms, there are also a number of gadgets and devices you acquire throughout the game. This variety is really what makes this game (and the series) so great. While the basics of jumping, shooting, and collecting are constant throughout, Insomniac does a great job of pacing out the types of action you're engaged in. Instead of blowing its entire load within the first few hours of gameplay, you're slowly introduced to new skills and types of gameplay as the game progresses.
That said, despite the sheer number of weapons at your disposal, it's easy to find yourself sticking to only a small handful. While you're encouraged to use new weapons in order to snag experience upgrades, there are truly only a handful that are useful in most situations. For instance, one of the game's most highlighted weapons, the Groovitron (a disco ball that when thrown, makes enemies break out into dance) gets little to no use once the novelty has worn off. There are really no situations that really require its use, when some of the more traditional methods work just as well, if not better.
A PS3 title without SIXAXIS controls would be cause for alarm, and of course, it finds its place in Tools of Destruction. Fortunately, the controls are well-implemented, but ultimately, don't always feel necessary. It's not a secret that the SIXAXIS tilt-controls can be finnicky (and that's putting it mildly), and Insomniac makes a wise choice by not shoehorning these controls into any high-action combat situations.
Clank's Robo-Wings, which allows free-flight on some of the game's planets, are a good example; leaning with the controller feels natural, but doesn't really add anything to the gameplay. This could have easily been done with traditional analog stick controls; it sort of feels like its just included simply because it could be. Even during the "Decryptor" mini-game (which has you tilting a ball around a circuit board to connect currents), failure enough times will prompt the game to ask you if you'd like to change to standard analog controls.
I had high hopes for Ratchet and Clank's next-gen debut, and for the most part, I wasn't disappointed. The game feels remarkably similar to previous Ratchet titles, but that's not a problem ... for now. Insomniac has perfected this style of game, with a slick and addictive balance between platformer and shooter. But because it's so easy to fall in love with the characters and the universe, it's painful to think that unless Insomniac can revamp the series in a way to make it feel fresh, it might be time to retire the duo.
That's not to say that Tools of Destruction is not a must-have game for the PS3, and not because of the currently thin software library. At the end of the day, if you own a PS3 and you haven't played this game, you're doing yourself a great disservice. By anyone's standards, if you enjoy fun, varied gameplay experiences, we won't let you sit at our table at lunch if you miss this game.
Verdict: Buy it