As one of the premiere exclusive titles for the PlayStation 2, the Ratchet and Clank games were defining titles for the console. Fun, smart, and original, it helped to highlight what the PS2 had that other consoles didn't -- compelling and original content.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.