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Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Review

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Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: October 23, 2007 Also On: None

Oh my God, it is about freakin’ time! Insomniac and SCEA had to
collaborate for the second time in two years to provide the
PS3-faithful with one of the two or three must-have PlayStation 3
titles of 2007. Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is the pinnacle of the series and the entire console library, melding some of the best
aspects of other Ratchet games for one completely incredible
experience. I would not be surprised to see Ratchet and Clank receive
several media nods for Game of the Year awards, including on Game Freaks 365.

Insomniac has always delivered on the weaponry in their video games,
particularly in Ratchet and Clank. Their first PS3 title, Resistance:
Fall of Man, had some of the most clever and interesting, fun-to-use
weapons in any shooter to date. Ratchet and Clank does not fail to
follow up to that benchmark in any way, really. Before I get to the
weapons and all of the details about them, I will briefly discuss the
story, which does not take the backseat as much as it does a
motorcycle’s sidecar ride.

Ratchet is the universe’s only remaining
Lombax. His extinct species was one known for its crafty and handy
mechanics and clever inventions. The terribly shrill-voiced Emperor
Tachyon, leader of the frog-like Cragmites, does not like Ratchet
or any of his late ancestors. He and his Cragmites bombard Ratchet’s
home planet and then proceed to follow Ratchet all around the Polaris
galaxy, with intentions to prevent Clank and him from their search for
the “Lombax Secret.”

The crew wants to find an answer to Clank’s
strange but handy hallucinations, as well. You see, when Clank drifts
off on his lone wolf sidekick missions, he sees a mystical group of
creatures called the Zoni. These little guys can be commanded by Clank
and will help him get through all of the puzzles and challenges of his
playable sequences.

Ratchet and Clank’s relationship and interactions
with each other as well as other characters are what set the game
apart from other platform and action games. Typical of any Ratchet and
Clank game, there are humorous moments scattered all over. They can be
pretty quick and somewhat silly, but I will admit to a sudden and
surprising burst of laughter when I watched one of the early scenes in
Ratchet’s ship. It is not really the story that keeps you playing the
game, but at no point is it boring, intrusive, tacky, or otherwise
lacking in any positive qualities. It is just that the gameplay is so
much fun at times that it is hard to care what else is going on, so
long as Ratchet is breaking things.

Ratchet and Clank does not feature a multiplayer mode, so its
single-player quest is the quintessential element. This actually
should be the very last thing any gamer should worry about, because
everything about it is sweet in a
delicious-pumpkin-pie-on-Thanksgiving kind of way. The level variety
is unheard of. There are more than two dozen planets to explore and
pillage throughout the Polaris galaxy; also there are more than plenty
of locations to complete missions and power up the crazy weapons that
I will tell you about momentarily.

You will teleport from platform to
platform in one of the space stations located in the thick of the
Nundac Asteroid Ring, ride a gyrocycle through tunnel-like pipes
bursting with dangerous fire vents on the molten planet Rykan V, and
use Robo-Wing pads to fly through the traffic-filled skies of Stratus
City and Planet Kortog. If I continued to use the pumpkin pie idea,
the weapon upgrading is like the whipped cream—some people, but not
all people, will obsess about and enjoy this system more than anything
else on the pie. The level structures are done in a way that allows
players to get by without having to buy all of the optional weapons at
the many gadget vendors, but you’ll have to pick up a lot of tools
that will be vital to getting through the platform sequences.
Examples of these tools are a Swingshot (grappling hook) and Gelanator
(goopy gun that creates bouncy platforms). Other nifty items like the
disco-inducing Groovitron ball will help in getting through bigger
groups or groups of weaker enemies surrounding a bigger and stronger
one. Backtracking, an age-old (but still common) platform-action
problem, is reduced to a very small amount. The desire to explore each
level remains, and ultimately that is the cherry on top of a
theoretical pumpkin pie that I would really love to eat right now.

The weapons are mostly functional rehashes of previous weapons in the
Ratchet and Clank series with different effects or superficial
qualities. By no means does this make them boring to use, especially
with the upgrade system I am still just about to discuss. Your
standard pistol weapon, the Combuster, is pretty handy throughout the
first third or half of the game. Eventually you will ditch the pea
shooter for the Shard Reaper, a shotgun-like weapon that spreads
deadly spikes at the enemies in front of you, or maybe the Lightning
Ravager, a whip-like weapon that zaps its victims with a deadly charge
of electricity. You will use the Predator Launcher, which sends deadly
rockets flying at multiple locked-on targets.

As I have obsessively mentioned, even cooler than the weapons
themselves is the ability to upgrade them all by collecting a valuable
material called Raritanium. I’m not really sure how this material is
involved with improving your weapons and their capabilities, but it is
not a detail I really cared about missing. For any gun or weapon that
you possess, you can use Raritanium to work through a grid-like system
of upgrade slots. Each slot, after purchased and unlocked, will in
turn unlock any of the surrounding slots. Each upgrade slot increases
the abilities more and more, so a lot of the material will be used up.
You will purchase slots that increase the strength of the weapons, ammo
capacity, firing rate, and several other factors—some are
weapon-specific, like the number of Predator Launcher missiles that
can be simultaneously locked onto enemies. Also, every weapon has a
final upgrade that basically brings out the full power of the weapon.
The Combuster, as a quick and easy example, has an upgrade that makes
its pistol rounds burn and explode on contact with a target. The
Lightning Ravager, as another example, can emit a deadly shockwave
that spreads through and destroys entire flocks of enemies.

A lot of the bolts that Ratchet has had to collect all along will once
again have to be gathered to spend on weapons and ammo, but I had a
lot less trouble with managing my bolts in Tools of Destruction than I
ever did before. I am glad that developers are starting to take notice
of the complaints that platform-action games do not need to involve so
much damn collecting of items and orbs and other forms of in-game
currency. In this instance the collecting of Raritanium and bolts is
never really a problem because Ratchet magnetically draws most of
these valuables toward himself as you walk along. Collecting the very
elusive gold bolts is so difficult and requires so much exploration
that gathering a few will allow you to unlock special features.
Clearly Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a
platform-action game that manages to survive the typical “play it,
beat it, shelf it” process for a lot longer than almost all of its

Ratchet could not really control any more smoothly, either, except for a
few instances, which I will get to. Almost 90% of the experience plays
like a dream. Ratchet and Clank both feel incredibly easy to maneuver
and play with. Combat doesn’t involve a ton of strategy or preparation
but at the very least you can fire away all of the crazy weapons and
enjoy them like the developer intended. Jumping sequences are made
easy with well-responding controls. Really, the only control issue
comes from the rare and quick moments where you are forced to use the
SIXAXIS tilt features to fly and free-fall. It’s too bad there are
finally a big handful of AAA-titles on the PlayStation 3 that still
have never made using the SIXAXIS interesting.

As for the game’s difficulty as a whole, it isn’t incredibly
challenging. In fact, if I had to fill in a difficulty category on
my Scores down below, I’d probably give Ratchet and Clank a generous 2
or 3 out of 10. Fortunately it is satisfyingly long. In more detail,
challenging situations are thrown at you as you progress but the
surplus of health and ammo power-ups and the endless armory of
powerful, upgraded weapons are all hand-tugging assistants that are
sometimes a little more than helpful. Some of the huge swarms of
enemies later on in the game are disappointingly easy. If the weapon
you are using isn’t effective against an enemy, there is generally
another weapon or two that will take care of the problem.

Laying waste
to enemies without much of a struggle is fun for a while, but what
happened to games getting more challenging as they progress? Really,
the only big challenge is finding all of the gold bolts. I didn’t even
start buying a lot of the optional weapons until halfway through the
game. Although I enjoyed them from that point forward, I felt like the
typical Combuster/Shard Reaper combination worked well enough all the
time. The same situation happened in Resistance; some of its coolest
weapons didn’t arrive until later in the game when you were already
accustomed to using some of the simpler ones.

Still, Ratchet and Clank
gives you plenty of opportunity to use all of its weapons as you try
to finish up all of the missions, side-quests, and the gold bolt
collection. Oh, and there are little level-specific challenges (and
some collective ones) that are quite like Xbox 360 Achievements, these
are incredibly difficult to earn because they are not described in any
way. Really, the only way to earn them on your own is to explore
absolutely every single inch of the planets, perform every move and
use every weapon, destroy a lot of enemies with a lot of your weapons,
and more. If you haven’t concluded by my implications, earning these
little benchmarks is never really fun or rewarding, they’re just
another potential anal-retentive quality for perfectionist gamers.

Ratchet and Clank is also a game that PS3 owners can tout as one of
the best-looking games to date, at least in an artistic and creative
sense. The whimsical surroundings and frequent, entire shifts in the
artistic, environmental direction will keep every playable area,
indoors or out, a beautiful and interesting place to be. It does not
have the photo-realism of Call of Duty 4 or a lot of other PlayStation
3 titles, but expecting those visuals from this type of game would be
like expecting the same thing, vice versa.

I rate accordingly; the
brimming detail, silky-smooth animation, and cornucopia of color are
all elements that are set off by a single, annoying flaw. My question
to all of the next-generation developers, or more appropriately the
graphics teams behind next-generation games, is this: Why bother
spending a Great Pyramid of cash for pretty graphics and creative
design when things like plants and rocks in the environment don’t
interact at all with the on-screen character? Games like Crysis and
Far Cry 2—both PC exclusives at the moment—are looking to fix this,
but I really hope that high-profile games on the PlayStation 3 will
get the same treatment.

This is a game that the PlayStation 3 owner can not miss out on. I do not
care what you are interested in playing this year, if you own a
PlayStation 3 there should be a lot of incentive placed on getting
around to going through this game. It’s the most action-packed,
smooth, colorful, explosive, creative experience I’ve had on the
PlayStation 3 to date. If the Xbox 360 fanboy can run around waving
BioShock, Halo 3, and Mass Effect claiming that they are the best games
they have ever played, PlayStation 3 owners can show the same love for
Insomniac’s dynamic duo. The only competition for Game of the Year in
the PlayStation 3 library would stem from the big late-year
exclusives, Uncharted and Folklore, or the multiplatform Call of Duty
4; but Ratchet and Clank, Insomniac, and SCEA will most likely be on
my short list for anything that would crown it king of the PlayStation
3 library.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 9.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide