Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Review
Over the span of Sony's console run, we've seen a number of adventure platformers come and go for the system. There was Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, until Sony didn't want their licenses anymore. Then there was Jak and Daxter, which Naughty Dog seemingly brought to an end last generation. We've seen nothing of Sly Cooper, as Sucker Punch is currently working on Infamous. That said, despite all of that, there is one platformer from Sony that continues to run in full force, and that's Ratchet and Clank. Insomniac first revealed the development of a PlayStation 3 iteration over a year ago with a teaser video showing off the operation of Metropolis and its denizens navigating the skies. It wasn't until April 2007 that we finally got to see the all new Ratchet and Clank, and now, 6 months later, it's finally here.
I think part of the reason why each and every Ratchet game continues to be such an enjoyable piece of software is largely due to the fact that Insomniac doesn't radically mess with the formula that has made the series so successful, in the first place. Over time, the franchise has seen a lot of elements added to it, all the while not seeing much removed or drastically altered. The key aspects of the series have remained the same, and it's the level design, the action, the weapons, and the characters that have driven the sequels.
The same goes for Ratchet and Clank Future, albeit on a much larger scale. The PlayStation 3 really brings Ratchet and Clank to life, with gigantic environments that tower over you, creating a grand scale that's absurdly fun to explore. If you've played a Ratchet and Clank game before, you'll know that gameplay consists of a mixture of action and platforming, where guns and melee weapons will help you stay alive, meanwhile scaling walls, hurdling over obstacles, and such, will help you progress.
The story this time around is far more personal than any other in the Ratchet and Clank series. After having his air craft fail, Ratchet finds himself falling back down to Metropolis, where an attack suddenly occurs on the city. The attackers are being lead by a pee-wee little space alien by the name of Emperor Tachyon. The Emperor's goal is to rid the universe of every Lombax in the world, and Ratchet is next on his list. To make matters worse, Tachyon's troops also kidnapped Ratchet and Clank's closest ally, Captain Qwark.
So armed with the knowledge that there is a plot to eradicate every Lombax in existence, Ratchet and Clank's adventure begins, and they set out to put an end to Tachyon and eliminate every last one of his pawns and minions. Now, of course, to accomplish a goal that requires you to kick ass across a range of different planets, you'll need a range of ass-kicking weapons (which you will have), and all the right gadgets to offer as much aid as possible. Each weapon can be upgraded all pending on how much they are used. So if you're using the Combuster frequently, you'll see that it'll upgrade itself the most. In addition to automatic upgrading, you can also perform manual upgrades, where you spend the bolts you earn on enhancing specific aspects (range, power, shot rate, etc.) of your preferred weapon.
You can expect a ton of weapons to use, and listing them here would be somewhat long-winded. But weapons aren't your only source of combat, as devices like the Groovitron will be of great help to you. In case you aren't aware of what the Groovitron is, allow me to explain...The Groovitron is a disco ball that Ratchet hurls into the air; using it triggers disco music to play, making all of the enemies around you dance and that'll give you an opportunity to eliminate them all, while they're distracted. It's a great device to use for when you've got tons of enemies around you.
Ratchet's life bar will also expand, and in addition to that, you'll eventually come across new pieces of armor, which will make Ratchet less susceptible to damage. The bottom-line is that there's an absurdly long list of toys to play with in Ratchet and Clank Future, and, yes, Clank is one of them. My only qualm with the gameplay is that there is no multiplayer mode. I'm certain we'll see multiplayer in the follow up, but it's kind of weird having a Ratchet game without multiplayer, especially on the PlayStation 3 - it could've made for some chaotic fun.
Visually, Ratchet and Clank Future looks precisely as it does in every video and screenshot you've seen. Insomniac has put together one of the most complex engines currently running on the PlayStation 3, with hundreds of objects simultaneously moving about in the background, in addition to dozens of enemies on screen. The environment is rendered all in real time with a draw-in distance as far as the eye can see.
Insomniac really wanted to capture that epic scale of the franchise more so than ever before, and they've done a great job with Ratchet and Clank Future. Detail goes beyond whatever's happening in the background, as Ratchet himself has been visually overhauled, featuring more joints in his face alone, than his entire PlayStation 2 counterpart had altogether. That kind of attention to detail allows Ratchet to animate as fluidly as possible, and show off facial animations that we've been yearning for in videogames since we first saw Toy Story.
Ratchet and Clank on the PS3 is, arguably, that first monumental step at achieving the 'Pixar' look for videogames successfully. One look at the details on Ratchet and the textures that make up his form and you'll agree that Insomniac has put together one very intricate character - that is not to say that there isn't room for improvement. Even the more prominent characters in the game are designed as well as Ratchet is, and Insomniac didn't skimp out on the bosses and enemies, either.
Furthermore, it's hard to deny Ratchet and Clank Future's visual achievements when you consider that the game also runs at a nearly flawless 60 frames per second, rendering at 720p. I say nearly flawless, because there is the very rare (and I emphasize 'very') dip here and there, but it's only a few frames at a time. I highly doubt the framerate ever drops below 50 for more than a split second, anyways. You can also upscale the game to output at 1080i, if you choose to do so - even though it doesn't make mention of it on the back of the box. All in all, Ratchet and Clank Future is an incredible looking game, running on one hell of an engine. We can't wait to see what Insomniac has in store for us in the future.
Lastly, the audio in R&C Future is precisely as fantastic as you'd expect it to be, except this time you've got the ability to blast it at 7.1 Surround. And with R&C Future featuring more explosive action than before, with more enemies and louder weapons, you may find yourself having a good time listening to this game if you have the proper setup. Quality voice acting continues to carryover for this iteration, as all of your favorite voices continue to reprise their respective roles, with a cast of new foes and allies joining them.
The bottom-line is that we all expected Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction to deliver, we simply have that much faith in Insomniac. This is visually one of the best looking games on the market. And with an engine that's gunning it at 60 frames per second, and capable of 1080i upscaled, R&C Future is also running on one of the best engines, as well. The gameplay is precisely what we've all come to love, except louder, more heated, more energetic, more fun, and with all new gameplay mechanics added to the mix. Unfortunately there is no multiplayer, but we hope to see maybe a patch sometime in the future. Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is most certainly worth every penny it retails for. Go out and get yourself a copy.
10/22/2007 Arnold Katayev