Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3) Review

It's already the middle of the week, so allow me to break out a rare PS3 review! Don't worry-- there's a lot more where this review came from. Currently, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is my highest-rated PS3 game, but I've still yet to finish Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Metal Gear Solid 4 which rest patiently in my collection.

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Can you teach an old Lombax new tricks?


In 2001 the very first Ratchet & Clank game was released for the Sony's Playstation 2. Since then there's been a total of five more Ratchet games with the fifth being Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction for the PS3. Now with so many titles in just a seven year span, developer Insomniac runs the risk of having the series feel same old, same old. Is it not to late to teach an old Lombax new tricks, or do Ratchet and Clank deserve an extended vacation?

Ratchet and Clank are spending a day off-duty tinkering on their hovercar when suddenly they receive a distress signal from Captain Qwark. Qwark cautions the pair of an alien attack. As the transmission ends, Ratchet and Clank are thrust into a conflict with the leader of the attacking Cragmite race, Emperor Tachyon, who holds a profound hatred of the Lombax race and desires to finish off the race by eliminating the last Lombax in the galaxy, Ratchet. This is all the while moving closer to his goal of conquering the entire universe. Big ambitions for such a small guy. Meanwhile, Clank is suddenly in contact with an invisible, time-traveling species known as the Zonis who give him new tools and assistance when he's all on his own. The writing of the Ratchet & Clank series is known for being top-notch and quite humorous. While there are moments of humor injected throughout the game, the writing is sometimes hit or miss. The story is one of the best of the series as there's numerous moments that will tug on your heartstrings or give you a smile.

Such cinematic experiences are in-game and incredibly epic.

Ratchet & Clank has you progress linearly through the story. The same formula holds up even to this fifth installment. You arrive on a planet, you take out the foes along the path while opening doors, grinding on rails, and leaping from platform to platform, and finally watch a holo-vid that opens up the next planet for you to explore. This title is very much a pick-up-and-play experience. You can go through weeks of not playing, return to the game, and know exactly what you need to do and where you need to go.

Tools of Destruction is by no means a misnomer at all. Weapons and gadgets are the meat and potatoes of the Ratchet & Clank soufflé, and this newest entry into the series very much delivers on the explosive goods. Ratchet's arsenal is seriously beefed up with weapons that are truly satisfying to use such as the rocket-propelled Negotiator and the cluster bomb-blasting Fusion Bomb. Some weapons, however, aren't so fortunate in the fun factor. The Tornado Launcher uses the Six-axis controller to guide the twister into targets, but while trying to dodge enemy attacks and guide your shot, it can get quite difficult to do. Each weapon can be upgraded to hold more ammo, deliver more destructive power, earn more bolts and raritarium, and have a swifter reload time using a hex system. Continued use of your weapons level them up to unleash even more annihilative aptitude. This is also how you earn more Nanotech or health upgrades, by defeating lots and lots of foes.

New to the series are devices that can aid Ratchet in battle. These range from the funkadelic Groovitron orbs which when thrown causes every nearby enemy to shake their groove thing while you happily blast them to smithereens. That'll teach you to shake what your momma gave you when I'm around! There's also the trash-talking Mr. Zercon who accompanies Ratchet for a short amount of time while unleashing missiles and other attacks on surrounding fiends.

The wrench is great for close encounters of the Cragmite kind.

Most platformers hark to an age of mass, obsessive collecting. Yes, I am looking very evilly at you, Donkey Kong 64. Thankfully, the Ratchet series has never been about that. The only collecting here is from the bolts that pour from destroying enemies and boxes to purchase new weapons, devices, and armor suits (seeing a shower of bolts pour from defeated enemies and boxes is extremely satisfying), raritarium from chests to upgrade weapon abilities as aforementioned, gold bolts that are deviously hidden throughout the game to unlock new skins from Ratchet from a snowman to a Cragmite, and holograms which are exchanged to the Smuggler character for a very kickass weapon which vets of the series already know and love.

One skill point requires you to get across this bridge with the Charge Boots without getting burned.

The main story mode will take first-time players around 10-12 hours to complete, but after beating the game players can opt to partake in the Challenge mode where they can upgrade their weapons even further, tackle more difficult enemies, and earn many more bolts from battle. There's also skill points which were Xbox 360 achievements before Xbox 360 achievements were even invented as they've been around since the very first Ratchet & Clank. By completing secret in-game tasks with the only clue for how to unlock them is one ambiguous skill point name, you gain points. The more points you earn, the more cheats are unlocked such as the mandatory big-head mode and cooler cheats such as developer commentary that are sprinkled throughout the levels.

The aim of the game is pretty simple: jump from platform to platform, explore lands, while keeping your trigger finger ready and active. The platforming isn't difficult by any means as the series has really focused more on the action side of action-platforming. So if you're looking for more balls-to-the-wall platforming, I'd recommend Super Mario Galaxy over this. Regardless, the action of Ratchet is intense and very epic. In one level you'll be side-jumping from rail to rail all the while avoiding oncoming trains and enemy fire, while in another you'll be grinding circles around an enemy boss who keeps taking out parts of the rail for you to leap over. If you just use one powerful weapon to deal damage to enemies and just gunning and running with the same weapon, the game will probably be very easy for you. Factor in upgrading all of your arms to full power through repeated use, and you'll quickly find yourself happily using every weapon in your inventory even at the price of dying. There's multiple save spots, however, so you won't need to worry about the inevitable as you'll just be transported to the last checkpoint.

Not all is fun in Tools of Destruction though. The Star Fox-inspired rail-shooting in space just felt tacked on and uninspired, and playing as Clank by himself with Zoni assistance was pretty much a snooze. Hopefully Clank's upcoming PSP game, Secret Agent Clank, fares better in the fun department than his missions in Tools.

This planet is another one of my favorites.

Tools of Destruction is one graphically impressive title. The size and scale of areas is just breath-taking, and there's just so much little detail everywhere in the game. Each level is architecturally designed to differ greatly from the last. No two areas feel the same. My favorite of which is the Imperial Fight Festival which houses some great action, fun platforming, and the gladiator arena. It feels like a complete game right there. The only loading times to speak of is when transporting from one planet or level to another, and even then it's not too much of wait considering there's no waiting for areas to load once inside a level. The sound is just phenomenal also. The music is an orchestrated feast by David Bergeaud often coming across as a Pixar film score as if the characters didn't already come across that way. The voice acting is top-notch as well especially the old bot duo of Zephyr and Cronk who never fail to make me laugh. As a whole, the entire game is rich with heavy presentation and awesome little touches and effects.

He was scary before, but now he's in HD!

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is yet another fantastic entry in the Ratchet & Clank series. It may the sixth title bearing the Ratchet & Clank name in seven years, but the quality is still so consistent that it's yet to become a problem. While it's not the best of Insomniac's lovable platforming pair, it's darn close. With loads of secrets to unlock, gold bolts to collect, weapons to upgrade, and enemies to battle, Tools of Destruction is a must-own for any PS3 owner looking for a taste of magnificent action-platforming.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: Emperor Tachyon is targeting the last Lombax in the galaxy, Ratchet, in his quest to take over the universe. The key to Ratchet's past is in his future.

Graphics: Pixar quality. They're just incredibly impressive.

Gameplay: More action than platforming, but the series has been isolating itself from its roots since Up Your Arsenal.

Sound: A great score accompanied by fantastic voice acting and sound effects.

Replay Value: To unlock everything you'll most likely need to play through the game at least twice.

Overall: 9.25/10 - A truly AAA experience that no PS3 owner should be without.

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