The Ratchet & Clank series has enjoyed much acclaim throughout the gaming community as a welcome alternative to the Jak & Daxter franchise for those hoping for more of a focus on shooting and great character dialogue implemented within a platforming escapade. Now, the series has come to the PlayStation 3 and is also one of Adventure Lantern’s premiere PS3 reviews. Carrying a hefty Sony price tag, this new quest with the Lombax and his robotic buddy is both amazing and disappointing.
You begin your adventure with Ratchet and Clank answering a distress call from the bumbling self-proclaimed superhero, Captain Qwark. It seems that the miniature Emperor Tachyon has a score to settle with Ratchet; the last of a species that is believed to have obliterated Tacheyon’s race. Having purchased an entire army to help in his goal to take over the galaxy, Players use Ratchet (with Clank assisting) to wield any type of destructive, whimsical, and downright weird weapons they have in their arsenal to stop the diminutive menace. Players shoot missiles, toss grenades, launch tornados via SIAXIS (PS3 motion control), and even fire disco balls that cause their foes to dance uncontrollably, creating a variety of enjoyable ways to take on opponents. However, after the first few hours of exploring the weapons, gameplay itself becomes very predictable. Even though the ability to level up weapons is a welcome change to the platforming genre, it quickly becomes all too easy to empty the battlefield of enemies. In fact, before 50% of the game is completed, some weapons will have been already customized to their maximum level, capable of destroying foes with one hit. For those looking for a challenge, you can opt to temporarily avoid purchasing Ratchet’s battle armor which increases defense. Though the game offers a challenge mode after its initial completion which offers gamers a higher degree of difficulty, there’s not much else to the formula afterward. Even boss battles are lacking, unmemorable and again, relatively simple. Unfortunately, the game itself is about 10-15 hours long, (that’s about a week and a half of playtime kiddies) with the more interesting parts of the game resting in the beginning and the end.
It also doesn’t help that Tools of Destruction’s story isn’t exactly stable either. It switches (almost idiotically so) from fighting Tachyon’s forces to blasting apart robotic space pirates. Sometimes Players will ask themselves “Why am I fighting pirates again?” Other distracting elements include infiltrating pirate hideouts in an underused and ultimately useless swashbuckling disguise, and an annoying mini-game forcing players to stop shooting things and tilt a box in order to guide an electronic marble into a socket; the future of opening doors should not include Milton-Bradley, people! It probably would’ve been better for the Insomniacs to spend more time meshing the space pirate storyline with Tachyon’s invasions (how about Tachyon just uses the pirates instead?). Level design is an unpleasing factor in this category simply because the environments themselves are so underused due to the incredibly linear storyline. Simply put, you run and shoot everything, stopping only to unlock and jump upon but a few platforms before you get to the next level. Even the space-flight levels are a let-down. Although gorgeous, they are devoid of creativity at best. Certain levels can seem huge and highly detailed, but in the end they are basically the same as other levels preceding them. The game hides behind hilarious character design in order to stick to its “Shoot, Run/Jump, Shoot” formula. While the jokes often work, the game is just too predictable, though I will admit, I did not see the cliffhanger ending coming. Some may not favor the ending, but it may prove to be a critical moment for the franchise.
Any nerd can identify Tidus from Final Fantasy X voicing Ratchet (and I am that nerd!) but strong voice acting is what drives Tools of Destruction. Though some of Captain Qwark’s lines become a bit forced after a while, the voice acting as a whole is incredibly solid (hearing Clank’s little Zoni helpers yell “YAY” is just adorable). There are instances when the Gadgetron Company will alert players of new specifications for an upgraded weapon while another character will give advice during in-game missions. Though this is a small programming issue, overlapping voices can cause confusion as to what the next goal is.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack itself is very average and by no means foot-tapping, especially when glitches kick in and erase environmental ambience and music altogether. These brief instances don’t occur until later in the game. However, it is a little weird at certain points when Players are used to hearing the sound of ships landing and instead hear general silence. The music itself could’ve lent itself to stronger tones and only truly becomes memorable when briefly paying tribute to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. While it is not is recommended that all of Insomniac’s budget goes into their soundtrack, the Ratchet & Clank storyline is growing and so should its musical overtones.
To date, “Ratchet & Clank Future” is by far the best looking PS3 game. From the opening sequence, gamers will be enamored just how many polygon and texture effects the game can crank out at once with hardly any slowdown. Loading times are short but present, blanketed under space-flight transitions to other levels. It would’ve been cool if different loading screens were created instead of the same warp-drive during every blast-off. Level designs are lush and beautiful but water effects are strangely unrealistic, providing no real wave oscillations. It’s strange how Super Mario Sunshine, a game of the previous gaming generation (and a title I bear a strong personal hatred for), can still produce superior water effects. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if falling into water wasn’t the primary method of dying. But, since Players will most likely drown or fall into small platform gaps more often than they’ll get shot, some realism would’ve been appreciated, considering that the game as a whole is just so entertaining to look at it. Personally, I believe the space-flight missions are the most visually gratifying (albeit lacking any real depth), but there are times when transition effects are lazily programmed. Flying inside giant asteroid caverns and through sun prominences looks incredible, but when traveling through a black hole and entering event horizons, special effects seem to pop of out nowhere. Tools of Destruction is extremely heavy on the visuals so these are small issues and do not take away from the game. But, they are noticeable and could use improvement. Oh well, there is always that inevitable sequel (or even that possible Jak & Daxter crossover).
In A Nutshell
Tools of Destruction is the first RC game I’ve played and I must say, I’m quite impressed. I’m a sucker for zany, yet deep characters and this platformer-meets-shooter provides an interesting mix of such, though I’m upset at the overall uselessness of Talwyn and her robot bodyguards. However, the game shunts itself from being greater than it is because of its heavy reliance on quirky, yet ridiculously powerful weapons and its crooked and unfocused storyline. It was cool battling Tachyon’s forces but those occurrences become few, paving the way for newer bad guys which would have worked better, if the story wasn’t so straightforward. This zigzagging hurts the game’s progression since it sort of tells the gamer, “It doesn’t matter who you’re fighting, just shoot it” and leaves actual thinking directed at switching to more effective weapons. There are mini-games such as dancing in a pirate-guise and driving around in some sort of mechanical ball, but they are short, time-wasting and rarely enjoyable. Sadly, gamers might buy Ratchet & Clank Future just to fill a collection and the game is honestly better than that… it’s just not exactly unique.
Soft textures and somewhat saturated art style create a overall beautiful game. Character animations are fluid and never robotic. Water effects are flat and disappointing and some space-flight suffer from random effects.
“Stunderwear!” Great comedic appeal in voices but music is hardly noticeable. Sound effects and music sometimes glitch and remain silent until a scene switches.
More shooter than platformer which would not be a bad thing if it posed a challenge. Mini-games and space-flights are not as fun and can be very distracting. The game has variety but tends not to use it.
Ultimately generic, but good nonetheless.