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Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction review

Excellent
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It's no secret that the PS3's been hurting for good exclusives lately. Lair was a flaming wreck, and Warhawk and Heavenly Sword - while mostly excellent - were greeted with what seemed like a collective shrug from critics. A lot of heavy expectations are riding on the shoulders of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, and although the game can't possibly meet them all, it certainly doesn't disappoint.

First off, here's what Ratchet & Clank Future isn't: it's not a revolutionary experience that'll make Xbox 360 owners claw out their own eyes in despair. It's not a roaring justification of the high cost of owning a PS3. What it is, though, is a beautiful, relentlessly entertaining shooty-platformer, and easily the best game in the Ratchet & Clank series thus far. Considering that Ratchet & Clank practically defined platform-hopping games during the PS2 era, that's saying a lot.

Fans put off by the combat-focused Ratchet: Deadlocked (Gladiator in the UK) will be glad to know that Ratchet & Clank Future marks a return to all the things that made the series great: free-roaming exploration, cinematic set-pieces and a huge variety of gadgets and explosive weaponry. Clank is back as well, returning to double duty as Ratchet's robot sidekick and propeller-equipped (or jet-equipped, if you prefer) backpack. Also returning is fast-talking idiot superhero Captain Qwark, who actually makes an effort to be somewhat helpful this time.

Although the gameplay feels familiar, developer Insomniac has promised that R&C Future will leave the Ratchet universe fundamentally changed. Part of this comes through gradually revealed details about Ratchet's cat-like, mechanically inclined species, the Lombaxes, of which he's the last. As it turns out, they've apparently been wiped out by Emperor Percival Tachyon, a vicious little alien with a Napoleon complex who runs half the galaxy and wants Ratchet dead. You know, for completion's sake.

If Ratchet intends to stay alive, he'll need to fight through armies of Tachyon's Drophyds (creatures that resemble oversized goldfish piloting giant robot suits), an entire armada of robot space pirates and a lot - a lot - of hostile wildlife. He'll eventually gather allies of his own, including an elf-looking explorer's daughter and her aging robot bodyguards, Cronk and Zephyr, who are patterned after the PS3 and Xbox 360, respectively. No, really. They crack jokes about it and everything.

Action-wise, the wrench-swinging, gun-toting, rail-grinding, chasm-hopping gameplay will be instantly familiar to fans of the series, although there are a few surprises - like an amazing-looking, Resident Evil 4-style over-the-shoulder aiming mode, and a flawless lock-on system.

The assortment of weapons you'll eventually have at your disposal is impressive, if not exactly staggering by the series' standards. There are 15 in all, ranging from standard blasters, fusion grenades and rocket launchers to more esoteric weapons, like a Tornado Launcher (with Sixaxis-controlled twisters) and Plasma Beasts, which act like goopy, living landmines. Each one can be upgraded through normal use, and can be additionally customized using Raritanium, an element that, despite its name, can be found all over the place.



Above: Ratchet disguises himself as a pirate, with lasers and everything

You'll also be able to wreak havoc with eight non-upgradable "devices," which include a swarm of deadly Slinkies (or "Death Springs"), a robot bodyguard named Mr. Zurkon, a bomb that turns enemies into adorable penguins and the Visi-Copter, a Sixaxis-controlled drone that fires missiles. And then there's the Groovitron, a truly badass device that makes every creature around it dance to familiar-sounding disco riffs while you whale on them with whatever guns you have handy.

Finally, you'll be able to bust out a small collection of nonviolent gadgets to help you negotiate the weird, alien landscapes you'll visit. These include always-on powerups like Gravity Boots (which stick to certain walls and ceilings), as well as a grappling hook, a Gelanator gun (which spits out gelatinous cubes you can bounce on to reach high places) and a pirate disguise that'll let you hobble around undetected and enter certain doors by dancing a Simon Says-style pirate jig.

You won't spend the entire game blasting through aliens and robots as Ratchet, of course. As in previous games, Clank sometimes has to set out on his own - although things are a little different for him this time around. Instead of commanding groups of toothy, lemming-like Clank-bots, he'll issue commands to the Zoni, a race of floating aliens that only he can see. Invisible or not, they're awfully good at blowing up enemies, and they're key to solving the simple puzzles Clank has to deal with. They'll also grant him certain powers later in the game, like the ability to sprout Robo-Wings, which enable Ratchet to fly using the Sixaxis motion controls.



Overall, Ratchet & Clank Future makes pretty good use of the tilt controls; they're not intrusive, and they're largely limited to things like free-falling, gliding and minigames, where it makes sense to use them. For example, the computer-hacking minigame involves tilting a circuit board to roll a ball around, using it to bridge gaps for a slow-moving spark, which feels completely natural. Even the Robo-Wing controls (which we slagged on in our last preview) have been fine-tuned to the point where controller-tilting doesn't feel awkward in the slightest. And if you still have a problem with any of that, you're free to turn the motion controls off altogether.

We'll even go so far as to say that Sixaxis controls might have improved the Starfox -y, on-rails space-combat sequences, which - while pretty - are way too slow and simple to be much more than a distraction from the main storyline. Three of the game's 18 levels are devoted to these set-pieces, and while they're kind of fun, Insomniac was apparently so concerned with making them accessible to newcomers that there isn't much challenge or excitement to them. Survival is just a matter of pasting everything that looks like a target with the right analog stick while keeping your ship drifting out of harm's way with the left. The option of using Panzer Dragoon-style cluster missiles makes things a little more interesting, but a greater sense of speed and a lot more enemies wouldn't have hurt, either. At least we could do barrel rolls.

Gameplay aside, it's the presentation of Ratchet & Clank Future that really floored us. The game looks amazing, with huge, busy environments and fluidly animated characters, and everything - from the lowliest enemy to Ratchet himself - comes with wildly expressive faces and behavioral tics. It's not just the visuals, either, as the game's plot is pulled rapidly along by tight writing, excellent voice acting and a genuinely funny script. That said, when viewed on a decent HDTV, this is easily one of the PS3's most stunning games, as well as  one of its most colorful; looks like there's more to next-gen visuals than bloom lighting and a million shades of brown, after all. 

For all its next-gen brilliance, however, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction doesn't really tamper much with the formula that made its PS2 predecessors great, and that's at once a relief and a disappointment. Ratchet & Clank Future isn't a revolution, but it is a marvelously kickass game that'll keep you entertained for hours as you plumb the depths of its huge levels, find creative ways to blow up its monsters and try to ferret out all its dozens of cleverly hidden items. This is the best the series has to offer, and that makes it a must-buy.

More Info

Release date: Oct 23 2007 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Insomniac
Franchise: Ratchet and Clank
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

We Recommend

5 comments

  • big000 - August 8, 2011 2:36 a.m.

    My no.1 RaC game
  • Zeos - July 26, 2011 9:26 p.m.

    Man I love these games.
  • jscriber100 - September 9, 2010 8:08 p.m.

    awsome!
  • bongon3399 - September 25, 2009 8:36 a.m.

    I had beat the game and beat the challenge mode( the extra mode which is exatelty the same but much harder) but then a ****ing friend deleted it because he was jealous. It is completely AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)
  • InnocentBud - July 18, 2009 7:51 p.m.

    wow. I'm first and I'm 1 1/2 years late. But this game is awesome

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