Monday, March 23, 2009

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

I've had a bit of a soft spot for the Ratchet and Clank series. Its innovative take on the platforming and 3rd person shooter genres has earned it a place as one of the most coveted game series on Sony's side of the console war. I also like Insomniac, which right now is probably one of the most experienced Ps3 developers, having made several games for it already.

Ratchet and Clank Future gives the feeling of taking the series back to its early days (the first one and Going Commando), when the ridiculous weaponry was the focus of the game, despite the "Future" part of the game. In Tools of Destruction, weapons and gadgets again are at the fore point, both in the story and in the gameplay.

For the unitiated, Ratchet and Clank has always been known for two things. 1) Its wacky and exotic weaponry (from morph rays that turn enemies into barn animals to grenades that force enemies to stop and dance, to an almighty weapon of mass destruction that destroys everything on screen. I'm looking at you, RYNO and Zodiac). 2)Its tongue in cheek, laugh out loud humor. The two work together well to create a genuinely amusing game that will often have you chuckling, be it at a joke the battle arena announcer made, or to the quirkiness of your arsenal.

Returning to the earlier mentioned point of R&C Future being a reminder of the series' roots, the story explores Ratchet's heritage. You may or may not have wondered why main character Ratchet is the only Lombax ever encountered in the series thus far, but its the main plot hook here. This question is quickly brought to his and Clank's attention when he is attacked by the evil tyrant Percival (lol, Percival) Tachyon, who for some reason really has a bone to pick with Lombaxes. The game goes on to unravel a chunk of the Lombaxes' history, making for a surprisingly meaty plot that left me wanting more. However, its obvious a sequel is intended, as some major plot points are never truly expanded on (the Zoni, most notably), and one of the characters disappears at the end.

If you've played any of the other Ratchet and Clank games, you know what to expect. The game continues to build on the formula that has been at the core of every previous game in the series. You'd think that what is basically a largely enhanced version of the exact same type of gameplay found in the first game would have gotten stale by now, but it hasn't. Insomniac has recycled some weapons here and there (such as the Nano-Swarmers, a rehash of the mini-turret glove from Up Your Arsenal), but few of the weapons feel old or uninteresting, and all have their uses. The upgrade system returns in full force, as not only do your weapons level up with use (they can also be upgraded to lv10 in subsequent playthroughs like in Up Your Arsenal), but they can be upgraded even further through vendors. Using raritanium shards you pick up like bolts during play, you can buy various special effects for your weapons such as extra power and range, or better bolt/raritanium drops, culminating in a final, unique special effect that is available once all surrounding upgrades are purchased. In other words, this means your weapons will only get more powerful as you use them. Also making a return is the health level up system, that steadily levels you up as you progress through the game, giving you a larger repository of health each time. I like this system, as it means that no matter how tough enemies may be, you know you'll eventually be tough enough to take them on, and roll with the punches.

A new addition to your arsenal are Devices, side weapons that aren't upgradeable, but still useful in the right situation. The afore-mentioned Groovitron is a pretty little grenade that releases disco balls all around the immediate area. Of course, enemies can't help but stop and dance to the beat, leaving them vulnerable to your attacks. Then there's my favorite, Mr. Zurkon, a smack-talking bot that taunts your enemies while shooting them up. He serves as your temporary bodyguard, and I think he's one of the funniest parts of the game. These are just a couple among several other available Devices.

While the soundtrack is most definitely better this time around than it has been in awhile (my favorite is the score that plays during the beginning of the game, when Kerwan is being invaded), the art style remains relatively the same. Really this game is the very definition of the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Unfortunately the game lacks any sort of multiplayer, but, maintaining the series tradition, there's a lot of stuff to still be done after you beat the game. There's still the almighty RHYNOIV to hunt down, Omega weapons to be had, various classic cheats (HUGE head mode, anyone?), artwork and stuff like that to be unlocked, and gold bolts to be found. Having been released way before the Trophy system was implemented, there are none, but like Insomniac's other game Resistance: Fall of Man, there is an internal achievement system in the way of skill points. Overall, its a game most Ps3 owners should at least try, and Ratchet and Clank fans simply must have. A 9.0/10.

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