Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction
Insomniac’s second next-gen game -the superb shooter Resistance: Fall of Man being the first- marks a return to the platform genre. Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction doesn’t really reinvent the tried-and-true formula (ironically enough, it’s called Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction across the ocean), but tweaks it to absolute perfection. Platform lovers, this is the game you’ve been waiting for!
Tools of Destruction shares a lot of similarities with Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal -let’s just forget about the horrid Ratchet Gladiator, shall we?-.
It’s a very action-oriented title, with large chunks of item hoarding and platform jumping thrown in for good measure. The forgettable storyline starts out with Ratchet & Clank saving the ever-present Captain Quark from an army of robots and once more ends up with you saving the galaxy from total annihilation. Yes, we’ve heard it all before, but if you came here expecting a deep, intricate storyline with complicated character interdependencies, you should probably go back to playing Final Fantasy XII.
Of course, to save the universe, you need weapons and once again, that’s where Ratchet & Clank shines. You can gather and buy over fifteen different weapons, each one having five different upgrade levels.
As your weapon level increases (evidently, you do so by shooting them), your weapons grow more powerful. If you play the game a second time, you can even upgrade them to ‘omega’ weapons, which unlocks levels 6 to 10. New to this game are the ‘raritanium’ upgrades you can outfit your weapons with. Some upgrades increase range, damage while others unlock a special features (e.g. more lock-ons for your Raptor Launcher). It’s this upgrading element that gives Tools of Destruction such a large adictiveness rating, since you will be revisiting some levels, just to upgrade your arsenal.
Aside from the new weapons (there are some really cool ones, such as the ‘buzzer hive’, ‘alpha cannon’, ‘mag-net launcher’ or the powerful, Sixaxis-controlled ‘tornado launcher’), Ratchet & Clank can now use devices, which are basically gadgets you can use only once (of course, you can buy refills).
You have Mr. Zurkons, that follow you around and engage adversaries; ‘confuzzler gas’ that forces an enemy to attack his allies and even a disco ball that temporarily makes foes dance, so you can shoot them effortlessly. On the defensive side, you can buy armoured suits that reduce the ammount of damage taken. Though they’re quite expensive, they’re simply a must-have to survive the later levels.
While Tools of Destruction is by no means a hard game -far from it, really-, the last of couple of planets you’ll visit feature heavily armed soldiers that can reduce your health bar to zilch in mere seconds. Luckily, the game provides an ample supply of checkpoints, so you won’t have to replay huge parts of a level. After you’ve beaten the games final boss, you can replay the entire game in challenge mode.
You can keep all of your weapons (though they’re almost immediately obsolote, due to the omega upgrades) and armours, but the enemies are a lot more accurate and pack a larger punch. Hoewever, they still use the same predictable attack patters, so an average player won’t have too much trouble finishing them off. Still, once you’ve finished the game a second time (10 to 15 hours each), there isn’t much more you can do, as the online mode (which was introduced in R&C 3: Up Your Arsenal) has been left out. Nevertheless, 20 hours of excellent gameplay is much better than the average action game nowadays.
Next to hopping on platforms and shooting bad guys and monsters, you’ll also need to do a lot of puzzle-solving. This is where the motion-sensing controls of the Sixaxis controller come into play. To hack a computer system, you’ll have to guide electric current through a maze of conduits.
Whenever a conduit is interrupted, you have to tilt your controller to steer a metal ball into the gap until you reach the end of the maze. Another puzzle is where you have to use Clank’s new ‘robo-wings’ to fly through a series of hoops. By tilting he controller, you can adjust your glidepath. Another use of the Sixaxis is when you have to start a level with a HALO jump (high altitude, low oxygen), basically a mile-high free fall, where you have to shake the controller to evade incoming surface-to-air missiles. Once more, Sony’s own studios have proven that motion-sensing can really add a lot of enjoyment to a game. Nevertheless, if you just can’t seem to make it through a certain puzzle, you can always switch to analog controls. And for those of you planning to import a DualShock 3, the game reportedly supports rumble.
Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction is definitely a visual tour de force. It’s probably the most colourful game ever and it looks great in SD and even better in HD. The game’s lighting is very atmospheric and even manages to further enhance the impact of the many vivid colours. The levels are very different from one another, be it a city under siege, an asteroid belt where you have to hunt huge beasts, or even a huge lava world. But probably the most impressive levels are the ones that take place in outer space while you’re flying your spaceship and shooting all the enemy craft that are gunning for you. During all this eyecandy, the framerate is rock-solid and never dips. The sound effects are equally great, but, like in the previous games, it’s the voicework that stands out. Captain Quark and Clank constantly spill funny or ironic one-liners that give this game a unique edge.
There it is, ladies and gentlemen, the first truly great first-party PS3 title of this year’s holiday season. Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction is funny, plays like a charm, looks awesome and has a lot of variety to boot. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also pretty lengthy. Okay, so it’s not the world’s most innovative game, but sometimes you couldn’t care less.