Rachet and Clank, Tools of Destruction: A Review
A change for the better
For some reason I've never really managed to get involved nor be wholly impressed by any addition to the Ratchet and Clank series, even though it stays true to platform traditions (for the first few games) as well as be the first platform game with such a variety of weapons, gadgets and tools. Perhaps it's because after seeing Spyro being passed onto different developers by Universal Interactive Studios (Damn you, Cerny!), I'd had little faith in Insomniac Games. I also felt betrayed, but have come to terms that even though this is from the same company that made the first three Spyro games, it most likely didn't have the same team.
And yet I've always found myself being sucked into Insomniac products like a black hole, and after playing titles such as Resistance, I've restored a lot of faith in them. After a few short moments of playing the game I wasn't doing it because I had to; I was doing it because I wanted to, and played for a good four hours straight. That's not entirely impressive for just any Gamer, but for someone who had an epiphany about this series, it's quite good. All my complaints, all my murmurings about the player base harming the genre together with the direction the games were headed have been removed completely. I've got a clear head, and a sack of games to trade in for the next two additions to the Ratchet and Clank Future trilogy!
"However if you take your combat seriously, you'll see many victories by simply using your wrench and a disco ball."
Just as a side note....
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools for Destruction is the same game without the word "future" in its title, so regardless of if you're in an NTSC or PAL region, you're getting the same amount of content. Many people have asked in PAL regions if this game is the same as the aforementioned one, but all Future means is it's the start of a new trilogy.
The Future trilogy begins with Tools of Destruction, so it doesn't talk about older antagonists like before, nor can you bring in stats like you could on the PS2 version of the game (so you could carry weapon upgrades from RaC 2 to the next game in the series). The other two parts are Quest for Booty, a once-download-exclusive title but now fairly cheap in retail, and Crack in Time.
I'd recommend that anyone new to the series starts either with this game or the first simply titled Ratchet and Clank, the reason being because others change radically and don't depict the gameplay at its finest. The earliest game and the Future trilogy (see the side note to the right) focus more on platform and adventure rather than action and weaponry, making the game far more creative than others which were mostly dark and their themes often grim; something this franchise simply doesn't suit. Another reason being because this is one of the most visually impressive platform games around (I know I say that far too much), and considering the frame rate is a good 60-80 a second, that further increases the graphical appeal. Oh, and there's too many particle effects to be wowed by.
The player character is a Lombax by the name of Ratchet, who is an expert mechanic and unsung saviour of the universe. He starts the first game on his own for a short while before coming across robot companion Clank (though that's not his real name), adding not just more depth to the gameplay but also a lot of clever dialogue. Whilst Ratchet does most of the physical work, Clank is the brains of the duo as well as the most innovative, for he can transform himself into a helicopter backpack, storage device, hand-glider and many more things I've yet to see. The Lombax people were wiped out in something called the Great War and this isn't a theme that's covered fully until Tools of Destruction, and it goes to show that not all of them were dim-witted but rather proud, curious and inventive people. But they still retain a lot of stupidity and risk-taking, in a similar fashion to the Goblins of the Warcraft universe.
The story is all about trying to find out what the Lombax Secret was, a weapon that managed to destroy most of the Cragmite population. If you don't know what a cragmite is, join the club, because there's so many different races and species in this vast universe. The Emperor Percival Tachyon ("his name is PERCIVAL?!") is the main antagonist and has come to lay waste upon every planet to become ruler of the galaxy, and will go to extreme lengths to utterly destroy the last remaining Lombax. There's tonnes of depth to this story and I've given you only the bare bones, but when you play this series for yourself you'll see exactly why Ratchet and Clank is king in story.
To truly understand Ratchet and Clank, one doesn't just have to see gameplay images but play it for oneself. No video in the world is going to be half as immersive or as satisfying as putting the pad in your hand and giving the game a try, hence why many people tend to start an argument about this game by saying "first off, I've not actually played Ratchet and Clank". It's easy to say this game killed the platform genre with its reliance on heavy weaponry, but to believe it after becoming immersed is undeniably hard. The meat of the gameplay and it's biggest selling point is the weapons, each of which haven't necessarily gotten bigger but they have gotten better. The game goes for a "right tool for the job" approach, making each weapon have its strengths and weaknesses in certain scenarios.... in theory. In practice, you end up with a load of weapons that are completely imbalanced and only have one thing that separates them from each other. I'm not saying this is bad, but if it weren't for levelling up weapons (this is how Fable 3 should've done things), the game would've been dull. I mean, the Shard Ravager is great but the only reason why you'd want to swap it out is because you're out of ammo, not because you're bored blasting foes to smithereens.
Ratchet and Clank boasts approximately 30 different usable items, most of which you won't or can't use until certain situations. As good as having 15 weapons is, the only two I use are the Incinerator and the raritanium shotgun, though that's not to say I never use anything outside of those in certain situations. In this game you have grenades, rocket launchers, napalm launchers and an array of living weapons such as plasma beasts (which attack anyone nearby, except the player) and a swarm of wasps to ravage enemies. You also have access to multiple gadgets but rarely will you use these; they're non-lethal support weapons that distract enemies or turn them against each other, maybe even attack a decoy so you can run off. But rarely do I find use for these, making for another wasted opportunity in Ratchet and Clank. However if you take your combat seriously, you'll see many victories by simply using your wrench and a disco ball.
What makes the weapons far more interesting is upgrades, a system that was introduced in the second game of the 'original' series. There's two ways to upgrade weapons, the first being to use them in combat. As you kill enemies around the many worlds to explore, your weapons will increase in level, or "version" as the game likes to call it. This is only a small boost to your weapon's firepower but it's free and something to look forward to in combat. When the weapon reaches the final version of 5, it changes aesthetically as well as its functionality. The best upgrades come from weapon vendors, who will sell different kinds of upgrades in a fancy talent tree system such as increased duration of DoTs (damage over time), improved rate of fire, greater ammunition capacity and generally more damage. When you've bought all the talents in the tree you can unlock a new special ability, but this is most likely a damage over time effect after each shot is fired and hits. For these upgrades you'll need raritanium, which can be found in large crystal clusters, or in tough enemies. You can also find it randomly on weaker foes provided the weapon you use has the raritanium-finding upgrade. Talk about economising!
"I'm glad that Insomniac took advantage of it (SIXAXIS) though, and any company that does gets points from me. If it works, that's even better."
But each time Ratchet and Clank brings something awesome to the table, there's always other scraps of gameplay that's never full explored. Take for example the features, such as the hamster-ball.... bike... thing...., or the glider (which doesn't give as much freedom as one hopes) or the 'hacking' mini-game or even my personal favourite Heli-pods. Even though you'll like these features very early on when they first appear, they either become disinteresting or a joyous treat because it takes hours before you encounter them again. There's little consistency when it comes to the eye-popping flight stages, boss battles or just little, insignificant things like using your rotor blades to cross a chasm or playing as Clank temporarily. It's a shame because what this game does in all of these departments it does well, though in a game like this it's hard to make use of them all without it looking like busywork.
Your main collectables are nuts and bolts, used to buy armour upgrades and firearms, as well as Raritanium to purchase upgrades. The Leviathan Souls which come from, you guessed it, Leviathans is uncommon and not needed. Unless there were more Leviathans in each level so you could collect their souls, rather than just parts where you can't pass until you kill the conveniently nearby located ones, I don't see the need for such currency. These creatures are huge and take a lot of stopping power, but their tactics are few, involving mostly strafing and carpet bombing your location. Early on they take some doing and on more than a single occasion will you require your wrench to finish them off. But as time goes by you learn their tricks and get easier with weapon upgrades. I wish I could say the same about the general enemies of this game.
One of the biggest misconceptions about this game is that it's apparently aimed at children, but this is not the case. Not only are there a few vulgar words thrown about and LOTS of innuendo, the difficulty is where the argument is proven wrong. Ratchet and Clank isn't a tough a game as some have made it out to be and if I'm perfectly honest the challenge is fair to some extent. Most enemies will spawn in gigantic numbers so you'll need plenty of firepower and freedom of movement to take them down, and the fewer enemies that spawn implies that they have some tricks up their sleeves. Some are electrified, so you can't touch them; some have heavy armour or temporary invincibility; some just have strong weapons and others never ending health pools, and there's so much more to enemies than just that. You have to see for yourself to believe me.
But where this game once again trips up is how much damage the tiniest of critters can do, and it makes me question the purpose of armour other than aesthetics (you can't change armour by the way). The current armour I have reduces all damage by 40%, but enemies can hit me once for 7 points of damage, and my total health is 45 hit points. If I hadn't purchased armour, imagine how much they could do to me. Not to mention the monstrous price tag for such protection, which is far more than most items in the game (100,000 nuts and bolts). Even though getting bolts is fairly easily, that amount in one go is fairly tough, especially when ammo prices increase rapidly as the game progresses. With a few more tweaks to enemies and the player levelling system (kill enemies, get XP, get more HP without even noticing) I'm sure this could get much better marks from me.
The platforming side of this game is quite possibly the best side, but because of how fun the combat is, it's quite hard to say. Not only does Tools of Destruction keep up with the times, it also adds a few more things as well as tweaks those which haven't worked before. Whatever Spyro: A Hero's Tail and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex did, Ratchet and Clank does miles better. Vehicles are fewer than the aforementioned titles but they're so much more satisfying here. Riding around on a hover bike through lava refineries, gliding with the robot wings through the dinosaur infested lands (which remind me heavily of the Primal Zerg in StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm) and soaring through the air gunning down the pirate armies of Cap'n Slag in a space fighter is so much more fluent and engaging than scripted jeep races and uncontrollable hamster-ball rides from Wrath of Cortex. Remember the fun you had with the tank in A Hero's Tail? I don't.
I'm also going to commend the swimming controls because this is something many games fail to make either tolerable or appealing. Yet here I've often found myself craving water, and with the removal of need for oxygen (as you get a mask to help breath and see underwater), it's all the better. The only game I've found that has done it properly even to this day is Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer, as not only can you swim fairly easily and charge, but temporary power ups help you blast fireballs underwater too. Very fancy, if I may say so myself. Even though Tools for Destruction doesn't have weapons underwater, there's no need for them, and I can only imagine them being a burden if enemies were added to cater to them.
Another thing that some players will love is the SIXAXIS, the gyro-thingy that's in the Playstation 3's controller, in a similar fashion to the Nintendo 3DS. This allows you to control Ratchet in free fall, the little metal ball in the hacking mini-game and the tornado launcher, but like every other game with SIXAXIS, it doesn't work as well as it's supposed to. This is the reason why Lair - the dragon flight simulator & shooter - was so poorly received, though thankfully here you have the option to toggle SIXAXIS control off. I'm glad that Insomniac took advantage of it though, and any company that does so gets points from me. If it works, that's even better.
If Ratchet and Clank has done one thing right throughout the entire series, it's the graphics. There's no telling how good Insomniac's art teams can get because their attention to detail with character models and environments is astounding. Tools of Destruction is no exception to the graphics engine's endless capabilities and once again amaze with stunning worlds and races to look at. No land is ever copied, and each of the different monsters and robots you'll come across have a story within that needs only to be probed before it contributes stacks and bagful's to the game's universe. The particle effects deserve a mention also, providing some of the wildest explosions, flames and globules of goo flying around the screen like a truck filled with volatile rainbows. This is most certainly aces in my books.
Still, I wish I could say the same for the game's soundtrack, and the only tracks that caught my attention were those of the pirate levels such as Planet Ardolis and the Kreeli Comet (below). Apart from those songs, most had just been reminiscent of previous Ratchet and Clank games. While not as 'plinky-plonky' as Jinx, the music of this addition to the series isn't for everyone.
On a Quest for Booty
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction gets a hulking NINE out of NINE from me, as well as the Painting in Motion accolade for its picturesque environments. Not only did this series give great impressions to someone who absolutely hated the franchise for reasons unknown, it also started a new chapter in the R&C series that is sure to keep those who played this game following the next two. With any luck Insomniac Games will continue to develop the Ratchet and Clank series with platform gaming in mind, rather than shooters and tower defence (see Gladiator and Q-Force). If there's anything this game could improve on, it's just the features it throws in but doesn't fully explain, and playing as Clank more often would be a treat. Until the next time I thank you for reading, and have a pleasant day!
Oh, and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below! I'd love to hear what you have to say about Tools of Destruction!
Once again, Ratchet and Clank brings platforming back to its former glory, and adds/refines many features that were broken beyond belief before.
Tools of Destruction is a good 20-30 hours 'clocked' time (/played), and gives so much to do even when you're not on the main quest!
The control is fluent and responsive, albiet a bit too fluent at times and it's easy to die due to the sensitivity.
Phenominal environments that capture Insomniac's art teams' capabilities, as well as make the R&C universe all the more interesting.
The tracks you hear and take notice of, particularly those where Cap'n Slag's armies are around, are awesome, but don't expect too much from them.
Even though this game is awesome many might not play it again due to the entire length, and doesn't leave much reason to be returned to. Get the other two in the trilogy instead.