Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

Continuing through the Ratchet & Clank series in anticipation of Sly 4, we come to Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, released in 2007. It is the first game in what is known as the Future Trilogy, as well as the first Ratchet & Clank game released for the PS3. For the first next-gen game in this series, I would say that it's really well done, though a minor problem arose during play.

On the planet Kerwan, Ratchet is fixing up a hoverbike when Clank gets a distress signal from Captain Qwark, who is under attack by a swarm of heavily-armed robots. They try to reach him through the hoverbike, but crash before fighting their way to Qwark's base. Once there, the duo finds out that the robots are actually trying to eliminate Ratchet, and try to escape. However, they are stopped by the robot army and learn that they are being controlled by Emperor Percival Tachyon, leader of the Cragmite race, who's goal is to wipe out all Lombaxes for eradicating his kind. However, Ratchet escapes before Tachyon can finish the job. As the last Lombax in the universe, Ratchet must defeat the Emperor, also the last of the Cragmites, with help from some friends he meets along the way. Meanwhile, Clank comes into contact with a mysterious group of aliens called the Zoni, who seem to know more about the future than one might anticipate.

The new characters introduced in this installment are pretty enjoyable and not annoying, though it was also nice to see some old faces every so often. I also felt the new female lead, Talwyn Apogee, seemed fairly well-rounded, complimented by some amazing work from her voice actress, Tara Strong (she recently lent her voice to Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City). However, that is not to say the rest of the voice acting isn't great, as everyone gave a solid performance overall. While I'm on the sound side of things, I should also compliment the music, which is just as engaging as ever, including an entertaining bit of music from a new gadget, the Groovitron.

Speaking of which, there's a plethora of new weapons and gadgets to use in this game, in fact so much that the Quick Select is now divided into three rings instead of two. Switching between these rings is much easier than in Deadlocked, since it utilizes the shoulder buttons to go through them really quickly. Like in previous games your arsenal can level up over time, though here the maximum Level is back to 5. There is a system similar to the Mods in Deadlocked present through a vendor, but this time it can be used to upgrade various aspects of your weapons, including Ammo capacity, Bolt drops, and Raritanium drops among others, the latter of which is used for the upgrades in the first place. One of my favorite items to use was a robot called Mr. Zurkon, who can be very handy in taking down tougher enemies while hilariously delivering trash talk (one of my favorites is where he compares a target's fighting to "an infant bird-fly").

An interesting addition to the gameplay is the way that the DualShock 3 controller is utilized. Using the Sixaxis functionality of the controller, you can perform actions such as cutting through rock by moving the controller in the desired direction. Fortunately, if there is a point where this becomes too hard to handle, you are given the option to use an analog stick instead for the rest of the game.

The graphics are amazing for an earlier PS3 title, and the physics are actually improved upon, if only in a more minor, yet noticeable sense. Crates this time are smaller and have more weight compared to previous games, in that if you manipulate them in certain ways they will fall over as opposed to just dropping down. While this might cause you to lose a crate if you aren't too careful around gaps, it's still very impressive to behold. When you visit some planets throughout your journey, since there is more texture it's interesting to think of it as Ratchet placed in a modern video game setting, as well as the subtle contrast it creates.

I've brought up the checkpoint system in previous games, and the qualities of it seem to work the same way here. However, this is not the minor problem I mentioned before, since I've learned to expect this sort of thing from a Ratchet & Clank game. The aforementioned problem is actually an instance where the sound in one cutscene went out of synch for whatever reason. Aside from that incident, the synchronization was perfect throughout the game.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a nice step forward for the Ratchet & Clank series. It has many great improvements to the formula, the graphics are still stunning after a few years, and there are plenty of strong performances all around. The story also is very engaging and leaves on an interesting cliffhanger. If you are a Ratchet & Clank fan, this is one game you don't want to miss.

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