Ratchet and Clank has been a staple of Sony’s lineup for some time now, and the deep relationship with developers Insomniac Games only bringing the richest of fruits to eager PlayStation owners, especially on the PS3 with the amazing launch title Resistance: Fall of Man. For anyone unfamiliar with the adventures of the friendly Lombax and his metallic chum, the series of third-person platform/shooters that started on the PS2 tell an ever evolving tale focused on Ratchet, the central character, and his exploits that consistently require interplanetary space travel from planet to planet before meeting that game’s particular main boss.
They’ve always been enjoyable, solid titles, and with an engine borrowed from stablemates Jak and Daxter Insomniac were always free to go wild with weapons, gadgets, enemies and environments way beyond other similar games. Tools of Destruction doesn’t stray too far from the formula, keeping many familiar faces and items that fans will appreciate more than newcomers (although completion of earlier games is not required) and starts with a rudely interrupted vacation for the eponymous heroes before ascending into an epic one Lombax war against the worst the universe has to offer whilst learning much about himself along the way.
The key to the Ratchet and Clank series is a beautifully tuned blend of traditional platforming and straight-up shooting, with a good dose of exploration and puzzle solving thrown in for good measure. The worlds you visit in Tools of Destruction are massive in scope and littered with secret locations and hidden treasures – certainly enough to warrant further exploration once the option to backtrack to earlier planets is unlocked, and all feature this magical mixture of solid gameplay with plenty of surprises and twists to be found in amongst the familiar.
Starting out with the most basic of weapons, including Ratchet’s famous wrench, players will come across not only another 30 fabulous weapons and strange devices but will also have to make choices regarding powering up said arsenal – the game has a number of currencies but it’s Raritanium metal that opens up the multi-route upgrade paths. Players can focus on making any weapon fire faster, hold more ammo or do more damage, and work towards combinations of all three if you can fund the various machines dotted around each planet, and this is in addition to the normal experience point based bolstering of all the weapons as you use them in combat.
Ratchet can also use devices, which are different from the traditional projectile based weapons in that they might not always directly damage enemies, but some, like the Groovitron, temporarily stun your opponents in the most amusing way possible, but we’ll not spoil the surprises. Zelda-like physical upgrades like boost trainers and a hover ability come during the normal course of the storyline too, should you wish to hunt them out, and there are also on-rails sections and various other interludes to keep the gameplay fresh. Clank also has his own portions within the game and this time also has his own subplot involving the mysterious Zonis (who Ratchet cannot see).
The controls are as tight as can be given the ever evolving missions and movesets, with fully configurable camera options and two distinct methods of movement – one the age-old left stick to move and the second, a better strafe-based alternative which suits the third person shooting sections much better – players are free to switch between both at leisure. The interface is further enhanced with almost zero load times (with fully streaming worlds), generous respawn points, automatic saving and entirely user switchable weapon bays: the game pauses when you hold triangle (much like Resistance did with R2) while you select the required weapon from the circular pop-ups. Insomniac have done everything possible to make your time with their game as pleasurable as possible. And then there’s the graphics.
Visually, Ratchet and Clank on the PS3 is an absolute marvel. Not only does it run at 60 frames a second, with high resolution textures and incredible animation, but the world around you is so busy with passing spacecraft, wildlife and distant buildings that at first glance it really does look like a Pixar movie. This isn’t just hyperbole – this is an amazing, convincing, alive looking game – it’s easily the finest aesthetics this generation so far, across all consoles. The sound production is also just as solid, with vibrant spot effects and some great epic music throughout, and the voice acting is spot on (and genuinely funny). Insomniac have created the poster child for what Sony’s console can do.
It’s actually pretty damned impossible to fault Tools of Destruction on any level: this is the epitome of platforming excellence. Sure, you might not appreciate the difficulty level (the game never really reaches challenging) but that’s not the point – there’s much more to do once the final boss is down and bemoaning the lack of multiplayer is only as much of a problem as it was for Bioshock: none. No PS3 owner, no matter how much they think they only play sports games, racing games or tactical shooters should miss out on this beautifully conceived masterpiece. Absolutely stunning.