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Ratchet and Clank - Tools of Destruction Review 66

In an era where games are increasingly complex, sometimes it's important get back to your roots. For the Wii and the PlayStation 3, just closing out their first year of launch life, this holiday season is a time to set down standards and 'classic' titles for the system. This week sees the release of Mario Galaxy for the Wii, and a few weeks back Sony's own platforming mascot made his next-gen debut in Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction. For better or worse, the PS3 launched without a Ratchet and Clank title last year. It was well worth the wait. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction is pure, uncomplicated fun. It's easily the best game I've played yet on the PlayStation 3 and is essentially a new classic for anyone with Sony's next-gen console. Read on for my impressions of a back-to-basics title that looks better than every other platformer you've ever played.
  • Title:Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction
  • Developer/Publisher: Insomniac/SCEA
  • System: PS3
  • Genre: Futuristic Action Platformer
  • Score: 4/5: This game is above average, and excels in the genre it supports. A classic for the console, likely to be a part of every PS3 owner's collection, and well worth a look for every gamer.
The setup for this adventure is ... direct, to say the least. Ratchet is working on his hover-bike with his robot companion Clank, when the 'galactic hero' Captain Quark (think Zap Brannigan in a green lycra suit) calls with a small problem: there's an armada invading the planet. One crashed hoverbike later and the twosome is knee-deep in robotic assailants. It's quick, it's to the point, and the story has a 'bash heads, sort it out later' approach that gets you into the actual game refreshingly quickly. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is a bit more muddled. The overarching plot deals with the disappearance of Ratchet's race (the Lombax) and the machinations of the madman Emperor Tachyon. There are some interesting elements to the story, but it's told in sort of a fuzzy way and the payoff at the end isn't entirely satisfying. Still, for a smash n' grab 3D platformer, it's surprisingly deep. If you want further details on the story there are NPCs throughout the game that will give you more background on Ratchet's world. Or not, if you just want to get to the next action piece.

As with most platformers, of course, the plot is really just an excuse to get you from point A to B. As Ratchet you'll be destroying enemies across a variety of planets and settings in a well-realized 3D world. There are a number of jumping/platforming elements, but you're equipped with a number of tools that make the gameplay easily approachable. There are also a few simple puzzles to tackle, but none of them will take more than a few moments to solve. These run and jump sections are also broken up by 'rail grinding' segments that have you following a fixed course, moving from track to track to avoid obstacles. There are also a few vehicle segments, including repeated space-shooter sequences. Both of these elements are well-integrated into the flow of gameplay, and feel completely at home in Ratchet's futuristic world. The shooting elements didn't do much for me fun-wise, but they didn't detract from the experience either.

Combat, pure and simple, is where you'll be having most of your fun. As you're jumping and dodging from place to place you'll be fighting a number of different enemy types. The colorful, creative enemies you'll be facing are only matched in number by the true hallmark of Ratchet games: the weapons. Though you start with just grenades, a pea-shooter laser weapon, and your trusty wrench, there are a galaxy of different destructive devices to find, purchase, and upgrade throughout the game. This never gets old. You're constantly tweaking weapons with the resource rareitanium to improve their powers, or deliberately using certain weapons to level them up through experience. That dinky pea-shooter becomes an impressive hand-cannon, and it's joined by laser whips, rocket launchers, tornado machines, spike guns, gel-tossers, saw-flingers, and a vicious nano-swarm machine that takes your enemies apart atom by atom. Each of these can be modified in the same way as the pea-shooter, with special 'ultimate' modifications if you completely upgrade them. Leveling them up is as simple as using them in combat, and also leads to a transformation after you get in enough 'dings'. These destructive toys are joined by a series of ingenious devices that assist you in more supportive roles. There's a leech bomb that restores your life, a grappling hook, stunning gas, and a grenade that turns your opponents into penguins. There's also the groovitron, famously demonstrated in the trailers for this game, that forces your enemies to dance for your amusement. At least, till you cut them down where they stand. It sounds gimmicky hearing about it, and you may feel like you're burdened with an overabundance of choice, but this system really pays off. Like all of the side-elements to the game, upgrading and leveling your weapons is completely optional. If you don't want to bother, just pick the one or two that you like the best and exclusively use those. The game will let you know if you're using a weapon ineffectively, and switching items is as quick as hitting a button.

The whole time you're combatting your foes with these weapons, you'll be collecting the bolts that fly from their destroyed forms. That's just one of the currencies and collectibles you can find throughout the game, along with giant bolts, the aforementioned rareitanium, special devices, hidden weapons, and even achievements. Ratchet and Clank is one of the first PS3 games to feature an achievements-like system, called skill points. Skill points have been in Ratchet games for some time now, and unlike many Xbox 360-style achievements, these actually do take skill to complete. Earning them can allow you to unlock behind-the-scenes videos and other goodies, making them worth even more than the static gamerscore points. For those who enjoy collecting, there are tons of hidden areas and squirreled away treasures to keep you busy. And (most enjoyably) none of these things are requirements for the game to continue. All the core devices and contraptions you need to complete the game are given to you over the course of the story. Everything else, all the upgrades and extras, are just icing on the cake.

It plays great, and there's a story worth listening to, but over the course of the hours required to complete the game you're going to want to look at something pretty, right? In this, Ratchet is a pure win. Heavenly Sword may be more detailed, and Gears of War may be grittier, but Ratchet and Clank has a pristine cartoon beauty that is unmatched by any other title currently available. The PS3's processing power results in sweeping animated vistas and incredible cartoon villains. Explosions, special effects, and weapon damage all cause suitable on-screen mayhem ... and that's not even counting the occasional dancing robot. The best sections to demonstrate the game's graphical prowess are the rail grinders, where you can really take the time to look around and appreciate the beautiful scenery. Graphics aren't everything, of course, but in an action-focused title that focuses so much on transitory fun it's amazing to see the level of detail Insomniac has brought to this game.

I do have a few minor quibbles beyond the story's conclusion. The camera is occasionally frustrating, as happens in most 3D platfomers. It's particularly frustrating in situations where they steal camera control from you, as most of the time they allow you to be your own camera-man. By the same token, they occasionally throw in a sixaxis-controlled moment; falling out of the sky, you dodge rockets with the controller. Or, you move a laser between fixed points by tilting around the room. They seem sort of thrown-in and afterthoughty. Despite that ... they actually work. You can really control your falling Lombax or the cutting laser, and so these moments are quickly passed by.

In fact, the whole game will seem to pass by quickly, but that's not a bad thing. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction is an amazingly entertaining experience. It has plenty of elements to keep you occupied while you're busting heads along the way, and once you're done with the game there's a great deal of replay value to keep you coming back. This title is the ultimate expression of the Ratchet franchise, and the folks at Insomniac should feel pretty darn proud of themselves for what they've brought to PlayStation 3 owners: uncomplicated fun. Uncomplicated by tiresome stories, muddy grey-green textures, unlikeable characters, or burdensome sixaxis controls, Ratchet and Clank is easily the most fun game I've played yet on my PS3.
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Ratchet and Clank - Tools of Destruction Review

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  • Homebrew (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:09PM (#21326513)
    "In an era where games are increasingly complex, sometimes it's important get back to your roots. "

    Pong! But seriously I'd like to see low cost dev tools for the previous console generations. Right now you have to jump through hoops to do homebrew development.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      M$'s XNA [microsoft.com] is cheap (free) and works rather well. You just have to get used to coding in C# and working with DirectX (for the XBox). The compiler [microsoft.com] is even free. Sure, it's not a complete Visual Studio, but it has a lot of the goodies.

      This being slashdot, I know a lot of people shun M$ software and the XBox as well, but it is a decent platform and you can make games on the cheap. I'm actually working with a friend on a homebrew XBox 360 version of Crossbows and Catapults [boardgamegeek.com].

      • Free? Don't you mean $100/year? But maybe I'm assuming too much by thinking you'd actually want to play it on the console. Not to mention that it's $100/year for everyone who would want to play your stuff.
    • DASM [atari2600.org] and batariBasic [bataribasic.com] are freely available for coding Atari 2600/VCS games.

      The freely available emulator Stella [sourceforge.net] has a really nice integrated debugger that really helps figuring out issues.

      And you can even get your 2600/VCS game published! AtariAge has a 58 homebrew games [atariage.com], including my homebrew Medieval Mayhem [spiceware.org], an updated version of Warlords.

      Coding for the Atari is a challenge - 4K of ROM(though bank switching can be used to exceed that), 128 bytes of RAM(not K, not M, just bytes), no video memory - your pro
  • A game called "Tools of Destruction" for Wii. Why does that sound so cool and expensive at the same time?
    • Unfortunately, Ratchet & Clank are wholly owned by Sony.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Insomniac Games wasn't wholly owned by Sony, too...
      • by antek9 ( 305362 )
        Honestly? You wouldn't if it wasn't? You should watch your grammar more closely, it's playing tricks on you again. ;)
  • Wife friendly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:22PM (#21326667) Homepage
    It's the first console game my wife has ever actually enjoyed.

    I think it's the combination of being pretty and the fact that it's a very easy & fun game to play. The death penalty is minor and it's fairly easy to kill the enemies.
  • Make sure you go out and rent/buy the first four Ratchet & Clank games for the PS2 and play them to completition. They are by far some of the best games for the PS2 platform. While your at it, pick up the game for the PSP and play through it as well.
    • Rachet and Clank 1 was one of the first games for the ps2 that showed what the platform could truly do. Before then, people spouted that the ps2 was crap, the DC far superior, etc.

      After it, and Jak 1, they shut up. Not only was the gameplay solid, but grpahically it was a dream. One of the first major hits for the console as well.

      Tools is in the same boat really. It's one of the best, if not the best, looking and playing games on the console right now. Everything it does it does well, even the si

      • by Tyger ( 126248 )
        From what I understand (Not having a dual shock 3) some launch games have dual shock support as well, they just didn't advertise it because the dual shock 3 didn't publicly exist at the time.
        • by aikouka ( 932902 )
          From what I've heard, the plan is to add rumble support to these older games like Motorstorm, but they currently do not have rumble support.
  • This was my first R&C game. The last platform game I actually played was Crash Bandicoot on the original Playstation. I bought the game late Friday night and got hooked into the story (even though I had no other R&C background). It's not a complex story. It's simple (and somewhat predictable), but it was the characters that kept me intrigued. They're likable and memorable.

    It ended up being a pretty short and easy game. I played the game all day the following Saturday and finished it the first
    • I loved the games so much i named one of our cats ratchet and one of our ferrets clank. His show name is Dr nefarious :D.. Great fun games and the first game my gf ever finished without cheating.
      • My GF (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tony ( 765 )
        I loved the games so much i named one of our cats ratchet and one of our ferrets clank. His show name is Dr nefarious :D.. Great fun games and the first game my gf ever finished without cheating.

        My faves of all time.

        My GF loves the game. My wife, on the other hand, hates them.
      • I loved the games so much i named one of our cats ratchet and one of our ferrets clank.
        So now, just upgrade to where you can strap the ferret on the cat's back so they can use the jetpack! Then you can get to the higher platforms. :) --The FNP
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hint: play through the levels FAST without collecting all the secret stuff and the difficulty will ramp up considerably. The difficulty ramps up depending on the duration of playing the levels. Enemies that were easy on a slow playthrough will become insanely difficult on a speed run.
      • by neafevoc ( 93684 )
        I'll probably have to try this in a couple of weeks (need to take a break) and only use wrench during the run through :)
  • Almost.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by AnswerIs42 ( 622520 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:28PM (#21326761) Homepage
    Almost makes me want to get a PS3... but not for just 1 game that I would like to play.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ThirdPrize ( 938147 )
      I have a 360 but the PS3 games I have seen do look a bit nicer. I think it is because they didn't have that first years worth of lazy ports from the original xbox, they just went straight into next gen. Gears of War was the first really good looking game.
    • Re:Almost.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by oGMo ( 379 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @04:24PM (#21327473)
      Get it for Resistance, Warhawk, Motorstorm, and Uncharted (next week) too. Maybe Eye of Judgment---if you liked Triple Triad in FF8, it's sortof like that, but way cooler and deeper (and online). If you don't have a 360, there's a lot of cross-platform stuff too (Stranglehold, Simpsons, etc). Plus all the smaller downloadable stuff. Basically, if you have a PS3, you won't be lacking for things to play.
      • Get it for Resistance, Warhawk, Motorstorm, and Uncharted (next week) too. Maybe Eye of Judgment---if you liked Triple Triad in FF8, it's sortof like that, but way cooler and deeper (and online).

        Uncharted seems quite cool... I've been regularly watching the various videos and just recently played through the demo. Not a bad game, but I think I'll wait until some more reviews come out or rent it first before buying. But regarding Resistance, is it actually possible to play that without a mouse? I'm a pretty decent FPS player on the PC and I downloaded the demo for Resistance but can't play it worth a damn with the analog stick. Is this just a matter of practice or should I hook up a USB mouse a

        • by oGMo ( 379 )
          I have never found any need for a mouse with Resistance (or Warhawk). Both seem optimized for the controller. I'm not even sure you can use a mouse. I know a lot of FPS's (which Warhawk technically isn't) suffer if you don't use a mouse, but Resistance doesn't seem to have that issue. Maybe it's just really subtle aim-assist.
        • by Kohath ( 38547 )
          I think the key to FPS without a mouse is to not give up after 3 minutes. You get used to it and it's fun.
        • by LKM ( 227954 )
          I had the highest hopes for Uncharted. I thought it was going to be an Adventure-style game; a bit like Zelda with guns. After playing the demo, it seems to be Gears of War on an island :-(

          Dual analog stock precision is a matter of practice, but you'll never become as good as with the mouse. Wii FPS play a bit better than dual-analog shooters, but the mouse still wins.
      • The Uncharted demo was pretty lackluster to me: It takes a bit of Tomb Raider, done badly, and adds a ton of Gears of War, with a worse cover system, no partner, and an enemy spawning system that was dated 4 years ago. Put good graphics on top, and you get a demo that doesn't make me want to buy the full version one bit.
    • by cmeans ( 81143 )
      One great thing worth pointing out about the PS3 is all the demos that can be downloaded. It's nice to be able to try before you buy.

      Maybe the XBox 360 has that feature too, but it's sorely missing on the Wii as far as I can tell.

  • Loved the game (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaseM ( 746707 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:29PM (#21326777)
    I loved the game so much I actually finished it, and that's saying something for me. With my busy work and personal schedule and a glut of great titles on several different platforms I often get distracted by a new game and move on to something different without finishing the prior one off. I'm not alone in this, I know, but for me to be motivated to see a game to completion it has to be a) fun and b) not punish me too harshly when I screw up. R&C does both very well.

    As a side note, having finished R&C a week or two ago that puts me at a total of two full completions on the PS3: Resistance and R&C, both developed by Insomniac. Hats off to them for making games that I'm motivated to finish! It's quite an accomplishment!
  • Who are you, and what have you done with Zonk?
    • "Re:He said something nice about PS3???
      Who are you, and what have you done with Zonk?"

      Snopes should cover the urban legend that Sony's PR trouble was the result of Zonk relaying Sony stories written by other people.
  • Come on, you aren't going to show up on metacritic with a rating system like that!

    Rachet and Clank received a 10.5/10 from some much more reliable and unbiased sources...

    http://www.sonydefenseforce.com/?p=301 [sonydefenseforce.com]
  • I don't have any of the new round of consoles (too expensive so far) but I'm looking toward getting a Wii. I also love R&C. Anyone know if this is PS3 exclusive?
    • The entire Ratchet & Clank series has always been a Sony exclusive.

      PS2: Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Ratchet: Deadlocked
      PSP: Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
      PS3: Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction

      I highly doubt you'll ever see the series on anything other than Sony hardware.

    • I doubt that the developers would ever use anything other than Sony hardware. Especially as Sony always tries to get the best graphics processing game consol. I would think that the only time they would ever use another manufacturer would be if Sony did not produce a consol that matched or exceeded processing power of other consoles of the same generation. To get ratchet and clank: tools of destruction into wii format the developers would have to drastically downgrade the graphics and make major changes to
  • Is it still written in a Lisp dialect?
    • by tim1724 ( 28482 ) *

      Is it still written in a Lisp dialect?

      Nope, it's not in Lisp anymore. They didn't want to spend the time porting all their Lisp stuff to the PS3 and they wanted to be able to use Sony's libraries easily (as well as share some of their code with others who aren't into Lisp) so they did this one in C++.

      It's mentioned in this interview [palgn.com.au]

  • I'm a huge Ratchet & Clank fan, and I'm pretty disappointed with Future Tools of Destruction. It's still a good game, but it doesn't impress me nearly as much as Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal did on the PS2. Both those PS2 games had better levels, better stories, better weapons, and a better upgrade system. Collecting hidden platinum bolts to use at Slim Cognito's (the illegal black market weapons dealer in the PS2 games) was a lot more enjoyable than the current upgrade system in Future Tools of D
    • by pl1ght ( 836951 )
      I guess I am fortunate to never have experienced a Ratchet and Clank game prior to TOD. I find myself thoroughly enjoying the game/acting/cutscenes. Especially the Pirate Planet. I think it is a fun game in its own right and definitely has made me a fan of any future releases in this series.
  • First, I'm pretty sure it's "raritanium". Granted, I'm playing in 720p and not 1080p so the resolution might just not be there. :)

    I thought some of the sixaxis control parts were horrible, ESPECIALLY the roll-the-marble-around-the-labyrinth-like-you're-in-the-waiting-room-for-the-dentist. But then again, I've hated the unlock-a-door minigame in every previous R&C game. They take you out of the main game too long, require entirely different hand-eye skills compared to shooting stuff, and generally req

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.