Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction review
“Hey it’s you two! Almost didn’t recognise you in hi-def!”
Having indulged my nostalgia by playing through the sublime HD trilogy, it was time to play through R&C’s adventures on the PS3 for the first time and with the brilliance of the previous entries still fresh in my mind, my expectations were high for their PS3 debut and so here’s my review.
You primarily play as Ratchet, the last of a race known as the Lombax who have a special talent for smashing boxes with wrenches and just generally kicking ass. But one Lombax is apparently too much for the game’s villain, Emperor Tachyon, a very large-headed insecure thing that seeks to wipe out the race from the universe forever. This is a game for all ages and Tachyon isn’t a particularly complex villain, he has his own comedic elements but he’s evil just because he is basically and that’s fine but my gripe is that he’s just not as entertaining as previous baddies in the series such as Chairman Drek, Qwark and Dr. Nefarious.
The story again is the usual save the galaxy fare but it takes advantage of the PS3’s extra grunt with some particularly nice-looking Pixar quality cut-scenes and cinematic sequences to keep it ticking over. The writing is good although not quite at the level as the trilogy I’d argue, some very witty and sharp lines arise from Ratchet & Clank’s bickering, but this contrasts with the increasingly tiresome robot companions you meet later in the game who play out the old, grumpy retired roles for too long. In sum, the story is nothing special and dare I say perhaps a bit disappointing, it doesn’t have a moment like the betrayal of Qwark in the original or the outright hilarity of the Q-Force in 3, but still it’s for all ages and kids will be gripped.
However the cast of characters is for the most part brilliant, even though Insomniac have completely ripped off the Toy Story aliens with the zoni, they even have the same sound effects! You also have another generic ‘heroine’ character for Ratchet but every other character you’ll encounter are supremely entertaining, there’s the gang of robot pirates led by the Captain Slag (yeah he really is called that), Rusty Pete and Qwark along with some fan-service cameos like the Plumber. They all have some hilarious lines but the real star is actually one of your weapons named Mr Zurkon, a synthenoid who takes sadistic pleasure in killing your enemies and proclaiming random facts about itself, “Mr. Zurkon does not know how to swim”. Ratchet and Clank are the stars though and they just play off each other so well, it’s not difficult to see why they’re so beloved by fans of the series, Ratchet’s brusque mannerisms completely contrast with Clank’s sarcastic quips. Tools of Destruction continues the series tradition of possessing a kind of Pixar-esque magic when conjuring up zany new characters for you to encounter, absolutely delightful.
Gameplay-wise, this is still pure R&C so it plays out as a 3rd person action-platformer, with as usual an appropriate emphasis on using your creative weaponry to fuck shit up (shoot bad guys). You’ll initially start with just a standard blaster and bombs but as you progress and earn bolts (the game’s currency), you start to level up your weapons and purchase new ones. These new weapons can either be conventional such as a missile launcher or just wacky like the plasma beasts for instance, TOD also introduces new weapon gadgets in the form of ‘devices’ which can be purchased at a vendor on any of the worlds you blast through, this is where Insomniac’s playful creativity truly shines however with absolutely hilarious additions such as the Groovitron, a disco ball which causes all the enemies in the area to just start dancing (it even worked on Tachyon during the boss fight!). It made me laugh every time I used it, there’s also Mr. Zurkon and another that transforms afflicted enemies into penguins, so take that conventional gaming you can shove your shotguns and pistols just give me discoballs and penguin-transformers.
All this creativity is great but if I’m being harsh / honest, some of the weapons are a bit useless on enemies and you’ll soon work out which 3 or 4 weapons are actually effective, there’s no real strategy to the gameplay either just run around and shoot the things until they’re gone basically, that’s not to damn the game however it’s just what it is, you’ll establish a basic attack pattern and not change it by the time the credits roll.
Besides the usual shooting, you’ll have the traditional grind-rail sequences and Clank has his own specific sections with the Zoni which aren’t really all that fun and occasionally you’ll be flying your spaceship between planets and having to fend off enemies in space. It keeps you entertained and adds a significant amount of variety to the game but I’d argue it causes the game to lose a bit of its structure and momentum; it’s not as seamless as the previous entries in its pacing.
There’s some specific Sixaxis stuff in there as well, I turned it off and used the normal thumbsticks because Sixaxis doesn’t work.
Level design remains wonderfully flamboyant with each planet having its own theme and style, the opening sequence in the Kerwan metropolis is a real highlight, you’ll also explore a jungle planet, volcanic, a space station, a deserted planet. Sounds like I’m just reading off a list and ticking off stuff when I’m writing it out like that I suppose. What makes an entertaining game for all ages? Hmm maybe have one level set underwater, another in the jungle, volcanic etc. Maybe it’s cliché but still it’s enjoyable and that’s all that matters, the design of the levels is also clear and well-structured, you’re never unsure over where to go and how to progress which is key considering many it has many younger players and me.
With regards to its longevity, it’s around 10-12 hours depending how good you are at the game I suppose, it’s not a particularly challenging game but it still has that frustrating old-school tendency of bullet-sponge enemies even if your weapons are fully upgraded, the checkpoint system is quite merciless as well, but having said that it’s not a difficult game so there’ll be no problems on this aspect. There’s a ton of collectibles to get, mini-games, challenge arenas and after you’ve finished the game you get the challenge mode for a bigger well.. challenge.
Graphically, it was released in 2007 so I guess I’m being harsh but I don’t know I expected something a bit more, the art style is vivid and wonderfully colourful but the game actually looks a bit blurry and disappointing. R&C 3 HD looks about the same I’d say, maybe I just had unrealistic expectations because this was their first proper HD outing but still at least the art style is great and the cut-scenes are rendered well even if Ratchet’s new character design isn’t to my liking.
Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction is a great game, packed full of the usual hallmarks that make this series so enjoyable, the zany humour, crazy weaponry, entertaining characters and solid gameplay all merge to create an extremely fun adventure. Pacing issues and a disappointing narrative means it doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the trilogy, but that shouldn’t put anyone off wanting to play it.
+ Solid, fun gameplay
+ Brilliant characters
+ Varied level design