Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Review Rewind
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On 10/18/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola
After a foray on the small screen and a side quest for Ratchet, the duo are back for a traditional experience, now in HD.
Ratchet & Clank's HD debut brings some mixed successes. On one hand, the series has translated beautifully to a higher resolution thanks to its rich worlds full of color and detail. On the other, despite the improved look, the game's mechanics haven't managed to improve significantly enough to handle the often increased on-screen havoc. The resulting experience still proves enjoyable, if only due to the already solid footing of the series and the improved graphics.
Once again Ratchet and Clank find the universe in peril, this time due to the misguided anger of Tachyon. The Cragmite critter, raised by Lombaxes, was the last of his kind. The Lombax race banished the rest of the race to an alternate dimension with their patented Dimensionator in The Great War. This unique device falls into the hands of Tachyon thus creating the latest galactic emergency. Over the course of their quest, Ratchet will try to both stop Tachyon and uncover his shrouded history. Clank on the other hand will encounter the Zoni, who set the stage for the proceeding titles in the series.
As has been proven with previous games in the series, Tools of Destruction is plain and simple fun. You'll find yourself blasting tons of enemies, platforming, and collecting tons of bolts to feed your weapon addiction as you traverse diverse landscapes, both bright and cheerful and dark and dreary. However, this is the status quo for the series and Tools of Destruction unquestionably improves and one-ups what has been brought to the table in the past.
The game's weapon system is unlike what has been featured in the past. Here, you take use of collected Raritanium and improve different characteristics of your weaponry. Because you have a limited amount of the element, you'll only be able to improve small parts of the weapon's operation at a time, and your more powerful weapons will require huge stockpiles to overhaul. A motivating factor is the final upgrade, which will drastically improve your weapon making it far more effective; especially when combating groups of enemies. As has been done in the past, weaponry also improves as you use it, making it progressively stronger, until the last upgrade that changes the properties of the weapon. For whatever reason, constantly improving your weaponry is an extremely effective motivator, giving you something to work towards until the final boss battle.
With the introduction of the Zoni, players are presented with an alternate style of gameplay that involves controlling only Clank, which is quite similar to controlling the bots in past games. These characters set the stage for what's to come in A Crack in Time and is a fun diversion during the constantly hectic gameplay of the core quest. Standing in stark contrast, here Clank must platform and activate Zoni to do his bidding. Inherently, Clank can only slowdown time and perform a simple melee attack. As such, he must rely on the Zoni for almost everything, similar to Olimar with his Pikmin. The Zoni will attack, charge up items to unlock pathways, and imbue Clank with the ability to levitate.
Outside of Clank's portions, there are a few other side functions that provide Tools of Destruction with some variety. Gyro bike segments, when used with the Sixaxis, are like ball rolling puzzle games. However, most will want to switch to standard joystick controls for ease of passage. A true ball rolling puzzle also exists, but the same applies. The Sixaxis controls are utilized for a few other functions, like the Geo Laser and skydiving, but in all cases joystick controls are far more reliable and less frustrating to use.
Piloting the ship is brought back once again, for both free range missions and on-rails segments. Its handling is a bit cumbersome, though not entirely frustrating. These side missions help reduce some of the fatigue potentially associated with constant shooting and platforming, but can be a point of frustration for those not adept at 3D space shooters.
Tools of Destruction falters in its implementation of a few different subsystems. For one, checkpoints are poorly considered. Often they will be placed before a particularly mundane segment that leads into a boss fight or at the very beginning of a level. This often creates a situation where you'll die at the challenging parts and be forced back through the simple segments multiple times. This only becomes truly troublesome toward the end of the game where the challenge level is much higher.
This is exacerbated by the misleading health system. As time goes on, the game misguides you into thinking you've become more shielded due to the purchase of new armor and progressively leveling up. The fact of the matter is these increases are only in proportion to the enemies. If enemies took out a fifth of your life with a single bullet at the beginning of the game, they'll do the same at the end of the game. However, enemies often become more intricate in their attack patterns and their volume will increase until the explosive conclusion, making the game exponentially more difficult at the end.
Given that the game really harnesses the power of the PlayStation 3, it throws tons of stuff on the screen at the same time. Moving backgrounds, various particle effects, numerous enemies, bolts galore, and bright landscapes make it extremely hard to distinguish enemy fire. The result is a situation where your life seems to be dropping for no justifiable reason, ultimately leading to your demise.
The most disappointing aspect of the game is the lack of an improvement in the targeting system. Because you can't lock-on to enemies, nor target them with any amount of speed manually, you're left relying on the game's engine. Sometimes it performs as expected, but oftentimes, especially at the end of the game, it fails to properly target foes. This shortcoming can lead to replaying long segments, which is endlessly frustrating.
Despite its various shortcomings, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction still stands as a great entry in the series that continues to leave room for improvement in proceeding titles. Given that I still have yet to tackle A Crack in Time, I greatly look forward to my next Ratchet & Clank experience in glorious HD.