doctor_kaz's Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PlayStation 3) review

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Charm, beauty, and crazy weapons. What's not to love?

Light-hearted humor, charming characters, and wacky weapons have made the Ratchet and Clank series a solid fixture of the Playstation platform. The first entry of the series onto the Playstation 3 is a resounding success. It keeps the formula intact while updating the presentation to take advantage of the advanced technology. Add stunning visuals and great physics to an already successful formula, and you have a game that is impossible not to love.

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction grabs you immediately with its gorgeous graphics and never puts up supbar scenery throughout the game. It is technologically impressive, featuring gigantic outdoor levels with a long view distance. At various points on each level, you can look out upon an impressive vista and see where you have been and where you need to go next. There are no texture pop-ins, frame rate drops, or other annoying effects that sometimes show up in games with big open areas. A dozen enemies can get blown into a hundred little pieces on the screen without losing a single frame. There are other subtle touches, like heat shimmering from fires and nice looking water. The art direction is bright and colorful, a pleasing departure from the grays and browns that have dominated graphics since Gears of War became a hit. The colorful cast of characters, ranging from the angry midget villain to salty robot pirates, is bursting with creativity. The presentation is the strength of the game from beginning to end, without any weak points.

Ratchet and Clank is generally described as a platforming series. This game does, indeed, have a lot of platforming, but it is heavier on combat than anything else. You face waves of enemies and blow them into little pieces by showering them with ammunition, which shows up by the ton. You frequently take a lot of damage, but health orbs are usually nearby. Bosses are generally pretty straightforward and don't involve a lot besides running around while whittling their fat health bars down as fast as possible by shooting at them as fast as possible. There is some variety on the enemies and the larger battles tend to get very interesting. The combat is fun, fast-paced, and visually impressive, although it does get a little to monotonous by the end, and it rarely provides much challenge if you have been upgrading your weapons. The bosses, especially, can be absurdly easy. With the right weapons, some of them can be beaten in as little as 45 seconds on your first try.

Ratchet and Clank bends over backwards to cram as much variety as possible into its 10-hour campaign. There are a few brief space battles that act as a nice change of pace, and a couple of minigames that involve use of the PS3 Sixaxis control. The Sixaxis control is surprisingly well implemented and free of the tacked-on feel that victimizes lots of motion control minigames on the PS3 and the Wii. The hacking minigame, especially, is innovative and enjoyable. There are a lot of levels, but most of them are over pretty fast and the scenery changes constantly. Platforming involves the usual fare of swinging from supports with your grappling hook, jumping between platforms, and grinding along rails. These sequences hardly ever last more than a minute. Just when you are about to get tired of one area, you end up doing something completely different, such as a Clank solo level.

Weapons shops and the ability to upgrade weapons ensure that your arsenal is never the same for very long. The weapons and gadgets come at you so fast that they can be overwhelming. In addition to a grappling hook that you can use to swing around, you get magnetic boots, a gel gun that shoots out a bouncy material, disco balls that temporarily distract enemies, and a few other gizmos to play with. You can buy a bunch of unique weapons, like one that shoots miniature tornadoes, and another that creates a deadly cloud of nanobots. The series is famous for having creative and wacky weapons, and it doesn't disappoint here. You use the radial menu to select weapons and various other gizmos to complete your quest. Only two or three hours into the game, the radial menu is full, and by the end of the game, you have enough stuff to fill three radial menus. You switch between menus with the shoulder buttons. It takes a while to get used to all of the options and the controls required for each gadget. By the time you figure it all out, the game comes to an end. There are no complaints here though. The pacing on this game is one of its strengths.

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a game that should be in the library of any PS3 owner who enjoys action games of this type. The beauty, the charm, the combat, and the variety make this title one of the best exclusives on this console. Veteran gamers might tire of the game's low challenge level by its end, but most should find it easy to get a lot of enjoyment out of this title.


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