Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is the very first PS3 game for the series and one that really made me want a PS3 back in 2007 when it came out. After working hard on making the series one of Sony’s iconic franchises in the PS2 era, Insomniac went back to space in 2007.
With 2017 starting a new year, lets leap into the future to see how the series first leap to the PS3 was successful. Lets go into the galaxy of space and see where the hunt for the Lombax’s takes us.
The game started development not long after the 2005 release of Ratchet Deadlocked and Insomniac had two studios at this point in time; one making an upcoming PS3 Launch title that will help sell the system (Resistance Fall of Man) and another making the Ratchet & Clank series.
Now that Deadlocked finished production at the time, the Ratchet Team started work on the series jump to the PlayStation 3. They really wanted to make the hardware sing and from current work with Sony on the at the time upcoming Resistance, they had a good idea how to make games for the system.
Pushing for a ‘Pixar’ look for Ratchet & Clank, the direction of the storytelling changed a bit; instead of the game being focused on being a comedy with some fun story beats, we get a more tone-downed adventure that has the series humor but the main point is the plot. They wanted to give Ratchet & Clank important backstory as there origins never covered before and the PS3 series, dubbed ‘Future’ was a sign that they wanted the Ratchet series to have major story telling elements.
That wasn’t the only focus though, as they wanted to return to having a tight balance between action combat and platforming that Ratchet & Clank 2 had. The idea of having powerful gadgets used in combat called ‘Devices’, some fun gimmicks that would use the motion controls of the PS3 controller well and bring back space travel from Ratchet 2; all of these were goals the team had in mind.
The game finally released in Fall 2007 for the PlayStation 3, with Naughty Dog’s own title “Uncharted: Drakes Fortune” coming out not long after. Both games did very well sales and review wise and started a new trilogy of games for both franchises. Ratchet continued on PlayStation 3 with many releases that both continue the story started in Tools of Destruction and a few spin-offs.
The story is very important to the series, as the franchise is known for being a fantastic Pixar-like adventure for a long time. But here, they really try hard to accomplish telling an epic tale for Ratchet & Clank.
Ratchet and his robotic pal Clank are working on building some hoverbike when they hear Quark is being attacked. After crash landing in the middle of a city, Ratchet & Clank blast their way from waves of foes until they get cornered by Emperor Tachyon who wants to kill Ratchet due to him being the last Lombax.
They high-jack his ship and crash land on another planet. As the adventure continues, Ratchet begins to learn more about his race as a Lombax and Clank starts seeing these odd creatures that have strange powers.
The story here is good, with Ratchet & Clank bouncing off each other well. New characters like Cronk and Zeffer also end up being great additions to the cast thanks to the humor they offered. I really love the Smugger though, as he is more or less a funner version of Moneybags from Insomniac’s own Spyro series. The last character I want to highlight is Talwyn Apogee, as she is a great addition to the series. She is funny, smart and gets into the action often (fighting alongside Ratchet, Clank, and her warbots Cronk & Zeffer).
My only gripe with the story is that the comedic ‘edge’ is softer then before. I mean, the game is still funny at points but you can clearly tell that the humor is used more sparingly compared to past games in the series. That is fine as long as the story is good, and it mostly is. But the ending concluding on a cliffhanger and Ratchet being a jerk to Clank (like the first game) but only without a decent reason was distracting for the few times that happened.
The Gameplay & Design
Its a return to the style of gameplay we got with Ratchet & Clank 2; tight controls, great line-up of weapons to play around with and some great platforming sections that remind me of parts of the first Ratchet & Clank at points.
In many respects. Tools of Destruction feels like a ‘proper’ sequel to Ratchet 2 more so then Ratchet 3. Ratchet 3 focused very heavily on its gun play while Tools of Destruction has a larger focus on platforming (though you still do a lot of shooting). Returning to having a heavy platforming focus is a great move for the series and it results in strong gameplay.
Ratchet retains the high quality from Ratchet 2 and Ratchet 3, as the gun play is a lot of fun and the set pieces that Ratchet goes through are very impressive. Grinding on long rail sections avoiding trains with the camera panning all over, the camera going top-down & side-ways during the intro stage, and the levels having a lot of location variety; the game is a blast to play things to the strong gameplay working with the visual spectacle.
Clank has a lot of new abilities in this game but his solo-gameplay is a bit weak. His new Zoni powers allow him to fly in the sky, slow down time and break down walls with a powerful laser. Ratchet can use two of these powers at different points in some planets and they are very fun. But Clank’s solo gameplay is weak compared to past games. He controls the same and still controls an army but this time, it’s of Zoni instead of little robots. They can repair things, attack foes, hover in the air, and even allow Clank to slow down time with holding the R1 button.
That sounds like a lot of fun, but it really isn’t anything that special. If anything, it lacks the charm of Clank controlling little robots in Ratchet 2 or the odd concept of working with a AI controlled monkey. Even Giant Clank is gone this time out too. Clank is still fun but not on the level of past games sadly.
Ship Combat is where things get interesting. Unlike in Ratchet 2, its not all-range mode Star Fox but linear Star Fox-like some stages in SF64. They are a visual highlight with amazing effects filling the screen and the controls working very well. If you are a fan of Star Fox, you might have some great fun with these sections. They are a nice inclusion but doesn’t really add or take away from the game as a whole.
The gadgets Ratchet has a few new gadgets like the Gyro Bike, New hacking tool and the Pirate-Guise. Gyro Bike is a Monkey Ball-like mode that has you rolling around and its fun. Its mainly used for some tricky platforming sections and its underused but when it is used, it can be quite fun to play with it. The Hacking Tool allows you to get through locked doors or activate things and you do this from either moving the left stick or tilting the controller. You control this little ball and have to help a ‘power surge’ move to the end goal. I had a lot of fun with this motion controls or not honestly.
The Pirate-Guise is very simple but very funny; Ratchet turns into a little pirate that dances to open some doors and its fun! Used more for laughs then anything else but still, a nice addition to the game and a cool successor to the Tera-Guise.
The line up of weapons are great here, but we get some recycling of old ideas in past Ratchet games. We have another whip item but its electric this time. We have a shot gun but this time it shoots crystals. We have a pistol but this time it shoots fireballs. They play with traditional weapons we see all the time with minor differences and that is fine.
But the creative weapons, that is where things get nuts. We have a bee nest we can plant on the ground to sends little insects to kill everything, a Disco Ball called the Grove-a-tron that makes EVERYTHING dance, health absorbing grenades that can give you needed Nanotech and the Plasma Beasts that are little blobs that can follow you when fully upgraded and slam into other creatures. And of course, Mr. Zerkon. This lovely robot spouts one-liners as he kills everything in his path. Love this guy and he appears in many future games.
But some weapons are not ‘really’ weapons; they are called ‘devices’ due to being very overpowered and can only buy X amount of them (none of them upgrade outside the Groveatron but you need a lot of money to get that). That is a smart move on Insomniacs part.
You also have an upgrade tree where you use a new currency called Rareatainum that is very common and can give added upgrades to your weapons. If you loved the custom mods from Deadlocked, this is a similar deal here but more in-depth. It gives you options on how to upgrade your weapons and later games like Into the Nexus and Ratchet 2016 refine this upgrade system further.
The overall gameplay here feels like more of Ratchet 2 or Ratchet 3 but with higher quality visuals and more 3D platforming.
This game looks amazing and holds up remarkably well. The game has such a bright and vivid art direction that screams ‘Pixar’ or ‘Disney’ in many cases and the squash-and-stretch that the PS2 games had comes across here. Thanks to the stronger PS3 hardware though, the game looks much better then the PS2 games, and those games looked great.
The musical score though, takes a step down compared to the PS2 games. Its still great stuff, but not on the level of Ratchet 2’s or Ratchet 3’s soundtrack. I really enjoy it though and its one of the final times the series musical composer took reigns of the soundtrack. David Bergeaud made the soundtracks for every Ratchet game at this point and did amazing work on the PS2 titles. While his work here is more ‘movie’ like, it still sounds great.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is one of the stronger games in the series and it does a lot right. While not really doing anything new for the series as whole, it didn’t need to. Ratchet 3 perfected the formula for the series and this game knows it. Through using that very strong base we result in a fantastic 3D platformer with fun level design, amazing production values and an enjoyable story.