Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty PS3
When Spyro developers Insomniac Games looked to the PS2, they saw it as a new start, drawing a line under the purple dragon to focus on the highly imaginative and futuristic Ratchet and Clank saga. It was therefore quite surprising to see them continuing Ratchet and Clank into the PS3’s life span, even though it was now a shared focus with the hugely entertaining Resistance series.
Sadly the first PS3 instalment Tools of Destruction was disappointing, lacking many of the aspects that made the earlier games great while providing nothing really new. Worse yet however it made the RAC formula appear not just stale, but aged. Prompting the question if maybe Ratchet was a game series best left to the previous generation? Thankfully this was not the case as Quest For Booty, the second game of the current trilogy and the first to be a ‘fun sized’ stand alone download of 3-5 hours, is actually well worth playing, even if it doesn’t so much move the series forward as it simply does things very differently.
Picking off directly from where Tools of Destruction left off, Ratchet sets off to claim the Vulcrum Star, a magical artefact that holds the key to where Clank was kidnapped. The problem however, is that the star was stolen by space pirates many moons ago. This approach allows Insomniac to tell a classic pirate story with a futuristic flair; featuring pirate ships, caverns, coastal towns, sea battles, curses, ghost pirates and hidden treasure. This coupled with an epic nautical sound track and narration style (each chapter transitions from the perspective of the pirates, over the backdrop of a sailing map) creates a very cohesive atmosphere and story with more than a few nods to Pirates of The Caribbean.
In this new context, and with the removal of Clank, the gameplay shines as a more traditional platformer. There’s more exploration and people to talk to, more puzzles, and not to mention that without Clank, Ratchet’s jumping must be far more precise which makes the gameplay entirely different. A problem here is that the game is still entirely linear, and usually the conversations you have with unimportant characters prove futile and useless. It is however entertaining that you have the choice to give the ‘jerk’ question or answer just like in Fallout 3 and be unnecessarily difficult in important situations. For example, when a character says ‘Promise you’ll come back for me and not leave me here’, your options could range from: ‘I can make no promises’, ‘Ok then, I understand’ or the classic ‘I have better things to do’. Even though you really don’t, and you have absolutely no choice but to accept their demands.
One of the most interesting things about QFB is how it handles combat, as the starter weapons from Tools of Destruction are all you’ll actually get to use. There aren’t any new weapons in this release, but that’s just not the point. Each of these weapons you use is already upgraded to its third or fourth version, and when it reaches the fifth upgrade level it transforms into a more powerful weapon. This means it’s in your interest to upgrade all your weapons as soon as possible and it means Insomniac can make some weapons non-upgradeable. (There isn’t enough time to upgrade all your weapons in the space of the game) The lack of your rocket launchers and endgame power-hoggers give an enjoyable vulnerability in combat and that’s the key here, it’s not the blow-everything-away approach of the previous games, and instead forces the player to think smart, get close and have way more fun.
To make a bold statement for a game review, nothing in this package drags. Right from the get-go it’s entertaining, and it’s more perfectly formed and fast moving than the flawed Tools of Destruction. It looks stunning and the atmosphere is top stuff, with the great expanse of the storming sea, creeping caves with clever sources of light that show off the inventiveness of the level designers and the coastal village, it really feels like somewhere you would go on holiday, with a golden beach and calm crystal-blue water.
Still the package has flaws, it’s still not as fun as the previous games but maybe it should just be accepted that those first three titles on PS2 were something very special indeed, and that such quality cannot be sustained (although Resistance 2 may suggest differently).
In particular, one of the biggest complaints I’ve had thus far with the Future saga is that everything is far too brief. Previous games offered longer levels and more opportunities to explore, but QFB has no trophies, no skill points, no gold bolts and literally no exploration, meaning there is nothing to do for your money than simply replay the game and I finished it playing on the hardest difficulty in one night. So while QFB may be one of the best downloadable games I’ve ever played it’s very hard to claim it was worth the £10 asking price due to how short and non-replayable the title is.
Ratchet and Clank: A Quest for Booty feels like a long side quest away from the events of Tools Of Destruction it therefore avoids any real spoilers to the main series story. For that reason I’d recommend it to people who’ve never tried the previous games or a casual fan. It should keep us tiding over though until the next instalment in the series, A Crack in Time, and also serves as a good advertisement for that sequel, which is shaping up to be the true next-generation Ratchet title, and perhaps the last.