Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction PS3 Review

If there’s one thing we don’t like about ‘next-gen’, it’s that some developers seem perfectly happy to just up the graphical capabilities of their latest games and add nothing more substantial to the fray. This usually leads to paragraph after paragraph of complaints about said game, comments about how it could have been so much better, and some low score, or at least lower-than-expected score being given to show dissatisfaction at said developer and their game. So, as is made evident by the placement of this intro at the top of this review, it would certainly be very easy to place Tools of Destruction in this group, as other than making Ratchet & Clank’s latest effort beautiful – absolutely stunningly beautiful – it is initially hard to see what else Insomniac has changed since their third, now three-year-old effort on the PS2. Thankfully, things are a bit different for Tools of Destruction, as even though the game is steeped in familiarity it still manages to come across as exciting, and most importantly a great addition to Insomniac’s always impressive series. There are many reasons for this, but it’s chiefly down to the R&C formula already being nigh-on perfect, and Insomniac adopting the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach.

However, that’s not to say the developer didn’t put some considerable effort into the game’s development. In fact, it would be fair to say a great deal of this work has gone into the game’s graphics, as it is blatantly obvious from all promotional screenshots and videos that the title is visually impressive, to such an extent that when you first gain control of Ratchet you may actually think a cutscene is still running, and you won’t realise you’re able to move him about. The lighting is also absolutely gorgeous and well-used, highlighting the vibrant colours to such an extent as to make everything look that much better than you’d ever expected it to be. Particle effects are also top-notch, with all of the explosions – and believe me, there’s a lot of them – looking spectacular as they all bring their own highlights to each piece of the environment. Speaking of environments, the collection on show is certainly impressive, with each being different enough from the last to keep things entertaining, and also never falling into the clichéd themed levels we’ve grown to expect from most other platformers. However, it is not the CG ‘Pixar’ quality some would have you believe, and as many hyped it to be. But it does come dangerously close in places.

Once you finally get control you can truly appreciate how beautiful the game is, and before you get into the familiar rhythm of bashing stuff with your wrench, the game sets about trying to catch your attention with layer upon layer of intrinsic detail. Of course, it’s detail that is set in a familiar R&C setting, but it’s still impressive nonetheless. From there, the game settles into the customary R&C pace of quickly introducing new areas, giving you new weapons, letting you upgrade the old ones, and letting you run about picking up the scrap metal to give you access to buy and upgrade your armaments. However, this time around you’re given more control as to how you upgrade your favourite weapon(s), with a new pick-up item called ‘Raritanium’, which allows you to upgrade different aspects of each weapon such as the rate of fire, and the amount of damage the weapon will deal. Also, as is the norm for the series , different weapons will work better against some enemies, so it’s always worth keeping some tactics in mind as you spend your bolts and Raritanium on upgrades. Furthermore (once again, just like its predecessors), the game excels at keeping you amused with things to do, and is always trying to move onto something new and exciting as soon as even a bit of boredom creeps in on the previous task.

Minigames are a good example of this as they are constantly being thrown in the mix to temporarily take your mind away from the blasting. There are two prominent mini-games on show that have to be spoken about, as they are almost fully-fledged games in themselves. The first is a puzzler and sees you using the Sixaxis to tilt a ball around a circuit board until you position it correctly, thus circumventing whatever security system you were hacking into. Then there is a Panzer Dragoon/StarFox style on-rails shooter which kicks in as you move between planets where you can perform lock-ons or fire single shots to take down enemies. There is also use of the Sixaxis for the game’s sky-diving segments, which let you dodge missiles and flying cars to safely land on the ground. All in all most of these games work well, and thankfully the less successful ones, such as the dancing sections, are kept to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, the Sixaxis elements never feel like an tacked-on extra which is a plus for any PS3 game when you consider a few of the recent shocking efforts.

There is some stuff not to like though, with the irksome story been the tip of the bunch. To be fair the tale told is still a somewhat interesting one, but when you compare it to other R&C stories, particularly the memorable effort Insomniac put forward in Ratchet & Clank 3, it just doesn’t live up to the hype. At best, the story is a means to propel you through the game, rather than being something filled with memorable quotes and impressive moments you’ll remember long after the credits roll. Furthermore, another let-down would have to be the lack of a multiplayer mode this time round, which has been striped out of the game altogether from the duo’s last outing. This omission is very confusing as some online options could have thrived on the PS3 due to its ease of online access when compared to the mess that was available on PS2.

So, all in all there is a lot to love about Tools of Destruction, and there is enough to both see and do to please all of the long-time fans of the series. The only disappointment one could level at the game is that Insomniac did not truly push their franchise to new heights by introducing brand new ideas with this release, but in doing so they could have done more harm than good. In truth, this is probably one of those rare occasions for a franchise when the best course of action was to leave well enough alone.

When all is said and done Tools of Destruction can be best seen as a refinement rather than the big step forward that some thought it would be when it was first announced. At its core the game is still what it has always been, offering its own unique blend of platforming and shooter action. However, this time it features bigger levels, zanier weapons, and much more scope than ever before. As a result it’s certainly hard to step away from the game feeling any way disappointed – unless, of course, your expectations were far too high to begin with.

Some of the best platforming available this year.

8 out of 10