Ratchet & Clank Retrospective Part 5: Tools of Destruction

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Tools of Destruction was the first Ratchet & Clank game on the PS3, and the first game in the Ratchet & ClankFuture se­ries. Once again, the EU nam­ing con­ven­tions makes this a lit­tle con­fus­ing; for some un­fath­omable rea­son all the European ver­sions of the Ratchet & Clank Future games dropped the “Future” part. Apart from the orig­i­nal, I think every sin­gle Ratchet & Clank game has had the ti­tle point­less­ly al­tered. At first I thought it was just the slight­ly racy puns in the ti­tle of the 2nd and 3rd in­stall­ments, but the ex­pan­sion to Tool of Destruction, Quest for Booty, sur­vived un­scathed bar the afore­men­tioned re­moval of the word Future. As a long-time fan I’m still left scratch­ing my head about these ti­tle changes.

Odd EU nam­ing con­ven­tions aside, this game also marked a re­turn to the aes­thet­ic and feel of the orig­i­nal game with bright colours, pulp sci-fi de­sign, and more car­toon­ish en­e­mies and weapons. The path we saw tak­en in Deadlocked/Gladiator seems to have been an evo­lu­tion­ary dead-end for the series.

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Despite dat­ing from 2007, this game still looks great. Once again its more car­toony style has made it age far bet­ter than its ear­ly HD con­tem­po­raries. There is also a no­tice­able lack of alias­ing. It’s clean, bright, colur­ful, and runs smooth as silk. It’s an in­dict­ment of many mod­ern games that push flashy bells and whis­tles over sta­bil­i­ty. It may have pro­duced some head­line grab­bing screen­shots at the time, but Tools of Destruction wasn’t part of that trend.

We have a beefed up sto­ry here as well as next-gen graph­ics, which this time kicks off a con­tin­u­ous and more com­plex thread that is held di­rect­ly be­tween this game, its ex­pan­sion, and its se­quel. It deals with Ratchet as the last of his kind search­ing for the fate of the Lombaxes, and Clank see­ing strange crea­tures called the Zoni who are in­te­gral to the events, and back­drop of the plot. The sto­ry is more ex­pan­sive and bet­ter fleshed out than any­thing we’d seen in the pre­vi­ous games up un­til this point.

It does have some mi­nor is­sues: seem­ing­ly ret­con­ning pre­vi­ous Lombax char­ac­ters out of the se­ries with no ex­pla­na­tion like Angela Cross. But what the Future se­ries los­es in pre­vi­ous con­ti­nu­ity, it gains in its own in­ter­nal con­ti­nu­ity. I don’t want to spoil it, but you en­counter a cast of char­ac­ters — all well voiced and act­ed — and a very good new vil­lain in the form of Emperor Percival Tachyon, who’s grip on the Polaris Galaxy per­vades the whole of the game.

Despite re­viv­ing some of the el­e­ments from the old­er games, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction is prob­a­bly the most am­bi­tious game in the se­ries when it comes down to the sheer num­ber of el­e­ments in­clud­ed. Gadgets, weapons, items, space bat­tles, ve­hi­cles, and puz­zles fill this games play time. Gadgets es­pe­cial­ly make a resur­gence from their time on the back-burner in Up Your Arsenal andDeadlocked/Gladiator; we have the Gelanator which al­lows you to place blocks of gelati­nous slime on the ground to bounce on and reach high ledges or bridge gaps. Use of the Gelenator is con­fined to ar­eas that al­low you to fill it up, so it only sees a small amount of play­time. The Grindboots are also used quite wide­ly, as are the mo­tion con­trolled Robo-wings, a fly­ing de­vice sim­i­lar to the Glider in Ratchet & Clank 2 , and the Decrypter which pro­vides the mini-game puz­zle for this outing.

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At this point we have to talk about the mis­er­able Sixaxis con­trols. I think the most ac­cu­rate re­view of the ear­ly forced Sixasix in­te­gra­tion Sony seemed to de­mand from de­vel­op­ers is a long, low drawn out sigh. “Urrrrggggggggg…”

The year is 2007, and the Nintendo Wii sell­ing like choco­late cov­ered crack, and over in the dis­tance you hear Sony yelling “what’s all the fuss about? We got mo­tion con­trols too!” This was the era of point­less wag­gle com­mands, where every com­pa­ny was scram­bling for a gimmick.

I got that bitch some wag­gle, bitch­es love shak­ing the controller.”

Trying to steer weapons like the Tornado Launcher, or Dynamo of Doom, whilst in ac­tu­al com­bat is pret­ty much im­pos­si­ble, and ren­ders those weapons point­less and a waste of a slot. This is also meant up­grad­ing and mod­i­fy­ing those weapons was also point­less to any­one but com­ple­tion­ists. This is the biggest blem­ish on the game, and one that makes it age rather more poor­ly since we have all got­ten over all that wag­gle fad. Some of this games el­e­ments are need­less­ly dif­fi­cult to con­trol be­cause of the de­ci­sions of the pub­lish­er. It is what it is. Just be pre­pared for some frus­tra­tion here and there if you de­cide to play this game to see what you have missed.

Aside from these quib­bles, the weapons and de­vice sys­tems are ac­tu­al­ly great and pro­vides a lot of com­bat op­tions and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Including de­vices, the game has 23 dif­fer­ent ways to de­stroy, or oth­er­wise in­ca­pac­i­tate your foes in all in all. We get usu­al fair like a blaster and area of ef­fect bomb, but we also get more beefy weapons like the Predator Launcher — a mul­ti­ple lock­ing on mis­sile launcher.

It’s slight­ly un­for­tu­nate that the most mem­o­rable and orig­i­nal weapons like “Mr. Zurkon” and “The Groovitron,” are rel­e­gat­ed to very lim­it­ed use “de­vices.” This makes you re­luc­tant to use them lest you need them lat­er, and lim­its their uses to far less than the main weapons in the game. I ab­solute­ly love the Groovitron, a de­vice that makes all of the en­e­mies in a cer­tain ra­dius take a dance break, and an ef­fect that Insomniac had been try­ing to get into the Ratchet & Clank games since the first title.

Also re­turn­ing to this game are the space bat­tle se­quences. Ratchet pi­lots an old Lombax ship with an AI called Aphelion —  a char­ac­ter that sad­ly doesn’t get enough de­vel­op­ment or enough to do. The bat­tles func­tion as rail-shooters with Ratchet & Clank mere­ly hav­ing to sur­vive waves of en­e­mies, move around the lim­it­ed screen space, and some­times kill a boss. It’s not the most en­gag­ing space com­bat, but it is at least ser­vice­able. They are the parts of the game I look for­ward to the least, but they are not a deal break­er. Tools of Destruction also fea­tures a ve­hi­cle called the Gyro-cycle, a shield­ed mono-wheel you tra­verse small lin­ear cours­es with­in lev­el. Honestly it makes up so lit­tle of the game it’s hard­ly worth men­tion­ing be­yond it does tech­ni­cal­ly mean you get to dri­ve a ground ve­hi­cle too.

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Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction is a game with a lot of ideas that sad­ly didn’t have enough room to flesh out ful­ly. What it lacks in stream­lin­ing, it makes up for in va­ri­ety and re­tains the same charm and heart as the orig­i­nal games. It feels like with this game the de­sign­ers fi­nal­ly had an op­por­tu­ni­ty to put into prac­tice many of the ideas they’d been hold­ing back on the PS2; I’ll take am­bi­tion over play­ing it safe any day — even if it isn’t ful­ly met. Looking back, re­tain­ing most of the good as­pects of the se­ries was a dif­fi­cult thing to pull off on a new, no­to­ri­ous­ly hard to work with con­sole, and in an en­vi­ron­ment that was in­creas­ing­ly push­ing for “grit­ty re­al­ism.” It stands in con­trast to Insomniac’s ef­fort with “Resistance,” a game that has aged very poor­ly. It would have been a real shame for Ratchet & Clank to go through some god-awful grit­ty re­boot and come out as a Gears of War clone.

Ratchet & Clank is a se­ries that sticks to a for­mu­la; that much should be clear to any­one read­ing this se­ries. But it does so via suc­cess­ful it­er­a­tion, and by con­sist­ing of games that nev­er lack for qual­i­ty and fun. As a new con­sole gen­er­a­tion dawned, the se­ries man­aged to re­tain what made it great whilst bridg­ing the gap in tech­nol­o­gy with only a few com­pro­mis­es. The long stand­ing phi­los­o­phy of “more of the same but bet­ter” works won­ders here. You can get the game for pen­nies in most places now, so if you have a PS3 and you haven’t played it then give it a dust off and give Tools of Destruction a go.

Favourite Weapon: Well since so many of the great ef­fects are pro­duced by “de­vices” I’d have to say the Nano Swarmers.

Favourite Gadget: The Gelanator.

Next part we fix A Crack in Time!

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing. He writes long-form ed­i­to­r­i­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games me­dia and in­ter­net cul­ture. He also does the oc­ca­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly col­umn about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our in­ter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven me­dia and sus­pi­cious of un­ac­cou­table au­thor­i­ty but al­ways hope­ful for change.
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