Ratchet & Clank Retrospective Part 5: Tools of Destruction
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.
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.
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.
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!
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