Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: Fall 2007
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction elicited a staggering amount of moans and groans at Sony's Gamers Day event, but the game itself wasn't at fault. Quite the opposite, really — everyone wanted to play it, and few (if any) were actually able to do so. It was being lorded over us, like a mobile suspended above a cradle, just inches from our tiny fingers. But word quickly circled that the developers at Insomniac Games were feverishly polishing a playable build for E3, so as dejected as we were, it was clear that something special was likely in the works for mid-July.
Luckily, we were treated to a guided walkthrough of the Kirchu City level — the one prominently featured in most of the screenshots. Without a hands-on session, it's hard to say if the game plays or feels differently than its (non-Ratchet: Deadlocked) predecessors, but it certainly looked similar, maintaining the series' beloved mixture of platform action, melee attacks, and completely ridiculous weaponry. Eight new weapons were shown in about as many minutes, but the final product is likely to contain many more, as every weapon in the game is reported to be completely original.
"We have a new type of weapon called 'combat devices,'" said Brian Allgeier, creative director on Tools of Destruction. "In the past we would always kind of dumb down our weapons a little bit because we didn't want them being too powerful, but these are like RPG items that you can use in special pinches."
The Groovitron was the only combat device employed generously during the Gamers Day demo, and even the most jaded journalist had to chuckle at the sight of space pirates getting down. When tossed, the Groovitron floats several feet above the ground, emitting colored lights from all over like a disco ball. The real kicker comes when the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" starts blaring, sending every nearby enemy into a funky trance. Though the final song may change, the effect remains: with all enemies distracted by the Groovitron, Ratchet can attack at will with little retaliation. Other combat devices have yet to be unveiled, but one can only hope that they'll be half as amusing (and effective) as the Groovitron.
A handful of "standard" weapons were also shown, though the term hardly refers to the traditional firearms of modern action/shooter games. The closest Tools of Destruction comes to a familiar weapon is the Pyro Blaster, which acts like a flamethrower of sorts. Aside from the Pyro Blaster, the other firearms tend toward the bizarre and unrealistic, but such things are celebrated in the world of Ratchet & Clank. The Combuster launches tiny fireballs that hop around a bit before igniting the ground, while the Buzz Blades are like rapid-fire circular saw-blades that can bounce off of walls without losing their deadly force.
Two of the weapons in the presentation packed an impressive amount of splash damage, which may be necessary to take down some of the more advanced enemies in Tools of Destruction. The Plasma Beasts are especially amusing, as they emerge from tiny green blobs to attack the nearest enemy with a large burst of plasma sludge. The Fusion Grenades serve a similar purpose, but are better suited for taking down groups of enemies, as the blast is quick and significant. Having a wider range of weapons-based abilities will be necessary when taking on shielded or electrified foes, both of which appeared in the demo stage.
Tools of Destruction will make compelling use of the SixAxis controller, with a pair of weapons that utilize its motion-sensing capabilities. The previously revealed Tornado Launcher shoots out a tiny disc that emits a controllable tornado, which is moved around the environment by rotating the SixAxis. Because the weapon uses the motion controls of the SixAxis, the player will still be able to move Ratchet while simultaneously controlling the tornado. Also on the motion-sensing front is the Visi-copter, a tiny, floating helicopter that launches missiles at nearby foes.
As impressive as the new weapons were, it was easy to get lost in the sheer splendor of the visual experience. Everything is sublimely animated, from the rotating gears in the background to the smokestacks high above. Ratchet himself has 90 active joints in his face alone, whereas his last-gen predecessor had just 112 in his entire body. Though cut scenes were kept from the presentation, the joint expansion should allow Ratchet to be significantly more expressive when he speaks.
With such a push for visual realism throughout the industry, we have yet to bear witness to very many worthwhile next-gen platformers, so it's great to see the technology put to use in such vivid, creative ways. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is the closest a game has come to a Pixar-like experience on a home console, and it will only look sharper as development continues. With stages twice as large as any previously seen in a Ratchet title, Tools of Destruction looks to bring an extravagant interactive playground to the PlayStation 3.
So, what now? Now we count the days until E3.
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