If anybody remembers the launch of the PS3, you can all remember how slow it was. With few praiseworthy titles, the price for the console, no rumble-features, and less said about its original plans for the controllers, the better. I myself did not pick one up until much later, but one of the titles that intrigued me was the new Ratchet & Clank. With new hardware and having experimented with previous entries, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, had a lot to live up to.
Did a Lombax and a toaster need this much story?
While fixing their hoverbike, Ratchet and Clank get a message from Captain Quark, who is in big trouble and needs help. While on their way to save Quark, Ratchet unfortunately crashes his hoverbike and falls. We then see the entire town being invaded by fish-creatures and leading this army is Emperor Percival Tachyon, who wants Ratchet dead because he is a Lombax. After explaining how much he hates him without calling it racism, Ratchet and Clank steals his ship and decide to look for answers.
The story is more personal, dealing with the truth about the Lombaxes and gives us interesting moments to question their culture and their home. However we don’t get many answers, and the villain and side-characters become more and more the main focus. While the side-characters are often enjoyable and humorous at times, the main villain is unfortunately a bore and feels really uninteresting, which is a shame since I get an Oddworld-feel from his design. Even some characters can come off as too stereotypical, but can at least be funny. The plot also involves Ratchet and Clank getting angry at each other again for no real good reason, and it feels tiring. There are also some twists that really feel cliche and almost glanced over, with the ending setting up for a sequel. This is unfortunately also a negative aspect, since I never felt we got any further in the plot. What mystery we saw, was late in the game, few, and poorly explained.
While the plot is really uninteresting, the worlds certainly aren’t, with a lot of new and some familiar environments to explore, with characters that, for the most part, hold up and give us funny moments. A good example is when someone complained about me destroying the crates he had stacked up. It is unfortunately overall an underwhelming story. If it felt like it went much further, it could have been more intriguing, but there was never any real progress in the plot until the last part, which made it all seem lacking.
Story Score: 6.5/10
Aiming for the better
Tools of Destruction follows the series trend by being a platforming-shooter, with exploration and tons of upgradable weapons. We still have plenty of amazing weapons, all of which can be upgraded to level 5 by shooting enough enemies, and also through a new mechanism. By finding raritanium, you can upgrade your weapons more specifically, such as more ammo, power, blast radius and so on. You will definitely be swimming in bolts by the end of the game, so acquiring new guns is not hard, but the raritanium is much more uncommon. I really like this, since it gives you the ability to play around with new weapons more easily, but at the same time: makes you question which one you will upgrade even further and how. All weapons were a joy to use, except for two: one where you are controlling a tornado with the six-axis-controller, and it feels sluggish and uncomfortable. The other is a pirate-holograph that walks slow and is only used for rhythm-game doors that aren’t much better. Luckily: it is not a weapon you must use often.
The weapons are again a highlight. With blade-guns, slime-weapons, wasp-shooters, most are satisfying to use and at level 5 they will all get something unique to them. Two other weapons, besides the pirate-holograph, are used outside of combat as well. The first, is the familiar one for unlocking doors, which takes you to a minigame. This time, you have to control a ball in a small box, similar to Labyrinth (if anybody remembers those big wooden boxes), and you must tilt the six-axis to control the stage. As a metal ball, you must create a connection between wires and guide a spark from start to finish. These are fun with responsive controls, making something as simple as opening a door entertaining and intense. The other one is the Gelanator. While it can only be used in areas where you can obtain slime from a container, they are a fun addition to the platforming. By spraying it on the ground you can create bouncing pads. It is simple, but the stages take good advantage of it, making it helpful for exploring or tackling obstacles, such as creating slime-platforms on moving liquid. Besides the weapons, there are also additional items that you can acquire to help you out. Some examples are the Groovitron, which stuns all enemies in a dance, or the Transmorpher which turns enemies into penguins. They are a decent addition, but feel useless for the most part. They were little to no help against bosses, and since my weapons usually did the trick by having more ammo, dealing more damage and being upgradable, I often forgot I had them.
The platforming is much better than before, with tighter controlers, high-jumps, double-jumps and long-jumps being more frequently needed and floating is still helpful. Even the hook-shot has been simplified by pressing circle near hooks, and it works like a dream, making the platforming much more fast-paced. The only parts that have restricted platforming, are when the game calls for obvious wall-jumping and panels that gives you a boost to another part of the level. The combat is even better. Taking a minor page from Deadlocked, you now shoot with R1, making strafing and aiming much easier, especially due to the helpful auto-aim assistance as well. Weapons can be selected from a quick-menu and it is easy to access all of them now, and by adding abilities, such as side-jumping, makes the combat more enjoyable. You also have armor that can be purchased and upgrade health by killing enemies. The only thing I did not have any use for, was a over the shoulder view for precise aiming.
Adding to the platforming is the returning rail-grinding. It is now only about jumping over obstacles and changing rails. They are fun and I easily wished for more, despite how simple the concept is, thanks to how fast your reaction must be at times. Ratchet will also take to the sky with Clank’s wings and fly when you jump from context-sensitive buttons that are specified for this action. You control these segments with the six-axis controller and they work well. These are also simple in design, but make you dodge obstacles in a linear level, or give the ability to explore the more open areas, making the concept of flying more intriguing, despite you only flying and not much more. You even fall into stages from your ship, dodging everything you can imagine with the six-axis and, while short, they can be intense and a fun introduction to new areas.
While you will be on foot most of the time, there are also two vehicles you will be using throughout the game. One is the Gyro-cycle where you will basically bicycle inside a ball through linear stages, reminiscent of Monkey Ball, and they are fun and quick distraction from the main-game. The other vehicle is your spaceship, which you will control in a couple of semi on-rail segments, with the right analog-stick to aim your shots, left analog-stick to move your ship, multiple firing modes and the ability to barrel-roll. This gave me flashbacks to Star Fox, making you dodge objects, shoot both enemies and obstacles, and all of it being fast-paced. I never needed the barrel-roll though, due to how fast your ship moves in general, but besides this: I had so much fun in these segments and would not mind at least one more, even if they could have made the barrel-roll more useful.
However, Clank returns in 2 segments and neither are very enjoyable. The first is actually a part of the spaceship segments where you will control him in turret-sections, which is dull. There is not much to do here besides aim and shoot, making me wonder why they were even included. The other part is the platforming and strategy segments Clank brings from previous entries. This time with mystical creatures called Zoni, who serve for combat and context-sensitive moments. Both parts are pretty standard and uninteresting. What is kinda neat, is Clank’s new ability to slow down time for poorly explained reasons. They are used for certain puzzles, but never in clever ways, making the concept feel unfinished.
The Arena returns and while it lacks the fun platforming-segments seen in the third game, it is still a joy to kill every enemy in the game with all the gadgets you own. You don’t get much worthwhile until the second playthrough (due to how easy bolts can be acquired the first time), but it is still a joy to shoot everything and dodge til your thumbs break. The worlds themselves are a treat to visit and feels more interesting in their design, with some having more focus on platforming, others on more open areas, exploration, puzzles and some having a bit of everything. The enemies as well are much more fun to attack, as some will react more to certain weapons. Shield-bearers will, for example, be more affected by lightning-attacks (such as the whip) and other enemies can be immune to it, shown by having electrical skin, making them more memorable. Besides the enemies, there are also characters in the environment that you can talk to and this time with dialog options. I have no idea why though. While they can add to the atmosphere, they never felt like interesting conversations. These are never forced on you at least.
So far, everything checks out for the most part. However there are a couple of big blemishes that really hurt the game. First of, the checkpoint-system is off. More often than not, it might send you back far, possibly making you go through long parts of a stage again. Including this: saving the game and returning to it later on, will have you start at the very beginning of the stage, even if a checkpoint was closer. This is frustrating and only prolongs the game. Some shortcuts are provided from time to time, but it is still an annoyance. The last are the bosses. A few of them are fun to fight against, but they are usually either incredibly easy or ammo-sucking with devastating attacks, making them a pain or a bore to fight. These do not however make the game poor, but make the game unbalanced or a chore at times. As it stands however, Tools of Destruction tries to take more and more inspirations from earlier entries and complements some smart design-choices. It is such a joy to play through this 11-13 hour journey that the flaws are easy to shrug off and wont stay for long, thankfully.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
A fantastic early showcase of PS3s capability
For being one of the earliest titles for the system, it really showed the console’s capability to almost the max. The presentation is gorgeous, with fantastic and varied areas that tackles both urban and naturalistic environments incredibly. They all feel unique and memorable, with great attention to details, such as hovercars or creatures in the background. The character-models are also impressive, with good animations, lipsyncing and overall designs are intriguing and imaginative, both for the enemies and the supportive characters. The CGs are also well done and uses in-game presentation to its fullest, unless it is for artistic-style, such as paper-cut outs. The only gripe I have, is that certain areas have off-looking and pixelated parts, such as certain grasses, and some windows with blatant 2D-textures with poor quality. They are noticeable, but overall it is still a great-looking game.
Tools of Destruction goes for a much more orchestrated soundtrack than the techno-beat from before, and it sounds amazing. It reminds me of something from an RPG (or even Rayman 2) and yet it works beautifully here, with just a slight tone of techno from time to time. I was even shocked to see it was the same composer from previous titles that did this soundtrack. The voice actors do a great job giving their performances, and the sounds of different guns firing and bolts clinging, are pleasant and joyful.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Same shot as before, but still works
Coming back once more, is the familiar challenge-mode, where you can start from the beginning of the game with enemies being stronger and more durable, weapons upgraded to level-5 be upgraded further, a bolt multiplier increases your collected earnings up to x20 and you keep all the bolts, skill points, holoplan pieces, weapons, and gold bolts you’ve already found throughout the game.
The holoplan pieces are really only there for acquiring the strongest weapon in the game, but definitely worth searching out for, even for how obscurely hidden they are. The Golden Bolts also returns for unlocking costumes, but there were only 2 costumes that intrigued me, and really: there is a slim selection. Skill-points are fun to tackle and you get some neat extras for them, such as cheats. While the Golden Bolts, are a letdown, having the ability to upgrade weapons even further and finding the other secrets, gives the game a good replay-value. Besides: who doesn’t love to upgrade already amazing guns?
Extra Score: 8/10
Ratchet and Clank Tools of Destruction has found a solid ground with this instalment. While the story is uninteresting and parts of the gameplay have its faults, the core concept of running and shooting is still great and what you will be doing for the most part of the game. It is a bit uneven with its difficulty at times, thanks to the bosses and the checkpoint-system, and Clank-segments are still unenjoyable, but there is so much to love here, that they come off as simply small, weak parts. Hopefully; the later instalments will be even better, but as it stands: this comes recommended for anybody owning a PS3 and wishing for a good platformer with a lot of crazy and fun weapons to use.