A Crack At 'Time'

Finally gifted with the first five levels of Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, we now know what we've been hoping for quite some time: this may indeed be the best Ratchet game yet.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: September 16, 2009
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The tireless development cycle instituted over at Insomniac Games has to be grueling -- there's simply no other way to describe having to make a new game every single year without a break. The dev house's consistent awards for being one of the best places in the country to work or the common engine base that's iterated upon with every game notwithstanding, the pressure to deliver a quality game in such a short amount of time puts an awful lot of demands on the Burbank, CA-based staff.

Here's the thing, though: they're able to do it. We may have felt the last two efforts from the studio, the incredibly bite-sized Quest for Booty Ratchet game and the much-anticipated Resistance 2 may have fallen flat, but the former was something of an extra treat and the latter was, if nothing else, absolutely packed with content. That's actually one of the most impressive things about the studio: despite a timeline that would crush other, dev teams, Insomniacs somehow manage to load up their games with so much to do that one wonders if they ever even sleep.

Oh. Ohhhhh, now we get the name. Yes, we're quick ones.

The tireless efforts have paid dividends in terms of actual development progress, however. While some devs are just now getting to their second-gen games on the PS3, Insomniac's underlying tech is into it's fourth iteration, and each new game brings with it an appreciable leap in graphical flourishes and familiarity with the PlayStation 3 hardware. In the case of A Crack in Time, it's meant the game has grown closer than ever before to becoming an interactive Pixar movie; plumes of smoke have turned to cartoonish blobs of color and all the characters are self-shadowed. The color palette has become so rife with in-between hues that at times the game really does look like a CG animated flick running in real time.

All that really matters, though, is that this game is packed with stuff to do. One could infer that this means the prototypical Skill Points and near-endless amounts of bolt collecting and weapons purchases/upgrades, but there's more to it this time around, and we've only now started to understand how it's all coming together as Sony kindly shipped over a snippet of the start of the game. Though it's painfully truncated in terms of the full experience, we were still treated to a number of new revelations about how the weapons work, how exploring will be tackled and just how much awaits us when the final product will hit next month.

Curious about what we've discovered? Good, read on to find out more.

The game, like so many PS3 offerings these days, does require a short-ish install, but in perhaps the most entertaining bit of pre-game entertainment, the whole process is more or less hidden by an intro movie with Captain Qwark describing (mangling, really) the events leading up to A Crack in Time while plugging the hell out of "My Blaster Runs Hot," his new TV show that continues to paint the gutless (but lovable) clod as a hero despite his actual lack of involvement. Skewing Tools of Destruction and Quest For Booty to paint himself as savoir, the install movie rather cleverly ties the game in with the real-life contest that saw a fan-made weapon make its way into Ratchet and Clank's latest outing.

After quite literally peering through the lens of Qwark's version of the truth, we were finally dropped into the title screen and quickly went to work, watching as a gorgeous video showed a little orange ball slowly working its way through a mysterious collection of cogs as a voiceover described the creation of Unit XJ-0461 -- better known to us as Clank -- and eventually pulls out to reveal said little scrapper in the clutches of Dr. Nefarious, the antagonist from the best of the PS2 outings, Up Your Arsenal, who is trying to crack into Clank's cranium to extract the secrets of the Great Clock, a mysterious device the heart of the universe ("give or take 50 feet") where Clank was apparently created. It's a plan so devious that it causes paragraph-long run-on sentences! Gasp!
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