Ratchet's Back!

Insomniac outdo themselves and deliver not only the best Ratchet game yet, but the best game currently on the PS3.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 4, 2007
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Even after (or perhaps because of) playing hundreds of games, it never ceases to amaze me that you can just sense when a game is going to be good after playing it for 10 minutes. Tools of Destruction is unequivocally, one of those games, where just a few minutes in, the controls, the visuals, the humor and the sense of polish all meld together to form a concentrated mass of pure, undeniable fun that just keeps building the longer you play it. In fact, this is the first game in years that I actually went back through and beat twice before reviewing. It's that damn fun.

Now granted, you can probably finish the game (the first time at least) in a weekend, but it's the second time around, where nearly all of the little things that annoyed me the first time around were fixed; the game gets harder, the enemies tougher, the requirements for buying new equipment skyrockets, but this is helped by a fantastic combo system that adds an ever-growing multiplier to your bolts (the game's currency for those poor souls that never played the PS2 games), but resets the second you get hit.

Offering something for players to digest the second time around isn't anything new for Insomniac or the Ratchet & Clank series, but here the mix of RPG-like leveling aspects -- you're given experience for every enemy killed, and can literally level up your Nanotech (read: hit points) as well as earn experience just by using weapons to level them up into more powerful versions -- all comes to a head with the risk/reward setup of the combo multiplier.

It is a heady, thoroughly rewarding combination, and when stacked atop the insane amount of variety in weapons, gadgets (special items that either serve a unique purpose or act as a weapon that can't be leveled up) and especially the locales, all wrapped in the funniest script the series has seen yet, the result is just... well, it's magical. ToD is the kind of game that you hardly ever see anymore, filled to near-bursting with a variety of gameplay types that push the series past being even a trite weapons-based platformer into something that becomes greater than the whole of its parts, yet each part taken on its own is a joy to experience.

If I sound like I'm gushing, it's because I am, but for the sake of being objective, the game certainly isn't perfect; crashes cropped up a few times, during playing, once the game hard locked (the only way to reset the system was to turn it off with the manual switch ing the back) as it loaded up a new planet for the first time, and another it simply dumped me to a black screen with what I can only assume was some kind of error code.

Little things like boxes or items hanging in the air or flickering or enemies getting stuck in walls or frozen in a death animation cropped up too. The much-vaunted Tornado Launcher, which controls with the SIXAXIS motion controls, often got hung up around objects and at times simply felt unresponsive. I used it only to level it up to max because I'm OCD like that, but it was largely useless.

Storylines have never been the series' strong suit. Dialogue, yes, but the over-arching plots were never terribly compelling. There are definite seeds planted for something greater with the PS3 versions of the franchise, but a cliffhanger ending and the merest introduction of some characters made it clear that Insomniac was working on something with the series (this is something of a fresh start, after all), but the disparate elements didn't really come to a head in this game in a satisfying enough way.

Try as I might, though, I really can't fault the game for much else, and the things I've described -- normally a serious distraction for lesser games -- really don't matter all that much when they're put up against the rest of the experience. Enemies frozen in mid-death tend to be little more than an entry in my review notes when one has just used a wrench to slide down a cable, grinded around a twisting, meandering section of railing with interspersed jumping sections and unloaded about a dozen rockets at a t-rex-looking dinosaur caught in the throes of irresistible dance fever thanks to a floating disco ball that was shot out moments earlier. And that was before tearing ass through space in an on-rails shooting section that takes the player from a battle against huge star destroyers, out to an ice moon that serves as a pirate base and into a black hole.
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