Much like the gaming industry itself, the quality of platforming titles is cyclical. Every couple of years a title is released that "redefines" the platforming genre and sets the benchmark for a slew of imitators. The title then usually earns the label of "best platformer ever," until another one comes along, usually years later, and knocks it off of its throne. (Mario, Crash, Sonic, Jak and our titular duo have all been given this distinction at least once, and some even twice depending on who you ask.) The genre is one of the oldest in this relatively young industry, and although some feel that platformers have peaked and there is little room for growth left, there is at least one more title to add to the list of contestants for "best platformer ever." Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a masterpiece of platforming goodness; the bold, double-stuffed Oreo in a sea of cheap Hydrox.
In short, this title is a culmination of all the great features of the Ratchet series, plus a bunch of new ones seen for the first time. The visuals contained in Ratchet and Clank's first foray into HD are of the jaw-dropping variety, with stunning graphical vistas, character models and environments so detailed that players will actually lose themselves inside this world. The whole experience is completely immersive even with the "Saturday Cartoon" presentation of its main characters. There are a few graphical hiccups along the way and the framerate stutters at certain times, but none of these issues are big enough or last long enough to detract from the experience. Considering that Insomniac Games were the only developers that could convince the PS3 to start dancing at launch with Resistance: Fall of Man, it just goes to show that their skill and talent with the machine was no fluke and the graphical loveliness of TOD only reinforces this fact. Simply put, this is the best looking title on the PS3 as of this writing.
The storyline here is the strongest one of any of the Ratchet titles. A great deal of background to these beloved characters is revealed here, and do not be surprised if you find yourself emotionally moved once or twice throughout the game's story. The laughs the series is known for also come fast and furious, with Qwark's idiocy running full speed ahead. The entire design itself is impeccable, with a constant feeling of progression and reward much the same way a Zelda title rewards a player when something significant is achieved.
The gameplay style is a really refined version of all the Ratchet goodness players have come to know and love. The arsenal of weaponry has been “ratcheted” up quite a bit, with a wide assortment of upgradeable weaponry at your disposal. In addition to the game’s inherent weapon upgrades (just by using them) and secondary firing modes, players will also find a plethora of upgrade stations in which to purchase new guns, ammo and weapon upgrades. It’s nearly a perfect delivery of options in the game’s implementation… a new upgrade or weapon is available right around the time you start getting bored of your current one. The developers have also listened well to the responses of players from their previous efforts. Much of what didn’t work in the past has been scaled back or eliminated, and what did work has been emphasized and accentuated. Expect the weapons to either dish out a world of hurt or a world of hilarity (the Groovitron being an example of the latter). The actual “platforming” aspect of the title seems to be taking a bit of a backseat this time out in favor of shooting, much the way it did in the “Up Your Arsenal” title a while back. The gameplay sequences also vary in style quite a bit, so you will be guiding our heroes through vehicle sequences, space battles, hacking mini-games and exciting boss battles. The difficulty of the game for veteran gamers may seem a bit lax, but the sheer excitement and fun in the title makes the experience worthwhile.
The sound design is also of the highest “caliber.” The cast members to a fantastic job at bringing these characters to life, and there are also subtle nuances placed randomly throughout the audio design. (If you listen carefully, you might just be able to hear the voice of a few characters from “future past”). The surround mix is really bold and will definitely generate much heat from within your processor.
TOD is a gorgeous, compelling and exciting title that seems to do everything right and does so with the style and grace seen very rarely these days. Even if you are among those who feel that the platforming genre has run its course, you will likely find more than enough contained herein to keep you from writing off the genre altogether. All but the most jaded of gamers will find something to love here, and will be compelled to play through the entire eleven hour game plus challenge mode more than once, hunting and scavenging for the multitude of secrets within. Get a ratchet and smash open the piggybank, then take your clanking bits of change to the game store and pick this one up; it is destined to earn the honor of “best platformer ever.”