With Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time nearing release, Sony popped over to let us try a new area called Axiom City. The level takes place early on in the game, just after Ratchet has met up with Alistair Azimuth, a fellow lombax who knows quite a bit about our hero. We’ll go ahead and gloss over the rest of the story elements that unfold in the level and just say that Ratchet and Azimuth are on the hunt for the Obsidian Eye. Fans who played last year’s PSN title Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty will recognize the Eye as a powerful artifact capable of communicating with Clank. The Eye is held at a facility on Axiom, which is where the duo is headed at the start of the level.
Before diving into the level proper, we want to quickly touch on the space sequence to reach the city. The planet’s defenses can be bypassed only if Ratchet’s ship has been upgraded by collecting enough Zoni after scouring the nearby moons. The quick detour before hitting the planet definitely got us excited to see just how many locales and secrets Insomniac has peppered throughout the stretches of space in the game.
Once you're in the city itself, Axiom plays out the way any Ratchet fan would expect a city in the game to: like a big old playground. There’s ample opportunity for platforming and using gadgets, as well as some secrets to discover off the obvious path to rendezvous with Alistair. Ratchet’s hoverboots and the swingshot are your best friends for a fair chunk of the level. As in the previous games, the swinging and platforming have a good feel to them. To progress, you’ll be chatting with the pompous, yet brainy, locals who are a prickly bunch. But for all their attitude, the aliens need assorted help with some problems around town, which Ratchet is able to provide. Unfortunatley, lombaxes aren’t welcome by the local authorities, so it isn’t long before being helpful takes a backseat to meeting Alistair and surviving.
The early part of the level, which showcases the Coruscant from outdoor areas in Star Wars, gives way to the tighter confines of the facility, which holds the Obsidian Eye Ratchet and Alistair are after. The journey to track down the Eye makes use of a whole lot of ammo and offers plenty of opportunity to discover some mod parts for Ratchet’s Constructo weapons. We came across some very handy burst modifications for the bomb glove, one of which created a vertical blast that was perfect for airborne enemies. Modifications for Ratchet’s pistol let us swap between a standard and charged shot, which doles out more damage than a regular blast from the weapon. The level culminates in what has become a Ratchet staple since the series moved to the PlayStation 3: a boss fight against a ginormous thing. In this particular case, the boss is a massive, city-size tentacled thing that wants to stomp our favorite lombax. Fighting the boss requires good reflexes, an eye for patterns, an ear for tips shouted to you from Alistair over the course of the fight, and some stamina. The evil mech doesn’t go down easy and requires you to take it out in phases, each with its own unique quirks.
The game’s story will be peppered throughout your run through the level and will play out across conversations and some in-game cinematics that highlight the impressive tech being used for the game. You’ll get some more information on Alistair’s background and how it ties in to Ratchet’s family tree as well as a better understanding of the Great Clock where Clank is being held. As you experience all the exposition, you’ll notice that the sights and sounds of the level are in line with the impressive upgrades we’ve seen in the game already. There’s a convincing flurry of activity in the city and an insane amount of stuff popping off when you get nuts with Ratchet’s arsenal. More importantly, there’s plenty of personality on display everywhere. We’re big fans of the witty asides from Ratchet and the non-player characters he encounters, both during cinematics and during gameplay.
From the look of things, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is poised to give fans of the series, and platformer enthusiasts in general, some exhilarating action. The series has been hitting a nice groove on the PlayStation 3, and this latest game looks like the best yet. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is set to be released the last week of October for the PlayStation 3.