With a slick PlayStation 3 shooter under its belt, Southern California-based Insomniac Games has set its sights on bringing its signature platforming duo, Ratchet and Clank, to the PlayStation 3. The totally original game kicks off an epic adventure that will set the stage for the next major story arc starring the bickering pair. Insomniac reps offered those who attended Sony's recent press event a tantalizing tease of the new game, which, while very much a work in progress, was overflowing with good humor and promise.
The game was shown off in two ways at the press event: a stage presentation and a one-on-one guided demo. The stage presentation offered an overview that covered the basics of its story and gameplay. The story picks up shortly after the last game and finds Ratchet and Clank being confronted by the mysterious Tachyon, a new villain with a not-so-cool fixation on wiping out lombaxes, Ratchet's species. Why? The answer is just one of the discoveries Ratchet will make as he journeys to a new star system to chase down the enigmatic villain. Unfortunately, as the young hero and his robotic pal uncover the answers to the origin of lombaxes and Ratchet's own history, Ratchet will have to deal with discoveries that raise some bigger picture questions. Creative director Brian Algeier noted that Tools of Destruction is intended to kick off a new multigame story arc for the pair.
As far as gameplay goes, the tiny slice of the game being demoed revolved around a sequence on the planet Kerchu. The lush and massive jungle planet is under attack from space pirates when the level starts. The sequence followed the duo as they made their way into a city under siege, facing enemies that ranged from local wildlife and standard grunts to all new foes that put new wrinkles on the standard baddie. Some enemies carried a shield that blocked many of Ratchet's attacks; other enemies were electrified, which made melee attacks a bad idea; while others were massive, treaded vehicular problems. While all the foes obviously posed a considerable obstacle to the dynamic duo, it's not as if this is their first time dealing with trouble. The demo level offered a small sampling of the arsenal at their disposal, which included the old standbys, such as Ratchet's wrench and gravity boots. As with all R&C games, new weapons and gadgets will be introduced. For Tools of Destruction, Insomniac is adding a new class and combat devices, which you'll use in battle. On top of that, Insomniac is even adding a Sixaxis twist to some weapons in the arsenal. For example, the visicopter is essentially a futuristic remote-control helicopter you'll pilot with the Sixaxis, which can target and attack enemies with missiles. Another weapon, the tornado gun, fires off small tornados that you'll direct with the Sixaxis. From what we've seen, the new gear is being worked into the action nicely.
Speaking of the action in the game, the demo level showed off the hallmarks of a good R&C game: combat, platforming, and a loony boss fight. The combat looked slick, thanks to the new weapons and the goofy enemy animation. The platforming seemed to be on point with your standard jumping, floating, and--as you headed to the boss fight--rail sliding. Once Ratchet made it through the rail-sliding sequence, which was complicated by the boss proactively trying to finish Ratchet off as he rode the rails, Ratchet wound up upside down in an arena facing a boss. The battle took place on two planes because Ratchet started out upside down on a platform; then, as the boss destroyed the platform, right side up and on the ground.
Though Insomniac reps were quick to point out the game's work-in-progress condition, noting performance and graphics are still being tweaked, the game is looking sharp. Insomniac has wisely chosen to build on the stylized look the R&C games have had since their inception. Rather than bust out with a photorealistic, bump-mapped Ratchet and an ubershiny normal-mapped Clank, Insomniac is putting in a host of subtle improvements to the duo, upping polygon count, improving animation, and the like.
The worlds that Ratchet and Clank explore will also be big. As we mentioned, Kerchu is an expansive locale with a healthy draw distance, as well as a high level of detail and animation. The other big star of the show is the duo's arsenal of weapons and gadgets, which benefits from new effects and the game's winning sense of humor. Our current favorite is the Groove-o-tron grenade, which explodes into a spinning disco ball that temporarily compels the enemies within range to dance. Besides the chuckle-worthy animation in the enemies, the pseudo '70s light show helps sell the gag perfectly.
The audio in the game is still nascent, and in some cases, a total placeholder. However, the game is on track to follow the template of its predecessors. We can expect voice work from the heroic duo, as well as their allies and enemies. Levels will feature unique scores, while the various weapons and gadgets will all have their own unique audio effects. We're holding out hope that the temporary music for the Groove-o-tron, the opening groove of "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees, becomes final because it suits the game's funky tone perfectly.
Based on what we've seen, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is poised to easily become one of the PlayStation 3's big guns this fall. The game appears to have the rock solid gameplay that's made a name for the series and its beefy visuals, building upon the ambitious work done in the PlayStation 2 games. Most importantly, given the franchise's numerous fans, the game's goofy humor seems poised to ensure that the story and gadgets keep their considerable charm. We're incredibly anxious to see more of the game and pick it up to get a feel for what's coming. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 3, so look for more on the game in the coming months.