E3 '07: Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Hands-On

Rail-sliding with Ratchet and Clank in their first next-gen console appearance.

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Insomniac Games scored a PS3 launch hit with their shooter Resistance: Fall of Man, but for their next game they're going back to more familiar territory with the first outing of dynamic duo Ratchet and Clank on the PS3.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a PS3 exclusive, and sees the resilient Lombax and his mechanical partner go back to their tried-and-true mix of platforming, combat, and over-the-top weapons. We played the new game's opening level at E3 07, which at the beginning has Ratchet and Clank busily trying to repair a broken machine while in the heart of the futuristic, space-age city of Metropolis. A call from Captain Qwark breaks their peace, however, with the lantern-jawed character bringing news that aliens from another galaxy were invading Metropolis in search of the last known remaining Lombax--namely, Ratchet. From there, Ratchet and Clank sets off across Metropolis in an effort to get away from their alien attackers.

The gameplay in the demo level of Future is classic Ratchet and Clank. Players still use Ratchet's oversized wrench as their primary weapon, swinging it at enemies to destroy them. The enemies in this first level ranged from small, basic robot foes with domed fronts, to larger, floating enemies with saucer-shaped heads and large javelinlike arms. These larger enemies also, when destroyed, release a small bloblike creature that eventually explodes.

While most enemies in the opening level could easily be accounted for while using the wrench exclusively, we did get to see some of new wacky weapons people can expect in this game. One of the highlights was the Transmorpher, a weapon that turns your opponents into...penguins. Another new addition was the Grooveatron, an area-effect bomb that sends everyone in its blast radius into a disco-style dancing frenzy--which obviously prevents them from attacking you while simultaneously becoming sitting ducks for your trusty wrench. The way to access these special weapons remains similar to previous games--pressing the triangle button on the PS3 controller brings up a radial menu, where players can choose a weapon to set as the default by using the left analog stick.

Perhaps the most significant gameplay additions we found so far in Tools of Destruction were on the platforming side of the Ratchet and Clank formula. At one stage in our demo level, Ratchet fell off an exploding bridge, and had to slowly glide his way down to the street below. The gliding was controlled using the PS3 controller's Sixaxis movement detectors--tilting Ratchet from side to side and back to front moved him in those directions and away from any dangerous obstacles. Another feature saw Ratchet using long rails to slide on, similar to what we saw in an earlier preview of the game. In the Metropolis sliding sections, Ratchet had to slide along long metal rails, jumping from one to another to avoid approaching trains and enemy attacks. Avoiding these obstacles proved to be quite easy, as Ratchet never seemed to build up too much speed and enemies would telegraph which rail would be attacked long in advance. This is the opening level, however, so we're expecting these sections to become progressively more difficult later on in the game.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

Visually, the game is already looking mighty impressive, with huge draw distances both horizontally and vertically across the wide expanse and deep chasms of Metropolis. The series' trademark bright colors are back, but the level of intricate detail in both the environment and enemies are noticeably improved. The game's developers tell us that character models been significantly ramped up--as an example, Ratchet's face alone in Tools of Destruction features 90 moveable joints for better expressions, far more than the Lombax's whole body in previous games.

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is looking to be another top-notch entry in the series, and we're keen to grab some more playtime with the game to find out what other new additions the team at Insomniac has in store. The game is slated for release in Q4 this year.

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