If you don't already recognize the Ratchet and Clank series as a guaranteed bundle of good gaming times, there's no hope for you and you will inevitably dismiss my declarations of Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction's awesomeness. I beg you, quit your whining about the lack of multi-player or the game's dissimilarity from your favorite shooter long enough to give this next-gen addition to the franchise a try. Tools of Destruction is one of the prettiest games you'll see on the PS3, and you'll swear she must have been an ugly kid because it has got all the wit and humor you could dream up.
This time around the folks at Insomniac outdid themselves with the storytelling, and you just may feel like you're playing through a Pixar movie and I don't mean lengthy narrative. It's not often that a video game plot comes with this kind of polish, so savor every moment (about 16 hours worth). For longtime fans, Tools of Destruction finally addresses the sorts of questions that keep Ratchet and Clank fans up at night, like where in this wild and wacky universe did all the Lombaxes go? Fans of the series will also like the subtle in-game references to past characters - be sure to keep your ears perked up to all those intercom announcements, you just may learn the fate of one Slim Cognito.
Additionally, Clank acquires a whole new layer of mystery (or robo-dementia) with the appearance of the mysterious Zoni, which only he can see, and the little modifications they equip him with. With the Zoni come the return of some Clank-only game play, and the tiny modders help along the way from levitating Clank across chasms to manipulating objects. Clank's upgrades also put the Sixaxis to use with some environment-traversing flying segments. Though the flying is unquestionably the best use of the controller, there are mini-games that use the Sixaxis, from cracking locks to slicing through rock to dancing a pirate jig. Oh, yes, get ready to shake your robo-booty while dressed as a pirate, and please take note that during the most pirate-y of moments the music not so subtly references a particular slice of the Bloom/Depp oeuvre.
All you closet fans of Captain Quark can breathe easy, the self-proclaimed captain of awesomeness is in rare form and even a teensy bit helpful this go around. You can expect to see other familiar faces, too (the plumber, perhaps?). Meanwhile Tachyon, touted uber-villain of the game, is an amusing nemesis that really can't stand up to the inherent pirate awesomeness of Captain Slag and his minions.
You'll still get a chance to show your might in some Arena showdowns, but if that was your favorite part of past Ratchet games you might be a little disappointed. The game is largely platforming with a return to the "explore at will" philosophy of pre-Deadlocked incarnations and a reduced emphasis on the Arena - the Arena challenges even seem easier. Also downplayed are the inter-planetary space battles. Limited and brief, they add a nice diversity to the game without giving you the feeling they're keeping you from the really fun stuff.
And the weapons, oh the weapons. I can't be the only one that thinks Insomniac devs play with toys half the day just to achieve the spectacular weapons Ratchet fans have come to know and love. Topping my list are the Nano-Swarmers which release a stunning furor of buzzing attack bugs. Occasionally they'll cloud your screen a bit and are definitely a passive weapon, though it's fun to use them in conjunction with the close-combat Razor Claws. The Tornado Launcher is a bit of a novelty but the control over the launched tempest is so "meh" that it's not a great weapon when you're in a bind. There are also Devices, which come in small quantities and pack a punch. From the Transmorpher (Penguins!) to the Groovitron (each enemy has their own dance), it's these sorts of touches that make Ratchet so much fun. In addition to collecting bolts you'll want to be stocking up on Raritanium (conversely, not so rare), to purchase weapons upgrades. These upgrades will do everything from increase the guns ammo to up it's firing speed to maximize the amount of Raritanium you can glean from vanquished baddies.
Complaints of returning to the "same old" Ratchet formula aren't unfounded, just foolish. The well-paced action and superbly entertaining game play aren't really the sorts of staples you want to go around messing with. Of course, if you're the type of gamer that craves 120 hours of mind bending difficulty, Ratchet and Clank isn't for you. While the difficulty is not so much, the hours of unrelenting fun are, and once you're done there's always Challenge Mode. The replay value? Infinite.