Thursday, January 6, 2011

PS3 Look - Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

I'll make this simple for once. If you liked Tools of Destruction you should have already bought this game. If you didn't care for that game or never played it well then you should check this game out anyway because it's that damn good. It's everything anyone could ask for out of a good sequel and for me it's one of the better games on the Playstation 3.

Game Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars
My Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Unfortunately life as we know it is never about simplicity and I can't seem to write a review under five-hundred words so let's just face the facts and roll right along. Crack in Time follows directly after the events of Tools of Destruction. It seems our robo-backpack buddy Clank is more than just circuitry and an annoying laugh and is actually set to inherit some great destiny. While best friend Ratchet would like nothing more than to find Clank he has problems of his own and they involve one Dr. Nefarious. I missed the PS2 games so I can only assume that Nefarious is a recurring villain who got sent to the scrap heap in the past and revenge is best served by robots. The Nefarious' big plan is to capture the power of time held within the center of the universe. Throw in a mystery Lombax who wishes to use this power as well and one has to wonder if time is up for Ratchet and friends.

The key word in any sequel is improvement. It's not exactly a one to one ratio but usually when more effort is put in, better ideas are thought up, and criticisms are accounted for, a better game is created. Sequels aren't exactly anything new to Ratchet & Clank but somehow even with my limited exposure to the series I think that this entry is the best yet. The storyline is predictable yet well-done, the weapon-selection feels especially balanced, all of the levels are highly entertaining with rarely a hint of wasted space, and the fat has for the most part been trimmed accordingly.

Progression is handled in much the same manner as the previous game. Ratchet explores the cosmos, blows up everything that gets in his way, and finds some clue or plot-device that will carry him to the next phase of the game. Clank is tasked with exploring his luxury palace of time which involves a bit of slowing down time, repairing anomalies in the continuum, and even completing some clever puzzles that involve manipulating multiple versions of himself. Apparently crates are hard to come by so it's easier to just have Clank use time pads so his other selves can hold down switches to open doors. It's quite a bit more clever than it sounds and it is part of what makes the puzzles in this game actually work. For those who are confused by this sort of nonsense the game retains the simple pleasures like destroying robots with rockets and a full-on arena level that rewards unrelenting slaughter with cash and prizes.

Ratchet explores each galaxy via his space-ship and this leads to a very neat method of exploration. Aside from the major planets that progress the story there are also about a dozen minor areas that combine some mix of platforming and shooting to reach precious treasures. The space-sections falter somewhat as they involve a number of enemy-ships that need blasting and yet there's hardly much of anything to differentiate the first wave of attackers with the last wave. Still they're all minor speed-bumps in the end and the encounters tend to be pretty painless.

One of the things I never touched on when I reviewed the last Ratchet & Clank were the boss-battles. They were really mediocre and the final boss in particular was just a big disappointment. This game rights that wrong and then some by delivering some of the well-designed and creative bosses . This is really important because by the end of the last game it felt like all I was doing was running in circles while using up all of the ammo on my strongest weapons. With Crack in Time a real effort is made to get away from that and it shows with some really good boss-battles. There is still a ways to go in this regard I think but admittedly I have been spoiled by what some other developers have been doing in said department. There are other nice additions and changes like customization for some weapons, the hover-boots for getting around quickly, and that awful six-axis junk being relegated to a completely optional weapon that I hardly used.

Due to a number of factors I actually started playing this game first and only moved to Tools of Destruction when I got it at a cheap price. Generally when I played the earlier game all I could think about was how it failed in comparison to Crack in Time. No way am I saying that it's comparable to the differences between Street Fighter 1 and Street Fighter 2 but the improvements that Crack In Time brings are too obvious to ignore. It's just a flat-out more polished and better playing game that avoids the pacing and balance issues that severely hurt Tools of Destruction while adding in other features and making changes that make it truly exceptional. This is a must-play for any PS3 owner I think.

Game Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars
My Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars's the same score from the beginning of the review. But hey if you made it this far you have my appreciation.

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