Review: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

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Genre: Action/Platformer
Platforms: Playstation 3
Developer: Insomniac Games
Price: $59.99 (USD)

I’ve always enjoyed the Ratchet and Clank games, but it wasn’t until 2007’s Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction that I became a fan of the series. The visuals, the humor, the story and game play were polished to a fine sheen. It truly was Ratchet and Clank from the PS2 days on the PS3, in glorious HD. Of course, with that adherence to what has come before, the game garnered a lot of criticism for playing it so safe.

2008’s PSN download only Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty removed Clank from the scenario and focused solely on Ratchet and a mini-tale involving his search for his missing friend. The platform heavy game nixed all things planet hopping, as well as the heavy emphasis on weapons and upgrading that the series was known for, although they did expand on Ratchet’s Omni-wrench by adding a tether grappling mechanic. The game was received with mixed results. Some loved it, others loathed it for what it removed from the R&C franchise, despite it’s smaller, downloadable only package.

Now, here we are, another year, and another Ratchet and Clank title, A Crack in Time, which is the conclusion to the current “Future” series arc, and answers quite a few questions regarding the pasts of both Ratchet and Clank, and boy is it a ride.

Before I begin, I’d like to get something off of my chest that’s been bothering me about the way ACIT has been received. Reviewers have been knocking it for being the same old Ratchet and Clank, but after my 22 hour+ game play session, I have to say I wholeheartedly disagree. And here’s why.

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The story in A Crack in Time revolves around Ratchet’s ongoing search for Clank, and Clank’s tale revolves around him becoming the caretaker of the Great Clock, a vastly powerful devise that can manipulate time, but is expressly used to keep time safe, and from being tampered with. Naturally, the villainous Dr. Nefarious of past Ratchet games has captured Clank in an attempt to gain the powers of the Great Clock for his, ahem, nefarious plans. I won’t spoil the story, as it’s very well written, with fantastic humor from the great cast of characters, and many twists and turns. You are playing the game just as much to see how the story unfolds as you are to advance to the next world and weapon’s upgrade.

Visually, the game is beautiful. There is no two ways about it. The levels are massive in scope and detail, character models are detailed and emotive, and the space sections are simply amazing in their colorful representation of the stars. Playing this game on an HDTV is truly a treat, and I find the visuals vastly improved over Tools of Destruction. Insomniac went with a slightly more cartoony aesthetic this time, which not only suits the world better than the previous games, but really helps to sell the game as an animated movie brought to game form. Explosions, water effects, and details like leaves and brick are more stylized, and more appealing as a result.

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As for gameplay, this is the section where I feel that ACIT is more different than alike than previous Ratchet and Clank games.

First off is a minor change to the controls that I thoroughly enjoyed. It may not seem like much, but allowing Ratchet to run and throw his wrench at the same time was a brilliant decision, and a long time coming. No more stopping and throwing away, and he can even throw the wrench while jumping in the air. It’s a little change, but it makes game play just that much smoother and more accessible.

As for the bigger changes, the main one will be the now free form space travel sections. Instead of simply selecting the next planet from a list, players are now able to explore the space between the 6 sectors in the game, partaking in “sub-quests,” or exploring nearby moons in order to collect Golden Bolts, Holo-BluePrints for an uber-powerful weapon, the RYNO (a series staple), or collecting Zoni, beings of pure energy that will upgrade Ratchet’s ship, Aphelion, when you collect the required number.

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This freedom to explore space does more than just stretch out the game play hours, it makes the world feel that much more cohesive and real. It’s quite impressive to see your destination off in the distance, surrounded by other celestial bodies (or enemy craft). The space combat is simple, but enjoyable. It’s kept on one plane (no Colony Wars-esque game play here), and you have two weapons, a blaster, and missiles, both of which get upgraded as more Zoni are collected. In each of the sectors there are a few enemy satellites that you can destroy after defeating the squadron of their protector ships. These sections could certainly become tedious, but I found it very fun to fly around and engage in them. Of course, you are simply free to warp to the next objective if you don’t feel like flying anywhere.

The next big change to the game is the removal of Clank from the equation for the majority of the game. In previous Ratchet and Clank games, I loathed when I lost Clank and had to hoof it as Ratchet. His platforming always left a lot to be desired due to his limited move set (ie, smaller jump height), and for the first few hours of ACIT, you would be correct in assuming that the feeling was almost the same. However, Insomniac managed to do the unthinkable and made playing as Ratchet genuinely fun. His wrench-tether is implemented in fun ways, and more than that, the addition of hover-boots really opens up his move set, allowing him to compensate somewhat for the lack of Clank. I actually preferred to be playing as Ratchet when the game would switch over to the Clank segments.

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Before I get to Clank, I must also note a third change to the game. The way weapons upgrade are nearly the same (killing enemies with said weapon adds to the weapons XP, as well as Ratchet’s overall XP, and they reach a new level when the bar is full, increasing the weapons stats like damage, area of affect, and ammo capacity), but there are specifically 3 weapons in the “Constructo” line that allow players to mix and match a series of upgrades to create the type of weapon they prefer; a pistol, a shotgun, and a grenade glove.

For example, the shotgun weapon has upgrades that allow you to adjust if it has a narrow spread, regular spread, or wide spread, and then mix and match those up with ammo types like explosive rounds, and perforating rounds. I miss the Raritanium style upgrading, but this new system was still enjoyable, and out of the 18 weapons you eventually gain, they are all a blast to use, especially when they reach their max level. In previous Ratchet games, some weapons were just not much fun, even maxed out. Insomniac has went with a few of the best of the Tools of Destruction weapons, and some truly fun new additions.

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Now onto Clank, and what I believe to be the final big change to the series’ game play. Each Ratchet and Clank game has had some Clank segments, but he was usually limited to just running, platforming, punching, and utilizing bots (or Zoni, in Tools of Destruction’s case). There are exceptions of course (like Giant Clank), but for the most part, the Clank sections were almost filler. Not so in A Crack in Time. Clank is, in some ways, the true star of the game, in story and even gameplay, as his sections are truly inspired and well conceived.

For his sections, Clank is charged with maintaining the Great Clock. To aid him, he is given three very powerful new abilities. The first is a sceptor that allows him to whack away at enemies, as well as repair broken sections of the Clock by rewinding them to a healthier state. He can also use the sceptor to knock projectiles back at enemies that spew them at him. Secondly, Clank can throw Time Bombs, which detonate into spherical orbs that slow down anything captured within them. The Time Bomb is used in traversing the Great Clock also, by slowing down various fast-spinning gears that would be impossible for Clank to cross at normal speed.

Clank’s third new ability, and by far the most impressive, is his ability to record past versions of himself when solving puzzles. He does this by activating a pad, bringing up the menu with the Triangle button, and selecting “Record”. A simple example is the first: Clank must open a door for himself, so the player must first record himself walking to the switch and stepping on it, then ending the recording, and playing it back (via another platform). While past Clank is stepping on the switch, current Clank is able to run through the now open door. Insomniac uses this mechanic in such clever and devious ways that I was truly stumped on quite a few of the puzzles, and the feeling of triumph when successfully completing them is wonderful. There are also special optional challenges that Clank can do while in the Great Clock if you really enjoy the time manipulating segments (and if you want to collect an additional 4 Gold Bolts for a Trophy).

There’s not much else to say about Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, so, as you may have guessed, it’s that time again:

VERDICT: BUY – A Crack in Time is the most polished, humorous, and creative Ratchet and Clank game yet. It stays true to the core game play and style that the fans have grown to love, but it expands upon them with more enjoyable Ratchet only game play, wide open space sections (which hold a lot of promise for future entries in the series), and Clank game play that is truly creative and innovative, as well as evolving the characters into more complex, 3Dimensional beings. In short, Ratchet and Clank has grown up, and any fan should have this stellar title in their collection. Even newcomers can hop on board, as the characters and game play are incredibly accessible.

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One Response to “Review: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”

  1. I don’t think I’ll ever get past the paradox of time travel, but I think I can look past it with Ratchet and Clank. It really is beautiful.

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