E3 07: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Impressions

I won't lie, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction was one of my most eagerly anticipated E3 titles. I've been following Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction every step of the way, from last year's GDC tech demo to the trailer to the live demonstration at Sony's mid-May Gamers Day event. Going into this year's E3, I was thrilled to finally give it a go.

As the demo, and the game itself, begins, the furry Ratchet and pint-sized robotic Clank receive a transmission from their old pal Captain Qwark, who is under attack. To be honest, I'm not really sure what was said, the voices were impossible to hear over the music Sony was blaring at the time. However, even without voice, the resulting cinematic was still humorous, as Ratchet and Clank hop on a hoverbike that almost immediately goes into a freefall.

Arriving near Qwark's home, it's rather clear that the city of Metropolis is under attack. As players approach a prominent Captain Qwark statue, for example, it comes under fire, then transformed into nearly unrecognizable rubble. Not soon after, the invaders make their first appearance.

Known as the Grophyds, they are basically sentient goldfish. Goldfish that just so happen to be in control of large robotic suits equipped with gatling guns and pinchers. As Ratchet either swings his trademark wrench or resorts to one of his many weapons, the suits begin to fall apart, leaving the Grophyds flopping around on the ground, surrounded by shards of their former trapping.

Of the weapons available in the demo, three will be immediately recognizable to Ratchet veterans: the standard blaster pistol, the usual grenade, and the transmorpher. This time around, the transmorpher temporarily transforms enemies, even robots, into harmless penguins clad in either a top hat or winter hat and scarf. Why penguins? Because that's what the listeners of Insomniac's Full Moon Show podcast voted for when polled a few month's back.

The disco ball, meanwhile, is a new addition to Ratchet's arsenal. Put simply, it forces on-screen characters to dance. Attacking UFOs, heavily armed Grophyds, helper robots, penguins, and even the harmless Grophyds laying on the ground all start to boogie when the disco ball goes in the air, the beat starts pumping and the lights begin flashing. This temporarily leaves them defenseless, providing Ratchet with an opportunity to ruthlessly mow them down in mid-dance or run right past them.

Along with the requisite mix of close-range wrench combat and long-range gun play, the demo showcased a few grinding sections. At one point, a rail spirals around a tall skyscraper, which begins to crumble mid-grind. As players get a full view of the building's destruction thanks to the circling rail, they must also avoid the falling debris that is knocking off portions of the rail. In another grinding section, players must alternate between three rails to avoid oncoming trains and attacks from pursuing UFOs.

Highlighting the game's support for the PlayStation 3's motion support, one portion of the level had players free-falling through the crowded aerial traffic of Metropolis by tilting the controller.

Unfortunately, the demo of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction was over far too soon. After safely landing, Ratchet was surrounded by Grophyd forces. The camera cut to show the bottom half of a quad-legged machine, perhaps controlled by the Grophyd commander, and just as I was getting ready for an awesome boss fight, the screen faded and a message appeared to tell me I had reached the end of the E3 build.

As far as the game's appearance goes, I noticed some occasional screen tearing, but the frame rate never stuttered, remaining steady despite the constant destruction of Metropolis in the background. Given that Ratchet & Clank is running on the next iteration of the engine Insomniac used in its PlayStation 3 launch title Resistance: Fall of Man, which did not have any screen tearing issues, it's a safe bet that those issues won't be present in the final game.

Also present were Insomniac's trademark attention to detail, as exemplified by the small patches of fur popping off Ratchet's ears and the way his ears flap in the wind when grinding and falling. The usual sense of humor is present as well. In a rare moment of silence, I could make out the recording at Qwark's door amusingly detailing a number of attackers one could be accosted by while I fought off a number of Grophyds.

As both the fifth Ratchet & Clank title and the series' debut on the PlayStation 3, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction looks to be shaping up quite nicely. Look for it this fall, and keep checking back with us for more coverage as that date approaches.