It’s been a long hard road for Ratchet, but the final game in the storyline established with Tools of Destruction is here. I got a private first ever look at Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, and then played a demo on the floor. It’s definitely a game to look forward to.
Our showing of Crack in Time began with Ratchet’s gameplay in the demo level. This was the same demo available on the floor. Ratchet is battling through an alien planet with his new Lombax companion Alistar. Alistar fights alongside Ratchet, and gives some advice as to what needs to be done and where to go. He also helps boost the witty dialog that would otherwise be lacking with the absence of Clank.
Ratchet himself comes equipped with a lot of new tools, the most important of which are his new hover boots. The hover boots allow Ratchet to perform maneuvers he would normally require Clank for, such as the glide/hover at the end of an extended jump. The hover boots can also be used to jet Ratchet around the level, adding a new high speed form of travel. If the other stages are as huge as this one, then this will prove to be an important addition.
Ratchet also used the hover boots to do a sort of platforming challenge found around the level in the form of hover boot ramps. These ramps formed a path that Ratchet had to rocket through in order to chase down a Zoni, which act as one of the collectables in this game. Insomniac promised many collectable challenges and secrets in their huge levels, including the series favorite gold bolts. Exploration will be a bigger focus than in previous games.
We saw 3 new weapons in the demo. The Sonic Eruptor, which is basically a frog on a gun, was a lot of fun to use. When the cheeks of the animal are fully inflated, the sonic burst emitted is far more devastating. We also saw the Cryo Mines, which freeze opponents, and the Plasma Striker, which is a sniper rifle that highlights the enemy’s weak point in red.
New in the platforming and puzzle challenge section was the Omni Soaker gadget, which allowed Ratchet to absorb and use various liquids. The Omni Soaker was used in puzzles in the demo to emit a nectar to distract and manipulate deadly insects in a tunnel. There were some puzzles where you would have to redirect the insects to multiple points to pass safely through, and then direct them to the web covering a doorway to get them to eat through that.
Graphically, A Crack in Time is gorgeous. The game runs at 60 frames per second, and has even more detail than its predecessors. Insomniac has also added self-shadowing for the first time, which actually gives the game a bit of a cel-shaded look. The new enemies shown had lots of style and visual flare, and the level was full of action, intensity, and effects. It would not be an exaggeration to say this is one of the most visually impressive games on PS3.
Our private demo was also the very first reveal of the new Clank gameplay, which was not shown on the floor. Clank is taking on a slightly larger role than in previous games, although Insomniac assured us Ratchet was still the focus. Clank’s gameplay is not the run-and-gun of Ratchet, but instead puzzle-focused.
The puzzles we saw with Clank started him in a room full of multiple switches. Some switches would raise elevators, others would open doors. Many doors would require 2 or even 3 switches pressed at the same time to open the door. The way Clank could do this was the battery recording buttons.
If Clank stepped on a button, he would begin a 60 second recording session. During that time, he could move around wherever he wanted, and cancel the recording when he had position himself where he wished. When he stepped on the next colored switch, he could move Clank again. Meanwhile, the first recording would go to where you directed it and stay at the spot you left him last till the 60 seconds were up.
With 4 switches, Clank would sometimes have to use switches multiple times to raise and lower elevators and get on and off of switches. These puzzles were clever, but brutally difficult. Insomniac said the insanely complex rooms were just to show off the potential complexity, and the actual game wouldn’t go quite so far. They pointed out that they do still want Ratchet to be a game enjoyable by everyone.
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is looking to be a great finale for the Future series. Insomniac was also questioned about co-op, but they made no comment. There will also be less use of the sixaxis in the game than in previous iterations, and they promised the game will be at least as long as or longer than Tools of Destruction. Look forward to the release of A Crack in Time sometime in Q3 of this year.