E3 2009: Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time hands-on
Ratchet and Clank have visited the PlayStation 3 twice so far in the console’s relatively short life. Their two adventures have been met with critical-acclaim, and the cliff-hanger ending of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction has had fans clamoring for a real sequel ever since the game’s release in two years ago. Fortunately, the duo will return this holiday season when Sony releases Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.
I sat down today with Sony’s Mike Ellis as I took a hands-on tour of the new game. I was shown one of the typically chaotic battles that the game is known for and also was able to take a shot at some of the new puzzle elements that have been incorporated into the game. When asked about the plot of the game, Ellis would spare few secrets, but it was obvious from the demo that Ratchet was without Clank.
Ellis was able to confirm that the storyline would pick up where Tools of Destruction left off. Ellis also confirmed that a new character seen in some trailers and during my demo, known as General Azimuth, was also a Lombax. In Ratchet & Clank’s mythology, Ratchet has believed for years that he is the last of the Lombax race,so the inclusion of a second Lombax should mean that the storyline will focus on what happened to the species and how they came to be so few in numbers.
Most of my demo focused on the combat portions of A Crank in Time. The huge, open battles the series is known for have returned, only Ratchet is now armed with some new gadgets to help him dispatch his foes. The first that I fooled around with is a new multipurpose sniper rifle known as the Plasma Striker. In addition to giving Ratchet a strong ranged attack, the gun also serves a helpful purpose by automatically highlighting weaknesses in his enemy’s armor, inflicting massive damage.
The other new weapon added is the Sonic Erupter, and this was a lot of fun. Once equipped, a meter appears on the top of the screen, fluctuating back and forth. When the meter is full and you pull the trigger, the Sonic Erupter, which is really just some sort of animal, emits a loud burp capable of taking out your foes. This should be a lot of fun in the final game.
The new weapons are part of the developer’s strategy of making the game more varied and accessible. “There are a lot of different tactics and strategies players can bring to battles and we wanted to take that to the next level,” Ellis said. “But we also wanted to make the game accessible to a new crowd.”
Once I finished laying waste to all of the enemies that stood in my way, I was taken to a new level where I was able to see some of the subtle tweaks to the game’s puzzle design. “We wanted to move away from the ‘weapons solve everything’ gameplay,” Ellis said as he demonstrated a new gadget in Ratchet’s arsenal: the Omni Soaker.
This new tool is bound to draw comparisons to Mario’s water guns in Super Mario Sunshine. With the Omni Soaker, Ratchet can take water from conveniently-located nearby streams and collect it. Once he’s got the water in the device, he can then spray the water on nearby plants to make them grow and help him get past previously impassable barriers.
Ellis also loaded the gun up with nectar at one point to help distract a new enemy to the game: Tetrimites. The Tetrimites are small, insect like creatures that swarm from their nests when Ratchet gets close. By spraying nectar into the environment, Ratchet can distract them in order to get past. But the Tetrimites also have a purpose: spray nectar on certain barriers and the Tetrimites will eat the nectar and the barrier, allowing you to continue on.
For the most part, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time looks much like the previous game, only with a few new tweaks to keep the game going. If I had any concerns after playing through the demo that it may be almost too much of the same. As a long-time fan of the series, I felt that I’d already done a lot of what I was doing in the E3 demo. Hopefully the storyline, which seems set to go deeper into Ratchet’s past than any previous game, will be enough to keep fans of the series entertained.