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Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction
If only this, not Resistance: Fall of Man, had been Insomniac's PS3 launch title, Sony might have had a better year.
Where Resistance instantly felt like a flawed effort to establish a new franchise, Tools of Destruction feels like a confident step forward with an old one. Where Resistance seemed to have few ideas beyond rifling Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty for inspiration, Tools of Destruction is practically buzzing with invention. And where Resistance failed to demonstrate that the PS3 had any visual clout whatsoever, Tools of Destruction is a dazzling demonstration of what Sony's machine can do when pushed. It's Ratchet and Clank turned up to the max, with the much-loved R&C art style given a new Pixar-like sheen and splashed out on a much larger canvas. Apologies to Mario, but if you want the most dazzling platform game on any system, this is it.
The original Ratchet and Clank took the engine Naughty Dog had developed for the first Jak and Daxter and used it to create a stunning sci-fi cartoon universe of exotic planets and gleaming astro-cities. The furry Lomax and his dry-witted robot chum rapidly became one of the finest platform series developed outside of Nintendo. The duo's finest hour - Ratchet and Clank 2 - was one of the visual high points on the good old PS2. Yet the very first level of Tools of Destruction instantly proves how far ahead Sony's - and Insomniacs - new technology is, thanks to an awe-inspiring race along the parapets and grinding rails of a gorgeous sci-fi metropolis as the whole thing literally falls apart around you. Overloaded with detail that you might not even see if you're actually playing it, it's an incredible beginning, but Insomniac is only just winding up. It's not just the scale of the environments in Tools of Destruction that impresses, but the attention to every structure and surface found within. It's more cartoony than Heavenly Sword, but just as excellent on the level of art and design. From fiery refinery planets to icy worlds to weird, swampy marshlands crawling with gargantuan dinosaurs, Tools of Destruction rarely fails to give you some bit of tasty eye-candy to chew on.
But whereas Heavenly Sword was better to watch than it was to play, Tools of Destruction is instantly engaging. By the time Insomniac had hit Ratchet and Clank's second appearance, the team had perfected the game's combination of gadget-assisted platforming and overblown destruction. If you don't know the series, think two parts Mario to one part Metroid to three parts third-person shooter. With the following games, Insomniac arguably stretched too far into straight shooting territory, but with Tools of Destruction the balance is back where it should be. There's still a lot of leaping from platform to platform, gliding from area to area and engaging gadgets to reach new sections, but there's also a lot of blasting hordes of miscreants with an ever-growing, ever-improving selection of bombastic weaponry. The mix just works.
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