Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time Review

r&ccrackRatchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time [Available on PS3]
ESRB: E10+
Players: 1
Genre: action/platform
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: October 27, 2009

Ratchet & Clank has been a success across all major Sony platforms: PS2, PSP, and the PS3. The duo has won the hearts of millions with addictive their gameplay, great stories, and undeniable charm. Now, another chapter has closed for the series with Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. The final game in the saga is a fitting end, and one that no fan should skip for any reason.  This is not only a great R&C game, but a great game in general.  Having played every franchise entry, I’m happy to say that ACiT is one of the best.  It has everything that makes these games great in perfect proportions.

The story is one of the most important in all of R&C. It deals with a lot of unanswered questions in the universe, and as such, those who’ve played the PS2 and PS3 iterations are sure to enjoy every moment.  To understand everything, you should at least play the previous two PS3 releases.  Newcomers would surely have a more difficult time with the plot’s nature and significance of the characters, jokes and references.  You’re expected to know something about R&C’s history.

1

A Crack in Time picks up after the end of Quest for Booty, where Clank is still missing and Ratchet continuing to search.  As you might guess from the title, time and time travel are staples.  A structure known as the Great Clock lies in the center of the universe (give or take 50 feet) and helps hold the fabric of the universe together. However, the evil Dr. Nefarious wishes to use it for his own sinister devices. Bringing him back is one of the story highlights since he’s arguably the best R&C villain. New characters also join the cast. While searching for clues to Clank’s whereabouts, Ratchet meets Alister Azimuth, another surviving Lombax. Azimuth has a great deal to tell Ratchet about his past. To say more would spoil too much for you.

The plot is also presented very well.  Insomniac maintains its high standards for A Crack in Time.  The writing is a treat, and one of the game’s most enjoyable aspects. The dialog is well-written, so expect plenty of the series’ trademark humor throughout many hilarious moments. The game still balances out with a lot of heart as well. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the wonderful ensemble of characters.

2

The mechanics hold true to the solid foundation that’s been fine-tuned with every new R&CACiT employs an excellent mix of action and platforming.  Ratchet is still perfectly nimble with his wide arrange of weapons and abilities. Some new things have been added, like the Hover Boots acquired early on. These can be equipped with a touch of the D-pad and let Ratchet speed around levels, large and small, with ease.  They also open up all-new, exciting and fast-paced platforming sequences. When not jetting around, there are plenty of enemies and objects to destroy with a crazy assortment of weapons that has been R&C’s combat backbone.  Some return from previous games, others are based on past models, and a few are entirely new, like the Cryomines that can freeze enemies in their tracks before you shatter them to pieces. Every gun upgrades automatically like before, making battle even more rewarding.  Constructo weapons even let you put yourself into the game.

Three weapons come in Constructo versions: the standard blaster, shotgun, and bomb glove. They can be modified by finding hidden upgrades, and parts can be mixed and matched depending on your desired damage effects.  This is similar to mods that you could purchase outright in the past, but this takes things a step further. You can even apply custom colors to the gun body and what it shoots.  It’s a small addition, but customization options are never a bad thing.

3

Aside from the on-foot additions, Ratchet’s space combat has been revamped again. Our hero can now free-roam in his ship and hop to different systems at his leisure.  This setup is the best thus far. It may seem a bit odd initially because the ship only moves on a flat plane.  There’s no control over vertical pitch. This description makes the system sound limiting, but in reality, the execution is less complicated due to the lack of 3D movement.  What’s great about these portions is that you don’t have to visit where you’re told.  Scattered throughout each system are small moons and planetoids that Ratchet can land on and explore. There are two types: platforming and combat-style levels.  All bear a special item as a reward for taking the time to explore them. These not only add legitimate length, but are a fun diversion from continuing with the story.

The more significant changes come with Clank’s portions. Most often players controlled Ratchet and Clank together, only occasionally playing as Clank separately.  ACiT features more alone time with Clank.  His segments are puzzle-focused, rather than action-focused like Ratchet, resulting in a nice contrast between the two that keeps the game’s flow in rhythm.  Clank enjoys messing around with time manipulation. His cool tools, like Time Bombs, help with platforming sections.  The bombs create temporary pockets of distortion, where anything caught inside is slowed to a crawl.  This part of the game shines especially with the puzzles that ultimately open some of the Great Clock’s doors.  Several have multiple buttons that must be held down for the door to remain open. The secret is Clank’s time pads.   The pads let you record minute-long actions for Clank, with some puzzles requiring as many as four recordings. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, though some puzzles are quite challenging.  Ingenious is probably the best adjective however, and it certainly makes A Crack in Time’s gameplay well-rounded.

4

The only real noticeable downside is all the glitches.  R&C games are usually polished to perfection, so encountering the many hiccups, like Ratchet grabbing moving platforms, a couple animation problems, issues with invisible, feels odd.  In retrospect, ACiT runs very smoothly, but the amount technical problems is uncharacteristically high for the series. Regardless any annoyances can be overlooked.

On the flipside, Insomniac’s production values are excellent.  Every world is exciting and full of life. The level design is gorgeous, with the problem being that you can’t reach areas that appear especially awesome.  Regardless, R&CF:ACiT is full of color and intricate detail, despite the ongoing playfully cartoony look that is the series’ signature.  The space settings are particularly breathtaking, as the dusts’ hues and colors look better than anything Hubble has ever taken.  These environments are vast.  Huge debris clutters the weightless environment in the background and helps create an enormous sense of scale. If you play, take a minute to appreciate the incredible set pieces.

The characters also animate well. In previous games, facial animations of NPCs you spoke to needed work, and they received just that.  The cut-scenes are beautiful and almost CG movie-worthy. They’re impressively expressive and make an impact on you. Weapons effects are fantastic too. There’s always a ton happening on-screen combat, and it’s awesome that the frame rate rarely suffers.  There’s still the issue of having trouble discerning your weapon fire from the enemy’s, but that’s the only complaint I can come up with. Some new physics effects are very cool and cel-shading tricks applies to explosions, fire and smoke are a pleasure to see.  It, along with great surface textures, reflections and lightning, lends well to the game’s aesthetic.

You might have guessed that the sound is just as good—and you’d be right. The voice acting is always the design’s highlight, as the delivery is once again spot-on thanks to unbelievable performances.  The music is great and sets the mood for the many locations you visit. The weapons are also fantastic.  Full and rich effects really make you feel like you’re doing heavy damage. After all, what good are creative weapons if they sound wimpy? I bet you Mr. Zurkon would agree!

R&C has still not revisited multiplayer, instead focusing on a rich single-player experience.  That’s fine, but we wouldn’t have passed up the chance to obliterate each other online with all the zany weapons.  What ACiT does have is online leaderboards, which add some semblance of competition. Trophies offer incentive to experience more than just the main story, but the franchise has always been great at including tons of hidden items and fun unlockable content.  With the skill point system, gold bolts, new moons to explore, unlockable modes, and more, there’s no real shortage of things to do in A Crack in Time. It’s worth hours of entertainment.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is a fitting end to the Future storyline. It’s hard to guess what Insomniac has in store for the incredible duo moving forward. The series won me over since the first game, maintaining a high level of quality and consistency that few franchises can boast.  ACiT is one of its best thanks to further gameplay refinements, significant story, wonderful characters, and purely enjoyable gameplay. It’s definitely for the fans, and shows. It’s sad nonetheless to see another chapter close for the series. COE sincerely hopes this isn’t the last we see of our old pals.

Scoreboard:

Storyline: 9.5/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Controls: 9/10

Graphics: 9.5/10

Sound: 9.5/10

Value: 9/10

Overall (Not an average): 9.5/10

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