In the midst of this unbelievably heated console war, developer Insomniac ain't afraid to play the role of Saturday Night Live. "Cronk and Zephyr are pretty old, decrepit, kind of falling apart, and always at odds with one another on whose hardware is best," Design Director Brian Allgeier tells us as he describes two new robots you'll meet in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, which jumps and shoots its way to the PlayStation 3 this fall. "Cronk's got Blu-ray technology, Zephyr's got some online abilities... it's a long story. I think I know who you guys would side with given your last cover art [a tomato-splattered PS3 console]."Burrrn.
Poking fun at the Sony/Microsoft rivalry, the heavily rumored Xbox 360 redo (code name Zephyr), and EGM's cover choices do more than make us laugh, though: It's a surefire sign that even after just shipping the PS3's premier launch title, Resistance: Fall of Man, this studio has plenty of gas left in the development tank. And, according to Art Director Chad Dezern, this 180-degree change up (going from making a darkly sci-fi first-person shooter to a humor-filled platformer) has definitely helped keep the dev team from hitting the snooze button. "Most of us find it invigorating to change styles so dramatically," he says. "I think that's the reason we're not tired and can actually have a conversation [with you] right now."
So, what exactly did we learn during our chat about Ratchet and Clank's next-gen coming-out party? As the lombax and his metallic mate move forward, they're first taking a step back. Don't forget where you came from...
Four Ratchet games (all on the PS2) in four years--yeah, we'd say that Insomniac's franchise suffered fromone helluva case of sequelitis. And it definitely started showing by the end. Deadlocked, with its RunningMan-esque backdrop, became more of a shooter and left Ratchet with a nasty Master Chief-looking makeover and Clank stuck on the sidelines. Even Allgeier refers to that last one as "a fun experiment." But now, after a much-needed break and the introduction of a new console, Insomniac is reverting to a play style from the early days.
"When we talk to people who played all of the Ratchet games," says Insomniac President Ted Price," one of the things we hear the most is 'I grew up playing Ratchet, and I remember it four or five years ago, and I have really fond memories ofthose times. Are you ever going togo back to its roots?' And a lot of us were thinking the same thing. So it was a no-brainer for us to explore what made the original Ratchet so compelling." In Tools of Destruction, you'll see roughly a 60/40 splitbetween combat and platforming (in comparison, Deadlocked was closer to 80/20) with much more of an emphasis on exploration, gadgets, and gadget puzzles. Insomniac isn't ready to talk specifics on that front, but you'll see challenges along the lines of Up Your Arsenal's Hacker minigame. "It's all about variety," says Dezern. "We've had a lot of different types of game play in the series, and I think we're getting back to the studio's strength of showing as much as we possibly can in a title." And Ratchet's encounter with the Kerchu City boss, the giant construction beast with wreckingball arms pictured above, more than demonstrates that the developersare back on track.
What else to expect from this next-gen galaxy thrill ride
Playable Clank: After riding the bench in Deadlocked (and getting his name removed from the title--how dare they?), Ratchet's robo bud will once again have his own sections in Tools of Destruction. What's the metalhead gonna play like? All Insomniac will say is that "Clank discovers that he has new powers."
Star Fox-y space combat: In between hoppin' and boppin' around gorgeous planets, Ratchet and Clank will take to the stars. But space combat is getting a big makeover from previous installments. "Before, we felt that we gave players too much rope to hang themselves with," says Design Director Brian Allgeier. "So we decided to keep these segments more in the vein of an action sequence and show off the best visuals we could."
Multiplayer: Insomniac's still evaluating whether or not to include versus play in this installment. Yet since Up Your Arsenal and Deadlocked's competitive battlefields were a virtual wasteland (especially when compared to those of other PS2 online games like SOCOM), we're not holding our breath for this feature. Online co-op may be a different story....
Captain Qwark: Aside from our two stars, the longtime troublemaker Captain Qwark will be the only other familiar face returning here. His role? "He's up to no good again,"says Allgeier. "We really don't know what side he's on, as he's kind of working for Tachyon [who wants to kill all lombaxes], but also giving secrets to Ratchet and Clank."
Goin' to the zoo: Yes, in true series form, you'll be ableto turn enemies into helpless animals. Our pick for Tools of Destruction: How about morphing them into something from PS3 safari-sim Afrika's wild kingdom?