Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Impressions (PS3)

It took nearly a year, but the PS3 has its first platform-exclusive AAA game.

I've played Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction for about four hours so far. That's long enough to tell you a few things, almost all of which are positive.

First off, it's impossible to overstate how incredible this game looks. It's one of the best-looking games I've ever seen, and in addition to the stellar graphics, the production values are out of this world. The level of polish is off the charts as well--this is a game that has been refined, then refined again.

The level of creativity in the game is also first-rate. It's funny, and wacky, and incredibly clever. There are a ridiculous number of weapons and special items in the game, and quite a few of them will make your burst out laughing.

The game world itself is something I just can't do justice to in words. It is so full of life, so colorful, that it's just amazing.

This is exactly the kind of game the PS3 desperately needs. Sony should want every single person who buys the game to be able to finish it, just to see all the magnificent moments the game has to offer.

And therein, unfortunately, lies the rub.

It's not that the game is hard, really--it's not. It's just that there all kinds of jumping situations where if you miss, it's insta-death, and when the game resumes you're somewhere previous. Sometimes, that "previous" is quite a ways back, far enough to be very annoying.

There's a save system, but restoring a manual save isn't going to be exact in terms of your previous location, either.

I have no idea why anyone uses the stupid checkpoint system anymore. Making people go through five minutes of play to attempt a series of jumps that lasts fifteen seconds or less is just bad design. Maybe it wasn't bad design five years ago, but it is now.

The downside of this design decision is that I think quite a few people will stop before they finish the game, and as well-balanced and fun as this game is, that's just wrong.

In comparison, look at BioShock. One of the best design decisions in the game was that the difficulty levels made it possible for anyone to finish. Everyone got to see the world and everything that it offered. Worlds that are so beautifully detailed are, for me, "tourist games"--what I most want to do is see everything. That's what the developers should want, too--what the is the point of the last half of a game if 90% of players never see it because they can't get there?

Because of this one design flaw in Ratchet & Clank, I'm not playing the game straight through. I'll play for an hour or so, get pissed after insta-deathing several times on jumps, and quit for a day or so. Then I'll play again, have a great time, then insta-death and quit for a day. If it weren't for the wonky restore design, I'd be playing this game during every second of my free time.

Still, it's an incredibly creative piece of design, and very, very entertaining.

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