Please, feel free to disagree, but we're going to come straight out and say it: the Ratchet & Clank series is PlayStation's current mascot. And it's not just because the lead character is a squat, midget-human-mammal hybrid with a penchant for 'platforming elements'. They've consistently shown the world what PS2 (and recently, through R&C: Size Matters, PSP) is capable of when properly pushed, all the while returning often enough to keep its league of fans entertained and engaged for ages.
Jak & Daxter? They've arguably lost their way, even if it was a fun old ride. Sly Raccoon? Never got the attention he deserved. Lara, GTA, Pro Evolution Soccer, Metal Gear and Resident Evil? Dismissed on account of being multiformat whores, over the years. Kratos? He's arguably the strongest challenger, but just hasn't managed the mileage that Insomniac's furry lombax and his quirky robotic sidekick have. And now stumpy gun-toting space-saviour Ratchet is back in full force, to slap down the doubters and tap PS3's monstrous potential with a dazzling, technicolour mushroom cloud of a shoot-'em-up.
Now, it may sound like we're bestowing a huge accolade on Ratchet & Clank by placing it on a mascot's pedestal. Which we are, but it's also a roundabout way of preparing you for the fact that this is far from a reinvention of the series - this is a confident revitalisation, sure, but it operates on a template that will be very familiar to long-standing Ratchet & Clank devotees. It's a third-person shooter that has you travelling between an entire solar system of planets in a relatively straight line dictated by the plot, with myriad minigames and sub-quests to get stuck into or return to as you wish. Ratchet's armoury and backpack of gadgets expands with each new stage visited (although, the levels are far larger this time around, and the only loading screens are those you'll see when skipping from planet to planet).
There's no multi-player mode, either, so it's not an absolutely complete package, but we'd rather Insomniac produced a single-player campaign that excelled, rather one that skimped in order to include Deathmatch scrapping.
Colour like no other
Don't be getting the wrong idea. Tools Of Destruction is far from lazy, and it's a much more preferable treatment than the experimental, overly combat-obsessed cul-de-sac that was Ratchet: Gladiator, the final PS2 game in the series. When we say that this is a PS3-ification of Ratchet & Clank 3 (arguably the franchise's best outing), we mean it in the best way possible. All the vibrancy that Insomniac forgot to put into Resistance: was obviously held back for this... hook it up with a good HD display, and get ready for some laser eye surgery.
It's a truly stunning game to see in motion, full of crisp, glorious hues and levels that are almost needlessly packed with rich ambient detail. MotorStorm and Heavenly Sword may very well offer some graphical finery, but Tools Of Destruction has already moved things on in terms of sumptuous solidity and a luxuriant colour. From a panoramic prehistoric planet populated by enormous dinos to a journey within the electric guts of a supercomputer... it's like Insomniac has unearthed several new shades of red, blue and green the rest of the world hadn't noticed yet.
Don't let the loud, brash tones of the visuals fool you: Insomniac's role as a master gunsmith is further cemented with Tools Of Destruction, whose arsenal varies from the silly to the brutal, but always keeps up a flurry of exciting carnage. As your weapons improve and the enemies toughen, the screen starts to turn into a searing lightshow of explosions and ordnance, on top of all that swanky background and environment detail. Ratchet & Clank games have long featured combat that sizzled and fizzled, but now you can almost smell the hi-def scorch as bullets whizz, boil and bounce their way around the place. It's as if the whole screen is your crosshair.