Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time will undoubtedly feature one of the more enjoyable and well-written stories of any game this year. However, for our purposes, all you really need to know at this point is that our furry co-protagonist, Ratchet, is still in search of his robotic chum Clank, who is being held in a place called the Great Clock, a mechanical city at the center of the universe that holds the key to time and space.
Tiiiiime...Is on Clank’s Side
Now, as the title suggests, time plays a huge role in the game, both thematically and strategically. Clank has access to a number of time-manipulating weaponry and abilities, one of which is his trusty Chronoscepter, which lets him pummel baddies as well as restore broken machinery and malfunctioning electrical equipment by chronologically rewinding them to their previously functioning states. Clank can also chuck Time Bombs that create giant bubbles that slow down anything inside of them. These will allow you to stop fast spinning platforms or bring quick moving enemies to an incredibly unfair crawl.
The other major temporal aspect of the game involves time pads. These pads let Clank “record” actions and then use those recordings of himself to solve puzzles. So if you need to stand on a button in order to open a door, you just record Clank standing on the button, then when you play it back, the non-recorded you just waits for the recorded Clank to stand on the button, leaving you free to mosey through the door. That might sound complicated, but it makes total sense when you’re actually doing it.
While Clank’s portion of the game, the largest Clank section of any game in the series to date, will involve quite a bit of time-related puzzle solving, Ratchet’s portion takes a more action-heavy, open-world approach. I should say “open-space,” since this time around, you’ll be piloting Ratchet’s ship, the Aphelion, through the far reaches of the galaxy. And boy, is the galaxy gorgeous. The vistas in the space section that I played through were simply stunning, as everything from explorable moons, distant yet massive planets, asteroid fields and more stretch out endlessly in all directions.
There are five space sectors in the game, but I only had the chance to check out one of them. The sectors come complete with moons and planets that you can land on and explore. It looks and feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy, and, as you’d expect, that’s a good thing. After you’ve landed on a particular moon or planet, you’ll be able to do a number of different tasks. Those tasks range from clearing out enemies to doing favors for people (i.e. clearing atomic asteroids from the surrounding area), or collecting random Zoni (which actually serves as an integral part of the story as well).
The space combat, from what I played, is simple yet satisfying. You have unlimited blasters and missiles, and your ship can perform barrel rolls and flips, perfect for avoiding pesky enemy fire. While you can fly across massive expanses of space, you have to auto-jump between sectors, which is actually appreciated since it keeps things from ever becoming boring.
Skin That Sonic Eruptor
When you aren’t jet-setting around the galaxy, you’ll be exploring and blasting your way through expansive, beautifully rendered environments in classic R&C fashion. My time was limited to a lush, tropical planet and a cold, sterile space station, but both were expertly crafted and detailed. One of the cool features introduced during the space station section was Ratchet’s ability to walk up walls using his anti-gravity boots. It’s by no means a new mechanic, but it fits in perfectly with the game’s style and design, and it’s used to great effect.
As in previous installments, the game features a plethora of inventive and quirky weaponry. A very welcomed addition is the auto-upgrade feature, which rewards you for simply using your weapons. You also have opportunities to modify and customize every weapon as well, so you’ll never be wanting for new and exciting ways to deal adorable death.
The Future is Bright
I barely scratched the surface of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, but the little bit I was able to check out provided just the right mix of the finely tuned and gorgeously presented combat/platforming the series is known for. Combine that with stunning space exploration and the new, brain twisting time-manipulation mechanics, and you have the recipe for one hefty bit of gaming goodness. Check back in a few weeks as we get closer to the game’s October 27 release date for our full review.