Hands-on: Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

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Considering Clank was entirely absent from Quest for Booty, it makes sense for developer Insomniac to give the robotic sidekick the spotlight in its upcoming A Crack in Time. A Crack in Time will feature the largest amount of Clank gameplay in the Ratchet & Clank franchise so far (barring Secret Agent Clank, of course) -- and that's a good thing, as our hands-on with Clank's devious time powers proved a refreshing change for the franchise.

If you've watched our previous video coverage, you'll know that Clank acquires a few Braid-inspired powers. Clank has the ability to throw an orb that slows down time, allowing Clank to effectively run circles around enemies, and slow down certain platforming obstacles. This ability makes Clank the most powerful he's ever been in the franchise, but that's not what makes his gameplay so exciting.

Rather, Clank's ability to create time clones, proves to work quite well in the context of the game. Yes, it's a gimmick that's becoming increasingly common in games, but it feels entirely appropriate for the Ratchet series. To activate Clank's various time clones, he must stand on special colored pads that will allow him to record his actions. One minute of gameplay can be recorded, during which Clank can open a door, pull a switch, or throw a time orb. By activating another pad, Clank's previous actions will be replayed, while this new Clank is able to progress further.
While the initial puzzles are straightforward, there's a lot of potential for more. In fact, Insomniac's James Stevenson told us that we'll eventually see puzzles that go beyond two simultaneous actions. The more challenging puzzles will have players see three, four and five Clanks working in tandem. Coupled with interesting platforming sequences and some action-packed battles, A Crack in Time has the potential to offer a rather unique experience.

Our time with the game was much too short, but it was immediately evident how much more power the Insomniac guys have been able to squeeze out of the PS3. Tools of Destruction was already quite stunning, but the addition of more detailed animations, self-shadowing, and stylized toon-esque explosions, make A Crack in Time even more impressive.

While some may criticize the Ratchet & Clank series for oftentimes playing it safe, A Crack in Time looks to make the most significant advances for the franchise so far. In addition to the new Clank gameplay, the developers are finally introducing the ability to fully customize weapons in the newest iteration. We didn't get to try the feature for ourselves, but it seems like a feature that's been too long in coming. The promise of customizable weapons, mind-bending Clank puzzles, and a proper ending to the Ratchet & Clank Future trilogy's story, has us thinking fans will have a lot to look forward to when the game launches later this year.

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