Friday, January 2, 2009

Ratchet and Clank: a technical marvel

I have recently begun to play the PS3 game "Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction". I'm thoroughly enjoying playing through the game, and I can't help but notice the stunning graphics. The detailed environments are further enhanced by the showy effects, including the over-the-top weapons.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that this game may be the most technically impressive game I have ever played. The genius developers at Insomniac have created far more than a pretty game, but one that is a benchmark by which other games will be judged.

A few good examples:

  • One of the staples of R&C games is the taxi, a convenient object within the game that allows you to travel to other parts of the level you're playing. This could be a mundane enough piece of the game, but it is in reality one of the most impressive demonstrations of the power of the R&C engine. As you ride the taxi, you can move the camera around to look at the world passing by. The entire level is displayed before your eyes, from the enemies mulling around to the boxes just waiting to be broken. There is no canned travel screen, no suspicious fog that limits your visible area, and no visible enemy pop-in. It is just an unobstructed view of the entire world. It appears that they accomplished this feat by caching the entire world to the PS3's flash memory. More evidence of this can be found in the teleporters found sporadically in the levels. These teleporters are not the usual developer excuses found in some games, but truly instantaneous transports. There are no spinning gears, no canned loading animations, and no lags of any kind. Step in and step out; it's that quick.
  • Another notable technical achievement of this game is its incredible lighting effects. From the dull sheen of exotic crystals to the tarnished gleam of ancient metal, almost every object in this game has some kind of reflectivity. One time, I was walking through an already-destroyed level when I noticed a yellow flash. Upon closer inspection, it was a gear, half-buried in the dirt and completely covered in shadow. This gear was reflecting the glare off a light-colored wall opposite it. Not only that, but the reflection shifted as I changed my angle relative to the gear. It's quite an accomplishment when your engine creates environments so immersive that the player can see beauty in debris lying on the ground.

Obviously, these aren't the only two examples of good graphics in the game, but they are two of the most striking. Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a testament to the obsessiveness of all its creators, not just its art directors and level designers.

Show your appreciation by buying it here: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction