Gorgeous. Stunning. These are the words that better describe Ratchet & Clank visuals. Insomniac Games has a special agreement with Naughty Dog for sharing the technology in their games - that's probably why Ratchet & Clank's graphic engine looks like an advanced version of the already amazing one of Jak & Daxter.
The game - that looks even more polished than the early demo released many months ago - runs always at 60fps, rendering environments so huge and detailed at the same time that I often found myself thinking "How the hell did they do that?". I'm sure that's the same question many developers asked themselves looking at Insomniac's game in action.
The 18 different planets in which the game takes place are each other extremely different - from space stations to futuristic cities, the universe created for Ratchet & Clank will make your jaws drop several times. Draw-in distances are beyond what you might have seen in any other game currently available, and I never managed to notice the slightest pop-issue. You arrive on a planet and you're often greeted by a wonderful sight on a whole futuristic city made of skyscrapers, platforms, strange structures, where dozens of flying vehicles are simultaneously displayed on the screen, and dozens of enemies are waiting for you. Just like in Jak & Daxter, even the farthest places visible on the screen can be reached - if you see that, you can arrive there. Surprisingly, texture quality is not compromised by the size of the environments, like it happens in other games. All the objects, surfaces, walls, details look polished, like in a good cartoon.
Insomniac implemented a great lighting system in the final game, and looking at the demo released many months ago is like looking at an unfinished painting. The atmosphere of each level is now enriched by a vigorous and wise use of shadows and light sources while all characters and vehicles cast shadows in real time. That's definitely impressive considering the scale of the game environments.
Character models are impressive. Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark, the many non playable characters and even the most insignificant enemies look perfect, built with thousands of polygons, perfectly textured, truly lively thanks to the amazing body and facial animations created by Insomniac. Character design is very convincing; each character looks unique, has his own particular style of moving and acting, and is gifted with a unique personality.
The only issue I could notice was some occasional clipping problem when approaching a wall with Ratchet's bigger weapons - but that's worth nothing in a game that really sets a new level of visual excellence for platform games to come.
A well-orchestrated soundtrack helps giving each level its own atmosphere, and it occasionally adds a touch of unexpected seriousness to a game that's closer to Futurama than to an apocalyptic science fiction movie.
Sound effects are top-notch, and voice acting is as good as in a Disney cartoon. Dialogues are very well written, and each actor fits the role perfectly. The game also supports Dolby Pro Logic II. Great stuff.
Ratchet & Clank is a huge game. About 20 hours are needed to complete the game the game the first time, and that's without counting all the hours needed to collect all the weapons and extra stuff like gold bolts and skill points. There are lots of secrets to unlock in Ratchet & Clank, including a "Making Of" movie, a Sketchbook with the artworks of the game, great hidden movies and more little things you may want to see. Ratchet & Clank is one of those games designed to be played more than once - and if you like platform games, you'll be playing this game for a long time.