Not all game franchises last forever, and those which do tend to need to innovate regularly to keep gamers’ interest. The PlayStation 2, still being one of the most sold home video game consoles of all time, was home to many award-winning series. You had series such as Jak & Daxter, which never really made it off the platform outside of HD Remakes, you had the very last turn-based Final Fantasy game in FFX, and then you have some which have stood the test of time. Ratchet & Clank is one example of the latter. Featuring a timeless action-platformer system, plenty of character and charm, and a kooky take on third-person shooter mechanics – developer Insomniac Games has made the series a staple of pretty much every console from Sony Interactive Entertainment since. For the PlayStation 5, fortunately in its earliest months, we now have Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
As one of the first few PlayStation 5 exclusive games released since the console hit store shelves in November 2020, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels like a demonstration of what gamers can look forward to in the visual department over the coming years. From the opening moments when you control the duo as they travel out onto a series of floats dedicated to their previous adventures, you know that even if the gameplay was terrible (hint: it isn’t), then your eyes were at the very least in for a treat. Ratchet & Clank games might not always be at the forefront of technological advancement for a system, but they have always set a bar for what “great” visuals” are. But, from innovations such as travelling through rifts which makes dedicated usage of the PS5 hardware, to the new colourful and highly detailed and dense yet surprisingly open environments, the development team has set that bar much higher than ever before. Sure it is one of the only first-party PS5-exclusive games released that have focused on bright, cartoonish visuals (or one of a handful released at all) so there is very little to compare against, but it is nevertheless a visual delight.
As its name suggests, the storyline and gameplay features of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart revolve around dimensional rifts. The story starts out when an ill-fated ceremony dedicated to the adventures of the duo and a well-intended gift from Clank to Ratchet is interrupted by long-time series villain Dr. Nefarious. With the gift being a fully repaired Dimensionator, a long-running artifact pivotal to previous games in the R&C universe, it now falls into the hands of Nefarious. Rather than using it to find and rescue his fellow Lombaxes, Ratchet and Clank find themselves trapped in an alternate dimension. This is a dimension where Dr Nefarious, or rather Emperor Nefarious, stands victorious. They are once more separated from here and encounter new friends, foes, and perhaps their interdimensional counterparts.
The story of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart once again hits that perfect balance of comedic charm and eccentric writing combined with emotional moments and well-paced storytelling. Alternatively, it is a game you can quite easily skip over the storyline of and be able to enjoy with minimal impact on your overall experience – as has been the case with previous games. Those who stick around for the narrative can enjoy a consistently strong tale from start to finish, especially around the development of new characters, Rivet and Kit. The writing also continues to lean on the more entertaining side, where the game continues to be the strongest.
The gameplay in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart features many of the core staples which have been with the series for multiple instalments, if not from the beginning. Players will take control of either Ratchet or Rivet (Depending on the level) where they will jump, puzzle-solve, collect bolts, grind rails, explore and lay waste to enemies who stand in their way. This is in addition to the return of Clank-exclusive stages and mechanics that use him and/or Kit to pass over gaps.
Combat takes the form of both third-person action mechanics (via Ratchet and Rivet’s wrenches) and third-person shooter mechanics through a variety of increasingly unique weapons, which can be purchased and upgraded as you progress through the game. Some may be disappointed that their favourite weapons were omitted from the game. In my case, my two favourites – Mr. Zurkon and the Groovitron – do not appear. However, there are several classics and brand new weapons for you to discover along the way, some of which have the potential to become new favourites. I would, however, argue that favouring your wrench or preferring weaponry with higher ammo counts would be preferable in many parts of the game, given the scale of battles you face. Even early on, it was easy to find myself running low on ammo.
The big claim to fame in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the ability to grapple onto rifts to plunge you across long distances or even into different areas entirely. This can feel like a bit of a gimmick at first, and yeah, at points, they are there when they didn’t necessarily need to be there. However, outside of a cutscene early on where they really ham the feature up hard, it is a slow burn, as gameplay-wise and visual-wise, the system’s true capabilities are incrementally shown. There is nothing quite like being in a boss battle before being whisked off seamlessly to another area to perform another action.
Outside of this big feature, a lot of what is on offer from Insomniac Games is competently done Ratchet & Clank gameplay, highlighting the strong foundations they laid back in 2002 and how they have kept it fresh since then. Despite having played every instalment in the series (and remaster), the journey from start to finish felt fresh, combining nostalgia for a series in which we haven’t had a new instalment since 2016, with some new ideas, rewarding puzzles and gameplay which takes advantage of current-day specs.
Final Words on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
With PlayStation 5 console stocks still below the level required to sate consumer demand, there was always that risk that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart might not sell well enough on the single platform alone. Like many other games have done in early-2021, I half expected them to turn around and either delay the game or find some way of making compromises to offer a PlayStation 4 version. I am so glad they didn’t, as provided you are a fan of the genre, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart should easily be considered a must-buy along with the console. It truly shows what developers can bring to the newest console hardware on the market.
From the design and narrative to gameplay innovations – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a delightful game to play, and shows that Insomniac’s approach to the series is far from archaic. However, here’s hoping we don’t need to wait for the PlayStation 6 to launch before the next instalment goes on sale!