Decades ago, mascot platformers were both popular and plentiful. During the N64 and PlayStation era, 3D gaming brought forth an influx of character driven platformers, action-adventure games and more, including Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 and Crash Bandicoot. This trend then carried on into the next generation of consoles, at which point Sony invested heavily in an attempt at creating new IPs within this mould. Those efforts gave digital life to Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank. Now, close to twenty years later, only the latter remain.
Last November, three new consoles were released, ushering in a brand new generation. However, development delays, pandemic problems and other things prevented those devices from having a lot of next-gen exclusives. Sure, there were some, like Godfall, Demon’s Souls and Astro’s Playroom, but not very many. Thankfully, Sony has been hard at work on bettering its PlayStation 5 exclusives, by having recently released Returnal, and setting itself up for another big launch with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Nearly 20 years after we first met the duo — which consists of a yellow Lombax and a grey and green robot — Ratchet & Clank are back, and only on PS5. The two have returned in a follow-up to the 2016 remake of their original adventure, which was complemented by an animated theatrical film. This time around, though, things are even more colourful and action packed; not to mention beautiful.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart begins on a celebratory day, as friends, fans and loved ones plan to celebrate the two heroes in grand fashion. The result is an over-the-top parade, which takes the form of a floating obstacle course that the pair must navigate using their abilities. At the end lays a gift, and what a gift it is. However, as is usually the case in popular fiction, things don’t go as planned and the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.
After reaching the conclusion of their parade, Ratchet & Clank bear witness as the delinquent Dr. Nefarious shows up and ruins the day. In doing so, he steals and makes improper use of the inter-dimensional device that was to be given to his enemies. The result is ugly, as rifts begin to open and start tearing the fabric of space and time apart. What results is the two friends becoming separated in a dimension where Nefarious isn’t simply an evil doctor, but an Emperor as well.
Once separated, the pair discover that their newfound location is in some trouble, what with its Emperor being Dr. Nefarious. This new dimension also seems to parallel theirs in a way, as it’s the home of a heroic female Lombax named Rivet. Her existence marks a massive advance in Ratchet’s search for others like him, including potential family members. On top of this, Rivet is also playable throughout large portions of the game, although she and Ratchet generally have different stages and objectives. In fact, she even teams up with Clank sometimes, while Ratchet finds another friend and ally to help him on his journey.
The general storyline, then, revolves around Ratchet’s attempt to learn about his kind, Dr. Nefarious’ continued attempts to become beloved and all powerful, and the need to stop the inter-dimensional rifts before things get much worse. As expected, though, it’s also quite colourful, charming and sometimes funny, with a few decent jokes sprinkled in. Those who’ve played at least one of these games will have a good idea of what they’re getting into, because while Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a noticeable step forward for its series, its storyline is both familiar and colourful. That’s not to say it’s bad or boring, though.
The gameplay is pure Ratchet & Clank goodness, and provides players with a plethora of colourful weapons. Although the Lombaxes begin with just an energy pistol, smashing crates and collecting gears, screws and the like will set you on the path towards purchasing even better guns. For example, there’s a topiary gun that temporarily turns enemies into bushes, a death ray that does a nice amount of damage, and quirky takes on shotguns, machine guns, grenade launchers and mines. All of these weapons can be upgraded, too, through the shop. You’ll earn upgrade points as you play, and get to choose which improvements to spend them on, using a grid-style menu. On top of this, the guns will increase in levels as you use them, in a way that is separate from said upgrade points. Thus, they become better and more powerful in a couple of different ways.
You’ll make good use of these weapons, as well as the trusty melee wrenches that both Ratchet and Rivet carry, across a colourful galaxy. There are numerous planets to visit, survive and then return to for collectibles later on, and they’re all presented in a list that sits beside a view of space itself. Sometimes you’ll get the opportunity to choose where to go next, even within the story. The reason for this is that both Ratchet and Rivet carry out separate quests and adventures that end up benefiting everyone in the end. As such, you can choose to continue with Ratchet, or take a break from him and explore with Rivet. Both play similarly, though, which is both a good thing and a bit of a disappointment at the same time.
In true Ratchet & Clank fashion, you can expect large and unique levels, which are understandably bigger and more active given the PlayStation 5’s advanced horsepower. There’s lots to see and do, and numerous collectibles to go back for, including little bears and golden screws. Those things are for the completionists amongst us, though, and probably won’t interest the average gamer all that much. I’m someone who tries to do as thorough a first playthrough as possible, but I generally don’t worry about finding all of the collectibles in each game I play. I tried to find some here, and did find several, but I don’t see myself going back to get them all. I’d rather play a different game. Of course, this has nothing to do with this particular title itself. I’m like that at all times.
Enemy encounters often evolve into chaotic shootouts, and the action is generally quite frenetic. You’ll have to stay on your toes on the normal difficulty or above, because you’ll be outnumbered regularly. To aid with this, the developers have added in-level rifts, which can be used as fast travel points. Well, sort of. You see, they generally show up during battles and advanced platforming segments, where the heroes can press a button to zip towards them, thus allowing for lots of ground to be traversed in a second. This is helpful during combat, because it allows you to quickly move from one point of the area to another, thus allowing you to escape from, or get closer, to enemies.
Rift Apart also has a love of mini-bosses, which appear in almost every level. There are massive dinosaurs, gigantic robots and more. These usually need to be bested in order to get an item or simply progress.
Speaking of bosses, there was a point where I thought that I’d maybe reached the end. I’d completed my objectives and found the necessary items, through narrative progression, and then found myself forced into a boss battle. It seemed to early for the game to end, though, and the developers obviously thought the same thing, because the story progressed on from there. I won’t say more, though, to avoid spoiling anything.
Lastly, there are some puzzles to take note of. Clank can stabilize troubled rifts by altering the routes of clones, which must be able to get to a door to open it. This is done by using balls that alter the gravity, speed and position of things on their route. Going further, Ratchet also carries a little robot that is capable of going inside of computer systems and killing the viruses that have taken up residence. This is done by moving the bot around and firing both bullets and rockets at the virus clusters when they’re exposed. Lots of enemies will come at you, though, so you’ll need to be on your toes.
As I hinted above, Ratchet & Clank‘s latest adventure offers different difficulty options, ranging from very easy to very hard. The day one patch will even add a rookie explorer option, which will allow those who want to experience the story to play without worrying about much in the way of a challenge.
This game also features separate modes, including a performance mode that targets dynamic 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second, with ray tracing included. This feature was not made available until I was nearly finished with the game, so my review is mostly focused on the 1080p/30fps setting. Things ran very smoothly there, and I had absolutely zero technical problems during my play through. In fact, the transitions between dimensions and from one portal to another were practically seamless and instantaneous. It was impressive to watch and utilize, via the aforementioned rift tether.
Presentation wise, it’s hard to fault Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. This is an incredibly pretty and very colourful game, which does a good job of showcasing the PlayStation 5’s capabilities. The levels are larger, the battles are bigger, the lighting is fantastic and everything is buttery smooth. Even the rail sections, where you’re jumping from one to another at great speed as things blow up around you.
Needless to say, it’s a treat for the eyes. Appreciably, the same is true of the sound design, which is also very tough to find fault in. This thing looks, plays and sounds like an animated movie, and it carries forward the incredible presentation found in the 2016 remake.
I normally don’t bother with skins or other unnecessary effects, but I did take advantage of the different wrench colours and more. The highlight of this was being able to turn the nuts and bolts (that act as in-game currency) into coloured rupees akin to The Legend of Zelda. Not only was it a neat feature, but it also added a lot of colour to the environments. My wrench also ended up being pink, for the hell of it.
These are still early days for Sony and its PlayStation 5, but they’ve taken another great step forward with the release of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. With it, Insomniac Game has delivered yet another visually stunning and enjoyable action-platformer. Although it doesn’t change things up too much, it’s a lot of fun and a very good showcase for one’s much sought after PS5.
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 exclusive, which we were provided with by Sony.
- Bigger, faster and better
- Looks and sounds fantastic
- Lots of quirky weapons
- Doesn't change things up a lot
- A tad repetitive
- Not terribly long