Loads? Where we’re going, we don’t need loads.
It’s been five years since the excellent PS4 “reimagining” of Ratchet & Clank, and even longer since an entirely original story with our favourite Lombax and Robot combo reared its head. In that time, we’ve seen the re-emergence of another furry platforming king in Crash Bandicoot, while cute robot duties have seemingly transferred to Astro and his brethren with Rescue Mission and Astro’s Playroom on the new generation of Sony’s console. But it’s 2021 – And Ratchet and Clank are back to reclaim the crown in a new adventure that aims to take advantage of as many elements of the PS5 as possible. You want an exclusive? Boy, Insomniac are here to give you one.
The gameplay opens up with a parade for our heroes, with Ratchet providing a knowing comment of “But we’ve not done anything for years”, before things all start to go a bit south. See, Clank has rebuilt the Dimensionator, a device that’s been dormant in the canon for quite a while now, in order for Ratchet to traverse the dimensions in search of other Lombaxes. Of course, Dr Nefarious has other plans for it, gatecrashing the parade and stealing the Dimensionator, before Ratchet inadvertently causes a malfunction with it, causing reality itself to come caving in on itself. Nefarious is sick and tired of having our duo repeatedly getting the better of him, so he wants to travel to a dimension where he always wins. In doing so, the malfunctioning Dimensionator opens up portals (or “Rifts”) to other parallel dimensions, and the fun truly begins.
You see, the thing I’ve not told you is that before that initial parade sequence, we’re introduced to a strange dystopia where someone is ruling with an iron fist. Massive death robots roam the streets, and a plucky band of resistance fighters strive to take down the malevolent Emperor Nefarious. Heading up the resistance is another Lombax, only this one has white and purple fur, and she’s called Rivet. It’s not long before Ratchet, Clank and Rivet all meet, and team up to try and take down both Doctor and Emperor Nefarious once and for all. From thereon, it’s a rip roaring ride through reality, time and space, and it’s an absolute belter.
Before I come on to the mechanics and general gameplay, I’d like to take a moment to get across just how good this game looks. I wanted to get through the entire review without saying “It’s like playing a Pixar movie”, but without doing that, all I can really say is “It’s like playing a Dreamworks movie, but substantially better”. Insomniac have outdone themselves, with every area you visit presenting you with a vibrant, technicolour wonderland. Whether it’s the first area’s neon signs and glistening golden statue of the Emperor, or the volcanic currents that give off a heat haze which engulfs the entire screen, every moment of the game is screaming out for you to give photo mode a go. At the time of writing, the “performance” mode has yet to be patched in, so I can only comment on the Fidelity mode, but I’ve yet to notice a dip below 30fps, even with a ridiculous amount of action happening on screen. I know we’re in a new generation and all that jazz, but this is genuinely the most technically impressive video game I’ve ever seen. Particle effects ricochet off surfaces, enemies disintegrate into clouds of sparks at every turn, and the SSD allows for not only an incredibly swift “Start from cold” experience, but also one of the coolest evolutions of a mechanic from one of my favourite games of all time.
Yep, I’m talking about the Rifts. When Rift Apart was first announced, a number of people (presumably with nothing better to do) said that it wasn’t anything special as it was done in Titanfall 2 with the standout “Effect and Cause” mission. However, what Ratchet does with the technique surpasses things in a way that I honestly didn’t think would be possible. There are points in the game where you’ll be flung through a rift, leading to a completely new environment in the blink of an eye. Sometimes there will be a brief moment where you’ll be caught “between” dimensions, which I guess is the new equivalent of an elevator ride to mask the loading time, but it is so ridiculously fast that it just adds to the chaos, rather than detracting from the moment. It’s a super cool mechanic, and one that’s not overplayed to the point of being tiresome. Similarly, the Rift Tethers within levels are a neat addition to traversal and combat alike, with a quick tap of the L1 button pulling you through sections of areas and quickly giving you a different vantage point to rain hell down on your foes with one of Rift Apart’s impressive array of weaponry.
Of course there’s an impressive array of weaponry, it’s a Ratchet & Clank game! There are a few misses that don’t feel quite as effective as some, but on the whole, the mix between exciting new shooters and old gives you the choice to play through the game in the way you want to. Personally, I found the Shock weapon to be a personal favourite, stunning enemies before leaping in with a Shatterblast grenade to finish them off. Oh, and make sure you start a new game in Challenge Mode after completion, as there’s a couple of classics that you don’t want to miss!
You want an exclusive? Boy, Insomniac are here to give you one
All the dimension-hopping leads to some tantalising prospects, and most of them are realised in Rift Apart. For starters, it delves into an obscene amount of prior game history and pulls out some characters that I’d genuinely forgotten about, while giving them an alternate dimension twist. Rusty Pete, for example, makes a swashbuckling return with the most unlikely of personas, while other characters are given a tweaked personality and a new lick of paint to fit in with Rivet’s reality in some really neat ways too. I don’t want to go too far off into what could potentially be considered spoiler territory, but the story introduces some characters that you’d almost expect, as well. Rivet controls much the same as Ratchet, which allows for a sense of consistency throughout the game, and there are some neat little side stories involving Clank and a new character named Glitch, who’s there to help rid some computer terminals of nasty viruses throughout the story. Outside of the main game, it’s stuffed full of easter eggs, references and the kind of humour you’d come to expect from a Ratchet title, with some wonderful little nods to other Insomniac games that I genuinely didn’t expect to see!
This all ties in to a beautiful and tight-feeling platformer, with very little fat to chew on. My only real complaint with the game is that there are a couple of sections that involve riding some wildlife which I feel are a little clunky, but everything else around it is top notch. I did encounter a couple of bugs and it crashed once or twice on me, but reading through the planned fixes for the Day One Patch, it looks like these will be addressed by the time you get your hands on it.
As a package, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is exactly what I imagine a lot of people have been hoping for. A mechanically dense, yet entirely accessible platformer, with plenty of humour and depth to keep coming back to. There were points during my review where I completely lost track of time, thinking only an hour had passed when in fact it was closer to 4 or 5.