Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review – The Purpose of a PlayStation 5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart11th June, 2021
Anybody who has been listening to me over the past few months in Wccftech's gaming podcast knows two things. The first is that so far I have seen the PlayStation 5 as nothing but an extra-large paperweight, a console that I forgot how to turn on, and see as functionally useless due to the sheer lack of games out for it, with the possible exception of Returnal (read Kai's review here) - but I haven't bought that yet. The second is that I am a massive fan of Ratchet & Clank, and I've been looking forward to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart ever since it was announced.
Naturally, I always hope that a game I'm really looking forward to, which I am genuinely excited about, will meet that high level. I've mentioned that I forgot how to turn the PlayStation 5 on; that's genuine - I couldn't remember where the button on the console was. You can always turn it on via the controller, though. Since I started playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, I forgot how to turn the console off.
With my general thoughts of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart now given away by that last sentence, it's time to backtrack and delve into some information. Not long after finishing and releasing three Spyro the Dragon games in three successive years, Insomniac Games were looking to create a brand new IP. Originally this was codenamed IG5 (Insomniac Game 5), but that idea fell off the radar quite rapidly. However, an idea that had been banded about was a game with a space-faring reptile. Long story short, the reptile became Ratchet, and three companion robots became Clank.
Fast forward to the fifth game in the series, after the still decent but lesser-well-received Ratchet: Deadlocked, Insomniac took a year out, made Resistance: Fall of Man and then returned with the beginning of the Future series of games in Ratchet & Clank. This is important because Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a follow-up to the fourth game in this series, the 2013 release Into the Nexus. Then, the series went quiet. A reimagining of the original was released in 2016, which I reviewed, and five long years later and I finally get a game I've been hoping for.
If you don't know what Ratchet & Clank is by now, I would highly recommend playing one of the many brilliant games in the series' history. Or, and I'm going to reiterate this point at the end of this review, buy this game. The series is an action-platformer with third-person shooter mechanics. Also, puzzle sections. It also has more weapons, with such a wide variety, than you can shake a stick at. If that already sounds pretty complicated, don't worry; from day one, the series has been so tightly made that it's one of the easiest game series to pick up and enjoy.
Another thing not to worry about is that this is the fifth game in the Future series of Ratchet & Clank games and a follow-up to the 2016 reimagining. You don't need to have played any of the older ones to hook up to the story. The tutorial is a quick introduction to the gameplay and the story. As for this story, you start on a parade celebrating the two heroes. This gets attacked by
Dr. Robotnik Doctor Nefarious. He steals the Dimensionator, a gun that creates rifts between dimensions; it gets damaged and starts malfunctioning, the fun ensues.
I'm not going to spoil the story of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart because there are many fun dimension-travelling aspects to see and experience. I'm not even going to talk about the characters you meet, other than one, for that reason alone. Well, also because Sony kindly asked me not to spoil anything for you lovely people. We all know there are counterparts to those we already know, but who they are is for you to find out. The character and counterpart I will talk about is Rivet, the alternate-dimension Ratchet.
I love Rivet. Let's not beat about the bush with that. Rivet is an absolute joy of a character to play through. Understandably, she controls just like Ratchet. You'll also find Rivet getting a partner as the story progresses, though, for a large portion, you'll find her teaming up with Clank. Why? Well, that's for you to find out because I'm not spoiling anything. Needless to say, her future partner is also a delightful character that keeps up the Insomniac, and R&C trend, of making a mechanical non-human character and more human and relatable than most video games could only hope to reach.
This is driven through excellent voice acting throughout the game, across the lines said as you are moving through the title as well as during cutscenes. The dialogue is well refined; it enhances the comedy the series is known for and brings in and handles some strong subjects that truly help endear you to the characters. I honestly don't see myself going too far in imagining a spin-off featuring Rivet and another character or being continued as a new primary protagonist in later releases.
New side characters, such as the adorable and funny Mort, are almost all charming in their own ways. This is particularly true of the new dimension counterparts of known and loved characters. I suppose the last thing I want to say here is that this is the sort of game, through dialogue and story alone, that can put a grin on your face. If I could go into more information and give some spoilers, I could talk all day about the story and characters alone. But I can't, so let's move on.
What better to talk about than the combat and other gameplay? If you know the series, it won't come as a surprise to know that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart keeps up the series trend of fast-paced action-platformer gameplay, with a massive host and variety of weapons to take out your foes in what is still incredibly tight combat. There's nothing floaty about the cursor or game in general, and the usual console assists give you that bit of a nudge in combat. It all just feels great. The interesting addition is using the PlayStation 5 DualSense, particularly adaptive triggers, to allow for alternate firing options.
As with later games in the series, you will find yourself levelling up each weapon through use and the killing of a myriad of enemies sent your way. The levelling up can be surprisingly quick with some weapons; you'll find a favourite and keep using it and later unlocking more boosts by spending raritanium that you pick up. There are honestly so many, with such a variety, that experimentation can often lead to good surprises. I've particularly fallen in love with griefing even the strongest enemies by popping down a turret that turns them into a shrub or using the gun that freezes them, throwing down a load of mushroom turrets and then joining in, wailing away on them. I'm at the point where I can remove a boss's life like it's ice cream, in the middle of a desert, in a starving and thirsty fat person's hands.
I suppose a strange thing here is that, when I reviewed Ratchet & Clank (2016), I put down the limited ammo drops as a negative, as it forced you to use alternate weapons. Maybe I didn't enjoy the weapons as much there, but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart features twenty different weapons - two of them only unlockable in the challenge mode (a sort of new game plus where the max level of weapons is doubled) - and I can only think of one or two that I haven't come to enjoy using.
Part of the reason is that the PlayStation 5 gave Insomniac the power required to throw even more enemies at you, with a wide enough variety that using the different weapons and environments is better than ever before. The worlds of Ratchet & Clank have always felt engaging, but never have they felt this dense or - in two particular areas - open. Even the combat feels more open, particularly through the use of rifts that let you target and zip across the battlefield in a way very reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite's freight hook tears. Only quicker.
Much like other games in the series, you'll also find yourself doing various other things here in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. These can be puzzle sections with Clank, which feature here with a dimensional twist, and more. In particular, several shooting gallery style sections make an appearance, using a character called Glitch. Glitch is a sort of anti-virus software you send into a computer to get it to work. These are... okay. I like the character of Glitch, but these shooting sections felt far too rigid and limited when compared to the core action. Not bad, but not great.
Some optional aspects of the game are the arena, a long-running part of the series, and many collectibles spread across the game. From one area which will have you collecting food on behalf of the Mort, to feed Trudy, a huge flying beast (see above), to the many usual collectibles found within Ratchet & Clank as well as a few side quests here and there, such as helping a chef make the perfect dish or hunting for some pirate treasure.
On collectibles, there's the raritanium, used to level your weapons; gold bolts, letting you unlock little bonuses; and there are also many armour parts. Ratchet & Rivet can find multiple sets of armour within the game, each offering a customisation element as well as bonuses, like increased raritanium, increased bolts, reduced damage from certain enemies, and more. The advantage is that once you have an armour set, you get the bonus whether it's equipped or not. I never equip them.
Variety and fun gameplay, a thoroughly enjoyable story and engaging characters, there's little Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart doesn't offer. Even visually, I can't do anything but praise the game, with it looking absolutely fantastic. The detail of the characters, the incredibly fluid animations, and the use of light and reflections, and other effects, both in gameplay and cutscenes, makes this one of the best looking games around. What does this most of all is the timeless style of Ratchet & Clank. Bright, eye-catching designs and colours are fun to see, fun to play, and age well.
I'm going to really clutch at straws to find negatives in the game, but there are a few minor issues. One is a bug in the challenge mode (NG+), where the food for Trudy doesn't show up, and I can't advance the side quest. Another issue, which Insomniac may fix by day one, is that I suffered from a few random crashes (five in about forty hours of playing the game). Minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.
You'll soon be able to read my conclusion; it appears at the bottom of this review next to my score, so let me finish by saying one simple thing: it may not be cool to love a game, but I love Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. I'm well known as a cynical curmudgeon. I want to like games, but the industry manages to grind the optimism out of me by releasing grey rubbish (in a literal and metaphorical sense), often packed with predatory tactics. This is the sort of title that reminds me games are still worth believing in. If Returnal didn't already do it for you, the PlayStation 5 finally has a brand new game that makes it worth owning, and it's a must-play.
Copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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Through outstanding storytelling, exquisite visuals, and gripping gameplay, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart proves to be an engaging, fun, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable return to the series. It also offers the introduction to two brand new characters that could arguably be the protagonists of their own spin-off, or at least return to future entries in the series. For fans and new players alike, this is a game I would recommend for everybody and a true showing of the sort of titles we should expect for the new generation.
- Entertaining, fast-paced, fun, and responsive combat.
- Huge variety of enjoyable weapons where almost none feel like an afterthought.
- Good customisation/development options in both weapons, with armour collectables only adding to this.
- Good variety in level and world design, with some offering a lot to do in open hub-like areas bigger than any other in the series.
- Fantastic character development and delivery, through excellent storytelling, dialogue and voice acting.
- Looks exquisite, with brilliant use of character design, environments, lighting, reflections and more.
- Some side aspects, like the Glitch segments, can feel a little too rigid compared to the rest of the game.
- I suffered from a few bugs and crashes while playing (Which could potentially be fixed on release).