Genre: Third-Person Shooter, Platformer, Action-Adventure
Gamers usually have video game franchises that they grew up with fond memories of, which were also instrumental and influential in making them the gamers that they are today. For some, it might be Mario, Sonic or something else.
For me, however, it was Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank franchise. I was eight years old when I originally played 2002’s Ratchet & Clank on the PS2, and I never looked back since. After so many sequels with many ups and downs, we’re now in 2021 with a brand-new PS5 entry. Has the series held up since or does it need to retire?
Thankfully, we don’t need to resort to the latter. Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is arguably the best PS5 exclusive to date, and a potential candidate for Game Of The Year in 2021. It really is that good, and definitely justifies you fighting tooth and claw for a PS5. Why is that? Read on to find out more.
Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is actually the sixteenth instalment in the Ratchet & Clank series, and it takes place following the events of 2013’s Ratchet & Clank Into the Nexus, the last game in the Future Saga. It’s been a whopping eight years since that last entry. Once again, to be clear to everyone who’s only ever played 2016’s Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart has nothing to do with that game. In fact, this new game is set in the same continuity as the PS2 and PS3 games.
However, just like Insomniac Games has previously clarified, I can confirm that this game is indeed welcoming to new players but filled with easter eggs and references that will delight veteran fans of the franchise. It features a largely stand-alone storyline, which means that you don’t really have to play any of the older games to understand what’s going on.
That’s a good move on Insomniac’s part. The original classic games on the PS2 also featured largely standalone stories that meant each instalment could simply be enjoyed on its own. Insomniac only changed this with the PS3 games, which followed a continuing plot across multiple titles. Everyone and anyone can play Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, just like how I played the original games on the PS2 all those years ago.
From all the promotional material shown so far, gamers already know that Ratchet and Clank will once again be facing Dr. Nefarious (a familiar recurring villain in the series) and that Clank will be separated from Ratchet, which leads to him meeting and teaming up with Rivet.
I won’t and can’t spoil any more of what happens, but I can confirm that everything that the developer has shown in trailers is all from the very early sections of the game. A vast majority of the game remains unspoiled and ready to be discovered.
What I can also say is this, the game does pick up an important plot thread from 2013’s Ratchet & Clank Into The Nexus. While there are some surprises and plot twists awaiting players, I can’t help but feel as if the game could have potentially been so much more ambitious in its storytelling.
It feels like the writers had to play it safe, instead of taking risks with where the narrative and character development could have gone. As it is, everything feels too saccharine and tame at times. As a result, the climax and ending feel sort of anti-climactic even though in actuality, it’s visually implemented on an epic scale.
I won’t pretend as if the Ratchet & Clank games have ever really had a complex narrative and characters, but Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart definitely plays it much safer than I expected, especially for a franchise that’s almost two decades old. This was probably done in order to attract and appeal to a wider demographic of players, including younger gamers who have never played the older games.
Notably, for veteran fans of the franchise, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart lacks the stronger and more adult wit of the original PS2 games, but it’s also not as emotional or dramatic as the tone of the PS3-era games’ Future Saga.
There’s a lot of interesting subject matter introduced during the narrative of the game, but these threads don’t really get expanded in any meaningful or substantial way. Some of the questions are just left behind at the drop of a hat, so they remain unanswered. If you’re looking for a strong resolution, there’s not much to look forward to. That being said, the Ratchet & Clank games have always had memorable and interesting characters first and foremost. The narrative is usually there to just propel them onto another adventure, which is likely why the franchise has lasted this long.
If you’re worried that Ratchet gets the short straw in his own game, you can rest assured that that’s not the case. Rivet does actually get a bit more gameplay and screen time than Ratchet, but you’ll be switching between them a lot throughout the duration of the game. Plus, it’s totally normal for newly introduced characters to receive more attention than those who are already established. We’ve already gotten to know Ratchet for the past 20 years, but we’ve only just met Rivet. The game doesn’t abandon Ratchet in any way, so older fans can let go of their pitchforks and torches.
Unfortunately, you can’t actually switch between them in real-time. Just like in previous Ratchet & Clank games, you visit various planets. On one planet, you have to play as Ratchet. On another planet, you have to play as Rivet. The planet you’re on determines whether you’re playing as Ratchet or Rivet. It doesn’t matter much anyway, since they both control exactly the same (more on that below where I discuss the gameplay).
Long-time fans of the franchise will appreciate that most of the original voice actors for many of the characters have returned, with the exception of Jim Ward as Captain Quark (his replacement really doesn’t hold a candle to him). It will feel nostalgic just hearing the voices of James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye and Armin Shimmerman as Ratchet, Clank and Dr. Nefarious, respectively. At this point, they’ve been voicing these characters for almost two decades so of course, they’d nail their performances.
Meanwhile, the best voice performance comes from newcomer Jennifer Hale (yes, that Jennifer Hale of Mass Effect‘s female Shepard or FemShep), who is excellent as the voice of Rivet. Hale’s talent and experience add oodles of charm and personality to the character, despite there being nothing too remarkable about her script or characterisation. She comes across as instantly likeable and not annoying at all.
In addition, there are tons of easter eggs and references in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart; not only to previous games in the franchise but also to other PlayStation exclusive games as well. You’ll be grinning your way discovering all the fun stuff that the developers have inserted in every nook and cranny of the game. There’s no doubt about it, this is a labour of love and passion for the folks at Insomniac Games.
Spick & Span(ner)
Well, if anything, that should describe the combat of Ratchet & Clank. Chaotic and intense third-person shoot-em-ups of pure adrenaline and fun. The shooting. The weapons. The jumping. The strafing. The gadgets. The minigames. Those have always been the defining features of any previous Ratchet & Clank. They haven’t changed much over the years, and that holds true for this latest entry as well.
Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart shakes up the traditional formula with improvements and additions, but long-time fans will be extremely familiar with what the game offers. Should Insomniac have tried to introduce more innovations and completely change up the gameplay? That’s up to your preference. 2018’s God Of War changed for the better with brand new gameplay. If you’re looking for that kind of update, this doesn’t really offer that. If you’ve played a Ratchet & Clank before, you can pretty much jump in and step right into the action with no problems whatsoever.
The biggest new upgrade that veteran fans will discover is the new traversal mechanics. Insomniac Games have clearly taken the best of the agile mobility from 2014’s Sunset Overdrive and 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Sure, older Ratchet & Clank games had jumping, strafing, rail grinding, gliding and swinging with grappling hooks, but now they’re combined and integrated so smoothly, especially with the new mechanics.
Phantom Dash is the game’s dodge mechanic, so when you strafe and jump around, you can mix it up with dodging in mid-air or even mid-attack. The Rift Tether is the new mechanic where players pull themselves to a dimensional rift for near-instantaneous travel. The awesome Hover Boots also make a return in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, which means that traversing wide open hub areas feel a lot faster and more fun. In Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, platforming sections will often have players swing through the air with the Hook Shot and then use Phantom Dash to get just a little bit farther and then wall run and then grapple using a Rift Tether. They all flow together in one smooth motion.
Ratchet & Clank is the most cinematic game in the franchise, and I don’t just mean the great visuals (that’s a no-brainer, anyone can see that). It’s the most cinematic because Insomniac has clearly taken a cue from their friends at Naughty Dog. This game has huge and awe-inspiring action-heavy setpieces like the ones in the Uncharted games. These usually take place during the aforementioned platforming sections, where players will have to navigate through perilous obstacles while the world literally crumbles around them.
Yeah, there are several planets that you’ll visit (I won’t reveal how many), but best of all, some of them will feature semi-open-world hub areas similar to those found in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End‘s African section or The Last Of Us Part 2‘s early Seattle section. Free-roaming is possible on these planets, while some are more linear. Both the more open and more linear planets can have optional paths that lead to special gadgets or collectibles. Oh, did I mention that there are a lot of collectibles in this game?
The planets in this game are the biggest and most alive they’ve ever been in the franchise, as they’re even populated by NPCs whose purpose is just to make the world seem more lively and real. Collectibles include Gold Bolts (which can be used to unlock extras like cosmetics, stickers for photo mode and even cheats), armour set pieces (head, chest and legs in a complete set) and even pocket dimensions to explore (armour set pieces are usually located inside these), while important resources include Raritanium, which is used to upgrade your weapons. These collectibles and resources are often marked on your map, once you’ve uncovered that part of the map by just going there. An optional gadget you can get later will even mark them all on the map for you regardless of whether you’ve uncovered the map or not.
The attention to detail is also remarkable. Ratchet, Rivet, Clank, NPCs and enemies in the game will react to what weapons you’re using or whatever actions you’re performing with unique and often humorous lines. For instance, shooting an enemy (even bosses) with the Lightning Rod weapon will result in them getting electrocuted visually depicted like a traditional cartoon character would. These dynamic interactions add even more charm to a game already brimming with it by the truckload.
Upping That Arsenal
Back to all the previously-mentioned traversal mechanics, Rivet’s move set is exactly like Ratchet’s. All their movements are performed using the same buttons, and they share the same weapons and armour sets. The only difference is that Rivet wields a hammer instead of a wrench. The highlight, as always in a Ratchet & Clank game, are the weapons. You can look forward to a bunch of different weapons, including ones that are essentially just the game’s version of sniper rifles and rocket launchers, while others can summon floating killer fungi or momentarily turn enemies into petrified plants.
Speaking of the game’s variety and selection of weapons, they’re mostly more conventional rather than the zany and downright ridiculous weapons that would have been featured in past games. For example, what happened to unique melee weapons? The old PS2 games had them; a badass energy whip in Ratchet & Clank Up Your Arsenal and a freaking spiked mace in Ratchet Deadlocked. Remember that awesome black hole weapon in Ratchet & Clank Up Your Arsenal? I do, and not many of the weapons in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart made me feel that way.
Fortunately, to make up for that, all of the weapons take advantage of the DualSense’s Adaptive Triggers and Haptic Feedback. What this means is that each weapon feels different and distinct in a way that’s never been possible in a Ratchet & Clank game. Even a simple rocket launcher or sniper rifle-type weapons packs more of a satisfying punch thanks to this new next-gen tech available only on the PS5. It really makes a difference in how you experience each weapon.
For instance, one weapon will erect a forward-facing energy shield when the trigger is pressed halfway. Fully pressing the trigger will cause the shield to explode outward in a burst attack that feels much like a shotgun going off. Another, the Negatron Collider, will have you charging up when pressed halfway. You can conserve ammo by letting the trigger go if you just don’t have a clear shot at the enemy or unleash a massive laser beam by pressing the trigger all the way when you’re ready.
Players can gain and accumulate experience while actively using these weapons, which can allow them to level up. Once they reach level five, they’ll even receive a new name and new abilities to make them even more powerful. Remember the Raritanium I mentioned as a collectable in-game resource? Yeah, those are used to upgrade weapons at the vendor (where you can also buy weapons with the in-game currency, bolts). The same grid-based upgrade system returns from 2016’s Ratchet & Clank for the PS4.
The Raritanium is used to unlock a cell on a grid. Each cell increases a specific stat, like increased ammo or a faster firing rate. What adds depth to the upgrade system is that unlocking enough cells on the grid will unlock special permanent buffs or abilities that make your weapons even more powerful and effective. In fact, the higher the level of the weapon, the more cells will be available to unlock using Raritanium. All of these help the game in encouraging players to use a variety of weapons instead of sticking to just one or two favourites at a time.
Ratchet and Rivet aren’t the only ones getting in all the action. Just like in previous games, Clank has his own playable sections. I can hear the veteran fans groaning already, but trust me, these aren’t actually bad. Clank sections in the older games were sometimes a slog to play through, disrupting the pacing of the game too much. Ultimately, they weren’t fun, and most players had to force themselves to complete them.
In Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, Clank has a new platforming minigame by making use of orbs with different functions to make sure his ghost versions or something can help fix dimensional anomalies. It’s hard to explain, but it makes sense in the game, and the puzzles are challenging but not frustrating. Plus, players are given the option of just skipping these Clank sections entirely if they choose to. It’s as simple as pausing the game and selecting that option. However, for the purpose of this review, of course, I played them.
Clank doesn’t feel like a slog anymore, as he moves much faster and is more agile. Most players will probably only bother to complete these Clank sections the first time around. In second playthroughs and beyond, you can just skip them. At this point, Insomniac doesn’t seem like they know what to do with Clank, so they’ll just give him some puzzle and platforming parts. I wish the giant mecha Clank sections from the PS2 made a return, but sadly, they do not.
Besides that, another minigame puts the player in command of a cute digital spider-tank called the Glitch, which is used to take down viruses and hack terminals. It can scurry up walls and ceilings, and controlling it feels just sort of like a similar spider-tank from 2005’s Ratchet Deadlocked.
Basically, it’s a vehicular combat bullet hell section but there aren’t too many of these so they don’t overstay their welcome.
There are also two other traversal mechanics, which involve mountable animals. One is a fast-moving snail and another is a flying dragon alien. They’re found on only one or two planets and is only used to traverse the environment there since the planet is filled with acidic swamps. It spices up traversal to an extent but doesn’t add much to the gameplay.
Riding the dragon also isn’t executed very well, as it feels a bit clunky. Honestly, riding a dragon should feel better. Insomniac was the original developer of the Spyro franchise, for Pete’s sake. Even if that’s the case, there are very few sections where you’ll even engage with these mounts, so it seems like the developers rightfully knew that these weren’t the best parts of the game.
One beloved mainstay from past games that have returned is the battle arena. In Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, it’s now called the Battleplex. There are several tiers of different challenges and they provide a break from all planet-hopping, as well as an opportunity to rack up bolts and earn special rewards. What’s a Ratchet & Clank game without a battle arena? Ratchet Deadlocked was practically one big arena game by itself.
Another aspect of the game that I like is that while the game features armour sets consisting of head, chest and leg pieces, players are not forced to wear a specific armour set just because they want its special buffs and stats. In Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, the armour sets grant permanent boosts regardless of whether you wear them or not.
As such, players can mix and match to their heart’s content without having to think about which armour pieces provide the best stats. That way, you customize your Ratchet or Rivet however you want them to.
Even if you wear a helmet that covers your entire face, these will automatically disappear during cutscenes where Ratchet or Rivet speaks. The appear and disappear effect looks visually similar in style to that of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The rest of your armour will appear as you have customized them. With Insomniac’s past decisions to add more suits in Marvel’s Spider-Man post-launch, there’s definitely ample opportunity for them to do the same here in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart.
Tools Of Destruction
So how long is this Lombax alternate realm-hopping odyssey? Well, it took me around approximately 16 hours to reach the end credits of the game. It’s important to note that in that amount of time, I completed every optional path and collected almost every collectable, as well as finished all the challenges at the battle arena. I even crafted the Ryno, which every long-time fan will know is an endgame weapon that’s usually almost impossible to get in the first playthrough of a Ratchet & Clank game.
If you rush through, maybe you’re looking at around a little more than 10 hours, and that’s for a US$70 game (RM299 in Malaysia), albeit an extremely brilliant one. I even managed to obtain the Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart Platinum trophy and that took a few more hours, so if you’re a trophy hunter, that’s likely close to 20 hours of playtime that you can look forward to.
Even after spending 16 hours to complete much of what the game offered, I’m happy to confirm that another franchise mainstay has returned. Every Ratchet & Clank fan knows that the best part of a Ratchet & Clank game is actually your second playthrough onwards, also known as a new game plus or as the game calls it; the Challenge Mode.
A New Game Plus in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart means more than just simply another playthrough with all your weapons and gear carrying over, as well as stronger enemies. Challenge Mode also offers more powerful (and therefore more expensive) variants of existing weapons, as well as several new weapons that fans of the franchise will be very happy to see make their way into the game.
For aspiring trophy hunters, you’ll probably spend approximately 20 hours or more to Platinum the game, and I managed to obtain all of the game’s trophies even without a guide. With a guide, you’ll probably spend less time getting the Platinum. Still, the additional content in Challenge Mode will probably have you playing more of the game regardless.
Nothing is ultimately perfect and that includes Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart. It’s not possible to manually save in this game, but thankfully, the autosaves are frequent enough that it’s not much of a problem. You can, however, make multiple save slots if you want to.
Unfortunately, the most glaring problem I noticed is the clear recycled bosses. The Ratchet & Clank franchise has never been known to feature great or even memorable boss battles, but this game takes the cake. Throughout the 16+ hours that I spent with the game, I faced the same three recycled bosses throughout the game. Insomniac could have just went with a less is more approach by featuring fewer but more memorable bosses.
Instead, I’m stuck fighting the same floating robotic general, dinosaur t-rex alien and another that I won’t spoil. Sometimes the game throws more than one of these at the same time just to make things more interesting.
It doesn’t, and coming from the awesome boss battles in Insomniac’s own Marvel’s Spider-Man, these were terribly disappointing.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I encountered several bugs as well, which blocked my progression. Fortunately, almost all of these bugs and issues could be fixed by simply going to the pause menu and choosing to restart from the most recent checkpoint. These bugs could potentially be fixed in future updates and patches, so players don’t really need to worry about them.
For the purpose of this review, I would like to clarify that I had to play Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart in Fidelity Mode, which runs the game up to 4K but only in 30FPS. Even in 30FPS, the game is stunningly beautiful both while idle and in motion. Don’t worry though, the 60FPS will definitely be available at launch as that will come in the Day One patch, alongside other improvements that will make the game even better than it already is.
It’s a testament to the power of the PS5 that Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart literally boots up to the title screen in mere seconds, just like Returnal before it, but even faster and more seamless.
There are no loading screens to speak of, except a split-second black or white fade out when switching planets or dimensions. Yes, this is truly next-gen.
I can’t believe it was only three years ago that Sony Santa Monica’s God Of War was the most impressive technical showcase yet. We are now officially beyond that.
Back In The Fold
Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart proves that Insomniac has never forgotten their roots and that this franchise is their golden crown. They can make all the Resistance, Sunset Overdrive, and Spider-Man games they want, but Ratchet & Clank has lived on and thrived this long for good reason.
Even after 20 years, Ratchet & Clank is better than ever, and it looks like Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart will be for many new gamers what 2002’s original trailblazer was for me as a kid. Is Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart the best reason to get a PS5 right now, showcasing the next-gen console’s sheer power and potential? Definitely!
- Some of the best-looking next-gen visuals.
- Virtually no loading times from the moment of booting up the game.
- Traversal feels smooth and improved with additional new mechanics.
- Variety of unique weapons made even better with a great implementation of Adaptive Trigger and Haptic Feedback.
- Full of easter eggs and references for veteran fans of the franchise.
- New game plus (Challenge Mode) is available at launch, allowing for replayability.
- Simplistic story with an anti-climactic ending.
- Several bugs here and there.
- Recycled bosses equal monotonous fights.
Final Score: 80/100
Review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Played on a PlayStation 5. Slated to release on 11 June 2021.