Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 11/06/21
Insomniac Games have been quite the busy developer these past few years. Releasing the critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man back in 2018, the standalone follow-up, Miles Morales, in November of last year and now, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Releasing three AAA games in quick succession is no small feat, but for those games to be of such high quality as well, is a testament to how brilliant of a developer Insomniac is.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a sequel to the PS4 remake Ratchet & Clank (2016). This PS5 exclusive takes advantage of the new hardware in exciting ways to provide a thrilling and comical, space adventure from start to finish.
A Rivet-ing Narrative
As a result of their previous adventures, Ratchet and Clank are now seen as heroes to the people. A parade is made to celebrate their achievements, during which, Clank reveals the Dimensionator, a device that can open rifts to other dimensions, which can help Ratchet find the Lombax race and his family. Unfortunately, things quickly take a turn for the worse when Dr Nefarious tries to steal the Dimensionator. After an ensuing struggle, the device is used and causes various rifts to open, eventually seeing Ratchet, Clank and Dr Nefarious thrown into another dimension.
In this dimension, Nefarious rules victorious. You soon meet up with this dimension’s equivalent protagonists, Rivet and Kit. What follows is a planet-trotting adventure where our heroes must work together in order to repair the Dimensionator once again, in order to stop Nefarious and get Ratchet and Clank home. The plot is a very straightforward affair, but it’s utterly gripping and the action rarely lets up. In addition, while it offers plenty of action-packed scenarios in the roughly 10 hour adventure, it also leaves enough room for more touching storytelling and clear character development. I honestly shed tears at certain points in the story. Insomniac have become so good at their narratives and it really shows here.
What really shines in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the cast of characters. Everyone you meet is just brimming with personality right from the get-go. From the titular heroes themselves, their dimensional counterparts, Rivet and Kit (the latter is adorable), to Dr and Emperor Nefarious, who are just brilliant and play off each other so well. Even the side characters are memorable. The hilarious Pierre Le Fer stands out straight away and is always a scene-stealer. The writing on display is excellent and fully embraces that over-the top style and silliness with ease. In short, from action, buckets full of humour, charm, and emotional moments, the story has it all.
Two Sides of the Same Lombax
It’s clear that the narrative is very strong, but what about the gameplay side of things? Well, you’ll be happy to know that it also pulls its weight in making the experience highly fun and engaging. Most of the time is spent playing as either Ratchet of Rivet, depending on which planet/location you’re in. For example, you’ll be controlling Rivet while in Sargasso and Torren IV, but Ratchet in Corson V and Savali, etc. This is a smart choice, as it means you’ll spend equal time with both characters and witness their individual journeys, without getting stuck with one and causing issues with pacing and flow.
Traversal through each of the worlds is interlaced with simple platforming, combat (mobs and bosses), various set-pieces, collectible hunting, story moments, as well as other aspects which I’ll get into later. Aside from a few bosses, the combat isn’t anything particularly challenging. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not well-made, far from it. Ratchet and Rivet are versatile and nimble, where controlling them feels effortless as you jump and dodge around the map and area of battle. They also have a wide range of weaponry at their disposal. These are purchased from the in-game shop and can also be improved with pretty extensive upgrade-trees. From a sprinkler that immobilises foes, to rocket launchers and various others. There’s so many different ways to approach combat, that it never gets dull.
As mentioned earlier, there’s often some sort of basic platforming sections woven throughout the worlds. These involve jumping, wall-running, swinging, rail-grinding, and even using mounts in a few sections. It has variety for sure, but they never provide any real difficulty. This isn’t a huge deal as what’s on offer is still fun and keeps the gameplay fresh, but it would have been nice for a bit more challenge, especially later on. Apart from that, there’s a good amount to do and explore in the different worlds, with some more open than others. There’s even an arena that gives some great rewards for completing the different stages.
As the name Rift Apart suggests, rifts play an integral part of the entire game, both story-wise and in the gameplay. Rifts can be used in a few different ways throughout the game. Perhaps the main usage is when they are wielded to quickly transport Ratchet or Rivet to a location some distance away. You quite literally pull yourself through the rift, witnessing that newly rendered perspective getting closer into view. These are implemented into platforming sections, but also in combat. Usually, there are the odd rifts scattered around that you can use to rapidly get behind the enemy for your advantage. It adds a new layer to combat and can lead to some dynamic scenarios.
In addition, slightly more challenging platforming trials are kept behind certain rifts around the planets. These are worth doing, as they reward you with new armour pieces to customise Ratchet and Rivet or other collectibles. But there’s something else that really impresses and shows off the PS5’s lightning quick SSD the most. On a few worlds, there are crystals that switch the entire location to an alternate version in a near-instant. It’s wholly impressive and I kid you not, I spent an unnecessary amount of time stood there hitting the same crystal, watching as the world around switched back and forth repeatedly.
Glitch and Kit/Clank
Alongside the more standard gameplay elements, also included are sections that offer more varied mechanics. Partway through the story you’re introduced to the adorable spider-like, robot-AI, Glitch. You play as her in specific points to unlock new locations or collectibles. With her you must infiltrate systems, fending off various computer viruses to purge them and their nests. Glitch can walk up walls and ceilings, while being capable of shooting rockets and bullets at enemies. It’s a fun little mini-game but isn’t the only one we come across.
Clank and his dimensional counterpart, Kit, also take centre stage at certain points, this time in a more puzzle-like way. You must guide various versions of Clank/Kit to the other side of a meandering path filled with obstacles. There are orbs you must use to overcome these problems. For example, there might be a gap that’s causing your alternate versions to fall off. Here you would use a lift-orb to send them gliding over the gap, etc. However, these effects also apply to you, where you must manoeuvre around to gain additional orbs to help solve the problem. While these sections never posed too much of mental dilemma, there were a few times I did have to stop and really look at the surroundings to work out exactly what needed to be done.
I really enjoyed both of these mini-games, as they brought a greater variety to the gameplay.
Various different collectibles can also be discovered throughout the different worlds in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, each offering their own benefits as opposed to just being there for the sake of it. Golden bolts are often hidden in hard-to-reach locations, requiring either smart platforming, or equipment acquired later on. Getting these unlocks a number of useful or hilarious ‘cheats’ to use in game, like unlimited ammo or large heads.
Armour pieces are another desirable finding, for both cosmetic and utility purposes. They are split up into head, chest and legs, and can all be mismatched to your heart’s content. What I really appreciated is that while each piece offers a benefit, such as increased melee damage, you don’t need to wear them to receive this. You could wear no armour and still benefit from the multiple effects. Likewise, this means of like a certain piece/set, you don’t have to worry about missing out on the benefits of the other ones.
Spybots are the perfect collectibles for those interested in the story and world. There’s one found in every world and upon discovery, they offer the player a bit of lore on it’s respective location. As I’m someone that puts a lot of stock into story and lore, the spybots were perfect. Overall, what makes the collectibles in Rift Apart so good, is that there are great incentives to searching them out. Instead of being their just to add something else to increase the playtime, there’s tangible benefits allocated to every one.
A Visual Marvel
If you’ve glimpsed Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart already, even just the trailers, then you know just how ridiculously impressive it is. The fidelity on display is mind-boggling, that you’ll often stand their gawking at the stunning vistas and cinematic splendour. Every location is rendered in such detail and vibrancy that it genuinely feels as if you’re running around a high-budget, animated movie. It goes without saying that that photo-mode got ample usage throughout my time with the game.
The characters themselves also standout for the sheer amount of care and personalty put into them. The fur on Ratchet and Rivet appears highly realistic and soft, lightly blowing in the air. The sheen on metallic surfaces and robots is brilliant. The high quality animation is what really sells visuals in particular for me. Everything just pops and captures the emotion and style of the game. From exaggerated movements in the more comical characters, to the subtle aspects and eye movements. It all blends together to create compelling and believable scenes, which also extends to more standard NPCs.
It’s also worth mentioning the handful of graphical modes available for the player to choose from. A fidelity mode runs at 4K/30fps with ray-tracing enabled, a performance mode at a dynamic 4K/60fps without ray-tracing, and a mode that runs at dynamic 1440p/60fps with ray-tracing. There are some other slight differences, such as crowd density in certain areas, but these aren’t as noticeable. It’s always great that developers include different options for people, especially since some have preferences of resolution or frame rate. Whichever mode you pick however, Rift Apart will always be one of, the most graphically impressive games ever made.
I didn’t know what to expect when coming into this game. I wasn’t a particular fan of the PS4 entry, so I set my expectations accordingly. With that said, Insomniac Games have shown yet again just how brilliant of a developer they are. This is a chaotic, thrill-ride from start to finish. It not only features dynamic and diverse gameplay that will keep you constantly hooked, but also an engaging narrative that has emotion, thrills and humour in spades. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart encompasses so much of what makes a phenomenal video game, making this is an adventure I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
You can buy Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on the PlayStation Store.